Pears don’t always get the appreciation they deserve when it comes to baking. A ripe pear is juicy and tender, and no matter how tasty, it can be difficult to imagine a ripe pear holding up as well as an apple in a pie or cobbler or other fruit-heavy dish. But pears can really shine in baked goods, with their sweet and delicate flavor. The trick is usually just to save the very ripest pears for eating and take those that are still a little bit firm (i.e. will not squish under light pressure) and bake with those.
I used a mixture of fresh pears and whole cranberries in this cobbler. Both fresh and frozen cranberries can be used. The combination of winter fruits in a dessert that is served hot is the perfect dish for a cold evening by the fire. The fruit mixture is lightly sweetened with brown sugar and even more lightly spiced with ground cinnamon. I didn’t want to overdo the spices to allow the great flavors of the sweet pear and tart cranberries to come through clearly. A little cornstarch helps ensure that the juices from the pears thicken up just a little during baking.
The topping for this cobbler is similar in consistency to a cookie dough. This means that it is difficult to spread onto the fruit, unlike more cake-like batters. Instead, break the dough up into chunks with your fingers and distribute them evenly over the fruit. You should have enough to just about cover the entire cobbler and the topping will spread as it bakes, giving the dessert a “cobbled-together” appearance.
Pear and Cranberry Cobbler
6 medium pears (pref. Bartlett)
2 cups whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 375F.
Peel pears and remove stems and cores. Slice pears into 6ths and place in a large mixing bowl. Add cranberries, brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon to pears and toss gently with a spatula. Pour into a 9×9-inch baking dish.
In a medium bowl, prepare the topping. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together butter, maple syrup, vanilla and egg. Pour into flour mixture and stir until dough comes together and no streaks of flour remain.
Break the topping dough up into chunks with your fingertips and distribute evenly over the fruit in the baking dish. The topping will spread as it bakes.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until topping is golden brown.