By Rose McAvoy
The night before Thanksgiving, I set out to make a light dessert option for the holiday. Nothing too ostentatious, just a simple and seasonal pear crisp. But, baking was the last item on my very long list of projects before the big day. It was late and I was getting punchier by the moment. This crisp is heaped with a healthy partnership of melt-in-your-mouth pears and playful cranberries. However, do not be fooled by that butter-wouldn’t-melt facade. Butter did indeed melt. In fact this nice unassuming dessert is concealing a cast of naughty characters!
By the time I finished carefully peeling and slicing the not-too-soft but not-too-firm fruit I was no longer in the mood for simple. I was feeling wicked. I doused the pears with a heavy sprinkling of pungent cardamom. Golden ribbons of honey were drizzled with gleeful abandon. Then — I went for the liquor cabinet and splashed not one, not two, but three glugs of oaky whiskey over everything!
While pondering the best way to top off my creation a second naughty impulse bubbled up. I piled the countertop with pecans, brown sugar, more spices and sweet creamy butter. But! I measured them all out carefully, using just enough to achieve a indulgent but not abundant crumble topping. What can I say, I need order amidst chaos.
The crisp was for a dessert the next day but I wanted to make sure that the flavors worked. As a taste test I prepared two extra pears. These were halved and cored with a melon baller then placed into two oven-safe bowls. Just like the large version I tossed the halves with cardamom, vanilla, and whiskey. A couple of cranberries went into the divots where the cores had been. A bit of reserved crumble topping finished off the dishes and they baked alongside the casserole. Everything baked until the fruit mixture turned bubbly and all the little sugar and spice bits were crisp and golden. Before the crisp started baking it smelled amazing; by the time it finished the aroma turned intoxicating.
While slightly different in texture, the finished crisps were equally mouthwatering. Each bite was a treat unto itself. The pears themselves are almost buttery in texture and their delicate sweetness further heightened by tart cranberry bursts. Whiskey and cardamom infuse the fruit with a woodsy spice both exotic and relaxing. The buttery crisp topping has just enough nutty sweetness to make the dish a true dessert.
I highly recommend topping your Whiskey-Cardamom Pear Crisp with a modest dollop of whiskey whipped cream. Just whip some heavy cream with a bit of vanilla, a touch of honey, and a splash of whiskey. The raw bite of the oaky liquor is like a five-o-clock shadow on a hardworking cowboy. Rugged on the outside, warm on the inside, a delight to cuddle … On second thought, never mind. When you try it I’m sure you’ll come up with your own metaphors.
Cardamom and Whiskey Pear Crisp
A hearty fruit crisp to keep you warm and cozy through the winter. Also makes a great breakfast with yogurt.
Prep time: 25 minutes Cook time: 45 minutes; Yield 6 – 8 servings.
6 large Bartlett pears, approximately 8 cups peeled and sliced
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, approximately 1 teaspoon
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup whiskey (Jameson)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour (rice flour for gluten free)
2 generous cups of fresh cranberries
1 oz pecan halves, a scant 1/3 cup
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon all purpose flour (rice flour for gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 375 and have an oven-safe casserole dish ready. I used a Corningware 2 1/2 qt. oval.
2. Assembling the fruit: Place sliced pears into a large mixing bowl, cover with lemon juice, honey, vanilla, and whiskey. Stir gently to coat pears. Add flour and stir again to distribute the flour as evenly as possible. Turn pears out into a large casserole dish. Smooth slices and cover with cranberries.
3. Prepare the crumble topping: If using a small food processor, place pecan halves, sugar, flour, spices, and salt into the bowl and pulse until pecans are very finely minced. If using a knife, begin by mincing the pecans to a near powder. In a small mixing bowl combine nuts with flour, brown sugar, spices, and salt. Melt the butter slowly so it is just barely melted, not cooked. Use a fork to work the butter into the nut mixture. Stir until all the dry bits have been incorporated. It should look like wet sand. Using a fork or your fingers, drop bits of crumble over the fruit in an even layer.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and top is golden. If top begins to overcook, cover with foil and lower the oven temperature to 350.
Per serving 1/6: calories 262, fat 7.6 g., carbohydrate 45 g., fiber 7.5 g., protein 1.5 g., PP = 6*
Per serving 1/8: calories 197, fat 5.7 g., carbohydrates 34 g., fiber 5.6 g., protein 1.2 g., PP = 5*
* For those counting Points, the Points above are based on the total fat, carb, fiber, and protein content of each serving. When this recipe is calculated without the fruit the PP are 4 for 1/6 and 3 for 1/8 servings. In my lay, and completely independent, opinion you can make the call on how you would like to count this dessert. For me, I go with the lower number and add the whip cream.