Monday, November 2, 2009

Baked Butterscotch Pear Anise

Here's a delicious and simple dessert that you can try at home. It is oven-baked butterscotch pears with a star anise, cinnamon and molasses cream sauce, finished with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. There are literally 3000+ varieties of pears grown all over the world. The biggest producers of pears in the U.S. are Oregon and Washington state, growing 4 of the most common varieties of pears: Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice. For this application, I used Bosc pears, which are perfect for baking.

Start off by peeling the skins off the pears, halving them and removing the core and the seeds. Melt a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter and brush it onto the pears. Then sprinkle some sugar onto the buttered pears halves. At this point, you should have your oven pre-heated to 375F. As soon as it is ready, arrange the pear halves onto a buttered baking sheet and pop them into the oven. Depending on how ripe the pears are, baking should take between 30 -90 minutes. Test to see if the pears are soft to the touch. You can also use a toothpick to prick the pears. If it goes in easily, then they are done.

Remove the pears from the baking sheet and set aside. You should notice some caramelized sugar together with some melted butter on the bottom of the baking sheet. Heat up the baking sheet a little to loosen up the butter and sugar and pour it into a small pot. Add 1 stick of cinnamon and a star anise into the pot. Next, pour in about 1 cup of heavy cream and 2- 3 tablespoons of molasses and bring the pot to a simmer. Molasses is a byproduct in the processing of sugar cane or sugar beets into sugar. It is sweet like honey but imparts a distinct smoky flavor. It can also be used as a sauce for savory meat dishes.

Let the pot simmer to draw the flavor of the cinnamon and star anise out. If need be, add more cream if it becomes too thick. The taste of the sauce should not be too sweet with a liquorice-like flavor (from the star anise). To plate it, spoon the sauce onto the bottom of a shallow bowl, and arrange 2 pear halves as you see in the pictures. Add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle chocolate sprinkles and top it off with a fresh sprig of mint. To add originality to the overall presentation of this dessert, you can also arrange the star anise and cinnamon on the plate as you see in the pictures.

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