When it comes to autumnal flavors, we tend to think of apple and pumpkin recipes galore – yet pears are one of the most delicious fruits of fall. Plus, pears have a soft and buttery texture, perfect for eating raw or folding into your favorite seasonal dishes. In the following pages, I’ve put pears to work in seven ways, from baked treats and stuffing to mulled wine and a savory puff pastry hors d’oeuvre.
This Thanksgiving, integrate pears into your feast as an appetizer, side dish or sweet last course: The savory tart and puff pastries pair perfectly with the spiced mulled wine for pre-dinner entertaining, while the sausage-pear dressing and vegan pumpkin-pear soup fit right in with all your favorite holiday staples. End your meal with the mini pear pie crumbles or maple-pear cheesecake – or both! After all, just like the holidays, pear season is fleeting and should be savored.
With about 3,000 varieties of pears grown across the world, it can be hard to know which to use for what. Most pears are in season in November, though, so feel free to experiment. Just be sure to test the texture of pears before buying them, but be gentle – pears bruise easily. Look for fruit with soft skin around the neck.
The gingersnap-cookie crust on this cheesecake is the perfect foil for the maple extract and pear compote. Maple extract can be found in most grocery stores near the vanilla and almond extracts.
Types of Pears
These pear varieties hold their shape for cooking and baking, and can also be consumed raw:
Anjou The chief winter pear of North America, Anjous have a lopsided shape, yellowish-green skin, firm flesh and a sweet flavor.
Concorde A cross between Comice and Conference pears, Concordes have a yellowish-green skin, dense texture and a juicy, vanilla-like flavor.
Asian Also known as a Chinese pear, Asian pears have a sweet flavor and complex texture, ranging from juicy and crunchy to firm and granular. They vary in size and color, from large and golden brown to small and green.
Bosc Sometimes called a buerre Bosc, Boscs are all-purpose winter pears with long, tapering necks and dark golden skins. They have a slightly gritty yet juicy texture and a sweet, buttery flavor.
Seckel All-purpose Seckel pears have a reddish-brown skin, firm texture and a sweet, slightly spicy flavor.
Starkrimson Known as “the crimson pear,” Starkrimsons have a deep-red skin, subtle floral aroma, smooth texture and mild, sweet flavor.
These pear varieties are the best for eating raw or using in salads, for canning, jam-making and in drinks:
Bartlett Bell-shaped Bartlett pears come in a range of colors – yellowish-green, red and light green – and have a smooth, buttery texture and sweet, slightly musky flavor. In the U.K., they are more commonly known as Williams pears.
Comice Known as Doyenné du Comice in France – which translates to “top of the show” – this broad, blunt variety has a greenish-yellow to red-blushed yellow skin, a smooth, firm texture and a sweet flavor.
Forelle Believed to have originated in northern Saxony in the 17th century, Forelles are thought to be one of the oldest European pears. Their signatures include a coloring – forelle means trout in German, and the fruit was named for its resemblance to rainbow trout – crisp texture and tangy flavor.
Some pears are too juicy and soft for cooking or baking and will fall apart. There are exceptions, though: I suggested Bartlett, Comice or Forelle pears for the pumpkin-pear soup and spiced pear mulled wine recipes, as their softer texture will aid, not inhibit the final results.
Serves | 8 to 10 |
2 to 3 Bartlett or Comice pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cups brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¹⁄₈ tsp ground allspice
¹⁄₈ tsp ground ginger
60 gingersnap cookies (about 2 inches in diameter)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
32 oz room-temperature cream cheese
1¼ cups powdered sugar
1½ Tbsp all-purpose flour
¼ cup melted vanilla ice cream
½ cup full-fat yogurt
1 Tbsp maple extract
pear compote (recipe below) (to serve)
1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all ingredients. Stir continuously until pears soften and sauce is fragrant and slightly sticky, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, add gingersnap cookies and brown sugar and pulse until coarse crumbles form. Slowly add melted butter; add salt and pulse.
3. Once mixture is wet, transfer to greased and lined springform pan. Using the back of a measuring cup, push crust into place so it lines bottom and edges of pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add cream cheese and beat on medium speed until completely smooth. Add powdered sugar, flour, salt, melted ice cream, yogurt and maple extract and beat once more; batter should be completely smooth. Reduce mixer to low speed and add first egg. Make sure to incorporate first egg completely before adding next egg; continue until all eggs are incorporated.
3. Pour batter into prepared crust and bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Turn off oven and let cheesecake rest in warm oven for another 30 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Refrigerate overnight. Top with pear compote and serve.