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.
These personal-sized pies are as fun to make as they are to eat. They keep the shape of the pear halves - for a pleasing photo finish - and the crumble and toppings allow you to customize each one.
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 â€œthe 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 DoyennÃ© du Comice in France - which translates to â€œtop 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.
Ingredients for Gouda-Pear Puff Pastry:
- 1 10-by-15-inch frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed and cut into 3-by-3-inch pieces
- egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 Tbsp water)
- 6 oz Gouda, sliced into ½-inch pieces
- 2 firm Anjou or Asian pears, sliced into Â¹â„â‚ƒ-inch pieces
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme, de-stemmed
How to make Gouda-Pear Puff Pastry:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place puff pastry on baking sheet and brush with egg wash.
2. On each puff pastry, layer 1 piece of Gouda. Then add a few pear slices, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of thyme.
3. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown.
4. Remove from oven, let cool slightly and serve.
Other Thanksgiving Recipes:
- 1 puff pastry sheet thawed and cut into 3-by-3-inch pieces
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp water
- 6 oz Gouda sliced into ½-inch pieces
- 2 Anjou or Asian pears firm, sliced into Â¹â„â‚ƒ-inch pieces
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme de-stemmed
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl mix egg and water to make an egg wash.
- Place puff pastry on baking sheet and brush with egg wash.
- On each puff pastry, layer 1 piece of Gouda, a few pear slices, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of thyme.
- Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown.
- Remove from oven, let cool slightly and serve.