Pear brown betty is my way of celebrating the season. The season for what? Apples. Pears. Pumpkin. Desserts containing the aforementioned items from the fall harvest are among my favorites, what with their cinnamon-spiciness and the buttery, flaky toppings and crusts. I feel like apples get most of the accolades of the season (although pumpkin is definitely coming into its own with Starbucks peddling it’s expensive but much beloved coffee drinks filled with “pumpkin spice” seasonally) and pears largely get ignored.
I’ve always loved pears. If you can find a perfectly ripe pear (or if you are patient enough to let your pears sit on the counter until they reach that perfect ripeness), they are so juicy that you can’t eat one without at least two napkins (by the way, to know if a pear is ripe, press on it near the stem. If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe. If you aren’t going to eat it right away, put it in the fridge!). A lot of people are put off by the grainy texture of pears but unless a little piece gets stuck between my teeth (which, unfortunately, does happen sometimes) I’m okay with that.
I’ve always been a big fan of cobblers (with a biscuity sort of topping) and crumbles/crisps (with oaty toppings) but believe it or not I had never had a brown betty until I made this. Have you ever had brown betty? I’m willing to get that many of you haven’t. It was pretty en vogue in the sixties and has sort of…gone out of fashion. Usually it’s made with apples, though, and I decided that it needed to be made with pears. This one is made on the stovetop, so if you live in Tennessee where it’s still eighty degrees nearly a month into fall, you can have brown betty without causing your air conditioner to go into overdrive.
Try out this pear brown betty! You won’t be disappointed.
Yield: 8 servings
20 minPrep Time:
25 minCook Time:
45 minTotal Time:
- 4 Slices high-quality, sturdy bread-I used whole wheat (torn into quarters)
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
- 1/4 Cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, Chinese Five-spice powder, or other cinnamon-spice blend (I used Alchemy Spice Wake and Bake Sweet Spice Blend)
- pinch salt
- 3 Pounds pears, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (I used a pound each of Bartlett, Bosc, and Starkrimson)
- 1 1/4 cup pear nectar
- Pulse the bread, three tablespoons of the butter, and 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar in a food processor 7-10 times until coarsely ground. Place in a 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently until golden brown (8-10 minutes). Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and wipe out the skillet.
- Combine the remaining sugar, the salt, and the spices in a small bowl. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining butter in the skillet over high heat/ Add half of the pears and half of the sugar-spice mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened and lightly browned, then transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining pears.
- Add the first batch of pears back to the skillet along with the pear nectar. Allow to cook until thickened and reduced(5-10 minutes depending on the size of your skillet), scraping the bottom to remove any browned bits.
- Stir 1/4 cup of the bread cubes into the pears. Spread the remaining bread cubes on top of the pears. Serve warm.
This brown betty is delicious served immediately, but it's just as good days later, warmed in the microwave. Of course, there's nothing about brown betty that couldn't be helped by some vanilla ice cream!