One of the things that I miss about Northern California when I’m away (and aspire to when I’m there) is the combination of elegance and simplicity. Part of that comes from the incredible produce, of course! When everything is grown locally and you can buy super-fresh ingredients, you don’t need to do much to it to create amazing flavor. It’s all about letting the ingredients shine. And that’s exactly what this recipe for baked pears with mascarpone does.
The pears are absolutely the star, with the gentle vanilla mascarpone just filling out the flavor and adding richness. The cardamom-infused honey brings out the sweetness of the pears without overpowering them at all. The final result is delicious and unpretentiously classy. This dessert would be equally at home after a casual weeknight dinner or as the final few bites of an elegant dinner party. And while it takes almost an hour, most of that time doesn’t require much of your attention, as the pears bake and the honey infuses.
Notes on This Recipe:
Pear varieties. Feel free to use any pear variety you like with this recipe! Depending on ripeness and juiciness, you might need to bake them for a slightly different time. Just make sure they’re fork-tender before removing from the oven, and you’ll be good to go!
Cardamom quantity. Cardamom is a pretty powerful spice, and five pods (not seeds) feels like a lot. But the flavor doesn’t infuse too intensely into the honey. The final dish just has a gentle whisper of cardamom. If you’re a big fan of the flavor, I’d actually recommend using several more pods to get it to come through more strongly.
Sweetness level. Most of the sweetness in this recipe comes from the pears themselves, with an extra boost from the drizzle of cardamom-infused honey. I’m not a huge fan of super-sweet desserts, so I think this is perfect. If you love your sweets, though, stir a bit of honey into the vanilla mascarpone mixture to add extra sweetness.
Cardamom-infused honey. I love this honey! It’s amazing in all sorts of recipes. I recommend making a bigger batch (double or triple it!) and save the rest for other uses. Try it on breakfasts, on other desserts, or in various appetizers.
Vanilla. This recipe calls for vanilla extract, since it’s what most people have at home. But if you have vanilla paste or fresh vanilla beans, absolutely go for that instead! The batch made in the pictures here used vanilla paste, and you can see the beautiful little flecks of black from the vanilla seeds in the mascarpone.
Advance preparation. Honestly, I don’t recommend making these baked pears with mascarpone in advance. But I know it’s hard sometimes to be in the kitchen working on dessert when you should be joining your friends or family for dinner! If you’re worried about timing, make the pears a bit early (as you’re making dinner) and leave them at room temperature as you eat. By the time you’re ready for them, they should still be a bit warm. Just don’t finish them with mascarpone and honey until immediately before you serve them!
Prepare. You’ll start the process by mixing together your mascarpone and vanilla. This gives them the longest opportunity to blend together. If you’re using vanilla extract as instructed, this isn’t quite as important. But if you jazz things up with vanilla seeds or vanilla paste, it’s nice to allow that extra time for the vanilla flavor to really mix into the mascarpone.
As you peel and core the pears, it’s important to coat each freshly exposed surface with lemon juice to keep it from browning. My process is to work one pear at a time. I peel it, then apply lemon juice. Next, I cut it in half and apply lemon juice to the cut sides. Finally, I scoop out the core and apply lemon juice to the flesh around the core. Only then do I move on to the next pear. This ensures that no exposed surface goes too long without getting a coating of lemon juice!
Bake the pears. This is where you’ll find that my recipe is different from most others. I like to start my pear halves face-down (with a pat of butter in the hollowed-out center) rather than face-up. This way, as the butter melts, the faces of the pears are cooking in a luxurious bath of butter. You can definitely start your pears face-up instead if you prefer, but I prefer the result and the final coloring that comes from starting them face-down. Turn the pears over so they’re face-up for the final ten minutes or so of cooking time.
Make the honey drizzle. While the pears are baking, you’ll infuse honey with cardamom. For a basic barely-there cardamom flavor, I like to use five pods. Add more if you want a stronger kick of cardamom. But the flavor can be so overpowering that I like to keep it mild! You’ll crush the cardamom pods to release and crack the seeds, then mix them with honey and a bit of water. You’ll then simmer the mixture very gently for about 10 minutes before removing it from the heat and letting it continue to steep as the pears bake.
This step has the potential for going a bit wrong. If you heat the honey too much, you’ll start to caramelize the sugars in the honey, and eventually take it to a point where you’re turning it into stiff, hard candy. This shouldn’t happen as long as you keep the heat pretty low, but don’t worry if you accidentally take it too far! With the honey still on the heat to keep it liquid, slowly stir in just a bit of hot water. This will loosen things back up and make sure your honey doesn’t turn into hard candy as it cools.
Finish and serve the pears. This is all pretty straightforward! You just transfer the pears to your serving dish or plates, fill each with a scoop of vanilla mascarpone, and drizzle with the cardamom-infused honey. The only trick here is to strain the honey before you put the mascarpone into the pears. The mascarpone can begin melting fairly quickly on the hot pears, so if you wait to strain the honey until the mascarpone is already in the pears, you might end up with a puddle by the time you’re done plating. Having the honey strained and ready to go saves you time and keeps your baked pears with mascarpone beautiful for as long as possible.
It’s okay to serve these pears warm rather than hot, if the timing works out better. After all, you should be enjoying dinner too, not just fussing over dessert! It’s okay to let them cool a bit at room temperature before serving them. Finish them with the mascarpone and honey immediately before serving, though.
(And to be clear, for the sake of food safety: I’m talking about leaving them out at room temperature for an hour or less while you have dinner, not for hours or days on end!)
Take Your Baked Pears With Mascarpone to the Next Level:
Saffron: add a big pinch of crushed saffron to the simmering honey mixture. This will enhance the delicious spiced flavor from the cardamom.
Baked Pears With Mascarpone
- 3 pears
- ½ cup mascarpone
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 teaspoons room-temperature unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- ½ cup honey
- 5 cardamom pods
- Prepare. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Mix together the mascarpone and vanilla. Butter a baking dish with 1 teaspoon of room-temperature butter. Peel, halve, and scoop out the cores of the pears, coating the exposed surfaces in lemon juice.
- Bake the pears. Put ½ teaspoon room-temperature unsalted butter into each scooped-out pear. Brush with melted butter, then turn over and brush the backs with butter. Bake face-down for about 25 minutes, then turn over and bake face-up for about 10 more minutes or until fork-tender.
- Make the honey drizzle. While the pears bake, put the honey and water into a small pan. Crush the cardamom pods to release the seeds, then add. Heat for about 10 minutes on medium-low, not letting the honey go above a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep.
- Finish and serve the pears. When the pears are fork-tender, remove from the oven and transfer to a serving dish or individual plates. Strain the infused honey. Fill each with a scoop of vanilla mascarpone, then drizzle the honey on top. Serve immediately.
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