Pear Crisp

The falling leaves of autumn remind me that I'm growing older. When the leaves begin falling from the trees, I start dreaming of raking up a pile to jump in. I've always found the smell of fallen leaves comforting, even as I pull colorful leaf fragments out of my hair after I've had my fill. However, these little dreams are short lived as I quickly remember that I neither have a rake nor a yard of leaves to gather together. To make up for the disappointment, I like to trudge through the leaves on the sidewalk in my heels, crunching my way to and from the car with satisfaction.

Though I may often look and sound like an adult, there is a child resting just below the surface, longing for a pile of leaves to dance in.

There are two trees in front of my parent's home that begin changing colors as soon as a hint of fall is in the air. While my parents often wished the trees would hold onto their leaves longer than the first of October, my sister and I relished in playing in the fallen leaves wearing only a light jacket in the golden autumn sun.

These trees, however, are peculiar. Though a few leaves are lost to the wind here or there, the trees typically drop all of their leaves at exactly the same moment, usually taking only a few hours' time. I imagine the trees talk to one another, planning the occasion by passing messages through their entangled roots. The dropping of the leaves has quickly become one of my favorite moments of autumn.

When the trees drop their leaves, it is similar to a rainstorm; they fall from the sky in a moment that can only be described as wonderment. There are times when the leaves descend so hard and so fast, it is possible to become buried in only a few minutes' time if you found yourself lying beside the rough trunk of the tree. I remember one morning with particular fondness. It was a Saturday. My sister and I awoke to a windless morning and raining leaves. We ate our breakfasts in record time, spending the rest of the morning beneath the trees playing and laughing and reveling in the innocence of the moment.

Every year since then, as I watched the changing of the leaves from green to gold, I wished and hoped the leaves wouldn't drop while I was away. I was afraid to miss the moment. To miss the simple magic only fallen leaves could bring.

Pear Crisp is a sincere dessert to enjoy after a day spent in the autumn sun. The flavor of the crisp is clean and pure. The pears are roasted in brown sugar and vanilla (with a hint of bourbon, if you dare) while the crumble topping shines with a combination of oats and sliced almonds. Though I love to steal bites of cold pear crisp from the refrigerator, this dessert can be served hot with a side of ice cream to warm up cold noses and chilled ears.

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Spice Latte Cheesecake
Two Years Ago: Banana Nut Bread

Pear Crisp

Yields 6-8 servings

Pear Filling
5-6 large (about 3 pounds/1.4 kilograms) Bosc or Bartlett pears, peeled and diced
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon or rum, optional

In a large bowl, place the peeled and diced pears. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar and butter. Cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is uniform. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract). Pour mixture over diced pears and stir until the pears are evenly coated. Spread evenly into a cast iron pan or 9-inch pie pan. Sprinkle on the granulated sugar and bourbon.

Crumble Topping
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) butter, softened
1/3 cup (66 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) old fashioned oats
1/3 cup (40 grams) sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar. Mix in the flour, oats, almonds, spices, and salt. Break off the dough into small pieces and sprinkle crumble topping over the top of the pears.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the pears are fork tender and the crumble topping is browned. If the topping browns before the pears are finished cooking, cover the pan in aluminum foil to prevent further browning and continue cooking.

Serve warm or cold, with a side of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.