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Hasselback pears topped with brown butter streusel and goat cheese whipped cream.
The countdown to Thanksgiving continues! I’d love to tell you that I have my menu for the big day all figured out, but I’m procrastinating a bit this year, especially with dessert. Maybe it’s because I’m busy trying out different recipes to share with you and it’s got me feeling very George Clooney pre-Amal. I just can’t commit, no matter how many gorgeous pumpkin cheesecakes or apple pies are paraded around.
But today I’ve locked down at least one dessert that will grace the holiday table. Hasselback pears with goat cheese whipped cream. Now before you start shaking your head and digging out your old apple pie recipe, hear me out.
Hasselback (not to be confused with the Hasselbeck that shot straight from the wilds of Survivor to the jungles of Fox News) is an accordion style preparation for potatoes that originated in Sweden many years ago. The potatoes are cut into several thin slices, but not all the way (I use a pair of chopsticks as my guide to keep me from slicing straight through), and can be topped with butter, herbs, seasonings and/or cheese. And they’re fantastic. They make for a pretty presentation while being surprisingly easy to execute. It would be a nice option for Thanksgiving, but my family would never forgive me if I didn’t put out a bowl of perfectly whipped potatoes to soak up all the gravy.
But why not apply this same technique to another dish? How bout dessert? I have other plans for my apples and pumpkins, but I glanced over at my fruit bowl and lightbulb! Pears! I know it’s not classic Thanksgiving, but they do scream fall and the pear’s mild flavor can be enhanced by spices and buttery goodness. And not just any buttery goodness, but brown butter goodness. Butter takes on a nutty flavor when it’s cooked down and browned and it adds a toasty complexity to this streusel topping that’s baked right on top of the pears. And did I mention that you don’t have to roll out a pie crust?
These pears pair (see what I did there?) well with a creamy topping and some pomegranate seeds for crunch. You can use regular whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but I’m going for broke here. Goat cheese whipped cream. Sweet, but not cloying, mildly tangy and just so, so good.
If you’re ahead of the game and have your Thanksgiving desserts planned for this year, keep this recipe handy for the holiday season. It works for Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s and even Valentine’s Day. You can double it for a crowd or cut it back for date night. After you see how easy it is you’ll be like me, wanting to Hasselback everything. Now to figure out a way to Hasselback that bird…
- 4 bosc pears* peeled, halved and core removed with a melon baller
- 1 1/2 sticks butter 6 oz
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- * I recommend bosc pears or another sturdy variety of pear so they don't turn to mush while baking
- Goat Cheese Whipped Cream
- 4 oz goat cheese softened
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped out
- Pomegranate seeds for garnish if desired
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.
Pears: Cut butter into pieces and place in small saucepan.
Heat butter over medium heat, stirring frequently until just golden brown with a slightly nutty aroma (foam will subside and you'll see little brown flecks).
Remove from heat. Keep an eye on it as browned butter can burn easily and will continue to cook in the pan even after it's removed from heat.
Measure out 3 Tbsp of brown butter and set aside.
Combine sugar, flour, spices, salt and remaining brown butter and mix with a fork.
Place a pear half cut-side down on a cutting board. Lay chopsticks or thin wooden spoon handles on either side (lengthwise) of the pear. Make cuts (crosswise) about 1/8 inch apart , but don't cut all the way through. The chopsticks will prevent you from slicing straight through.
Repeat with remaining pear halves.
Place cut pears flat side down in prepared pan. Drizzle with reserved brown butter and cover pan with aluminum foil.
Bake for 30 mins.
Remove foil and top with streusel evenly over pears. You can nudge some of the slices apart so the topping sneaks in.
Return to oven, uncovered and continue to bake until golden, an additional 20 minutes or so. If you prefer your topping a little more browned, you can set the dish under the broiler for a minute or two, being careful not to burn.
Let pears rest for a few minutes in the pan before serving.
Goat cheese whipped cream: Beat goat cheese with 1/4 cup cream until combined.
Add remaining cream, sugar and vanilla bean seeds.
Whip until mixture holds soft peaks.
Pears can be served warm or room temperature garnished with goat cheese whipped cream and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds if desired.