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Hazelnut Pear Flambé

These shorter days of autumn mean less variety at the fruit stand. Once again the produce bins are filled with apples and pears. In muted shades of red, green and yellow, pears subtly complement the rounder shape, glossier color even the crisp texuture of seasonal apples. Yet all the while pears gently hint at a quiet complexity and sophistication apples can only dream of.

I have always found pears fascinating though, I must admit, I only started cooking with them recently when I suddenly seemed to get the hang of ripening them at home and figuring out when they were ready to use. After poaching pears and roasting pears last year, I recently found even more great hints on choosing and ripening pears at Sizzleworks. So, when I was recently unable to find the suggested ingredients for a cheesecake topping, the first thing I thought of as a substitute was pears.

It didn't hurt that I also found this wonderful recipe on an old newspaper clipping from the Oregonian. I saved it because of its combination of simplicity and drama as well as its inspiration to combine Asian spices and Northwest pears and hazelnuts. I was also intrigued by the step that called for setting it aflame! I've always wanted to master a flaming dessert and add it to my repertoire.

Of course, the flambé step here is optional. If you don't have the time or interest for the drama this recipe will still taste terrific. It can even be made ahead, if desired, to cut down on last minute preparation. I must say though, especially if you like to entertain as you cook, the flambé step adds a lot of interest at serving time.

This dessert sauce fits into a number of different seasons gracefully depending on what it tops, ice cream or cheesecake, gingerbread or pancakes. It’s uniquely spiced fruit and earthy crunch lend Northwest flair to a variety of simple but elegant desserts.

Hazelnut Pear Flambé
adapted from FOODday where it was attributed to "Martin Yan Quick and Easy"

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup light rum
1/4 - 1/2 cup hazelnuts

Place a frying pan on the stovetop over medium heat. When hot, add the butter, brown sugar and five-spice powder. Stir to combine. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.

Increase heat to high. Add the hazelnuts and pears to the sugar mixture and cook until the pear is tender, approximately 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the rum over the mixture. Be sure you are not standing over the pan, that the pan is not under an exhaust fan, and that it is clear of any flammable items, then CAREFULLY set the rum aflame. Return the pan to the stovetop and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.

Spoon the Hazelnut Pear topping over cheesecake, gingerbread, pancakes or coconut ice cream.

Serve and enjoy!


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

There is nothing like a juicy ripe pear..I never knew what I was missing until earlier in the season. This is a gorgeous presentation!!

Ricki said...

Oh, my, Lisa, this looks just spectacular! I've recently discovered what a "good" pear tastes like, and they definitely will give apples a run for their money!

pam said...

That is a work of art!

grace said...

i don't know which sounds better--putting this atop cheesecake, pancakes, COCONUT ice cream, or simply scarfing it down by the spoonful. what a delight!

Zupan's Markets said...

Another great dish that showcases our Northwest bounty! We love the way its simple elegance celebrates fall.

Cathy said...

This would be SO delicious over gingerbread. Hazelnuts and pears are a marriage made in heaven. Thanks for sharing this one, Lisa.

noble pig said...

Oh Lisa it's beautiful, I absolutly love this, and with hazels..just perfect.

Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

Wow is this a show stopper!

Ivy said...

Hey you!
This is beyond the beyond and far more greater than the greatest. :)I am not one for hazelnut but I love pear! What a beautiful creation, you're amazing!

the southern hostess said...

I'd eat anything with hazelnuts, especially this.

Ellen said...

how pretty and delicious looking

theUngourmet said...

Beautiful! I find the five spice to be intriguing. I just recently began using pears in my cooking as well. I love them!

Ellen Glek said...

This is the perfect recipe for the abundance of pears I have right now! Can you give any tips on where to find five-spice powder? Wikipedia says it's (star anise), cloves, cinnamon, huajiao (Sichuan pepper) and ground fennel seeds. Am I going to have to track down an asian grocery store, or do you think cinnamon, cloves, and pepper would come close?

Lisa said...

Ellen Glek - I don't remember having too much trouble finding Five Spice Powder. I think it can be found in a regular supermarket though it may have been in the ethnic section.

If you can't find it but want an authentic Five Spice flavor I think the anise is an important taste note in the mixture. On the other hand, I think this recipe would still be delicious using cinnamon, ginger or a combination of spices as you describe, to substitute for the Five Spice Powder. Don't be afraid to experiment!