#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 89: Fruit and vanilla a perfect pear-ing

Vanilla Baked Pears

All the best things come in pairs. Batman and Robin. Simon and Garfunkel. Chips and dip. A partridge and pear tree.

I bought a pair of pears a while back. Perhaps I was pining for my mom’s pear pie (a melt-in-the-mouth affair, made with fruit grown in their own yard) because pears are not normally something I reach for, especially at this time of year.

Suspect shopping motivation and no plan. Sounds suspiciously like I was trying to create a “castoff.” (But some things will never be told.)

A pair of pears isn’t enough to make a pie, but it is enough to cobble together a dessert that is not a cobbler. Plus, I have some vanilla beans — purchased last month to make Dan’s birthday custard pie — and any opportunity to use them is worth taking. I’m pretty sure that heaven will smell like vanilla.

Pears and vanilla. Baked pears and vanilla. With ice cream. And, what the hell, a shot of bourbon for fun.

Sounds like another perfect pair of pear pairings.

Kitchen Castoffs used

Pears, plus half a vanilla bean

Pears baked in a vanilla-bourbon sauce that caramelizes into perfection.
Pears baked in a vanilla-bourbon sauce that caramelizes into perfection.

This is how we did it

I borrowed bits of two recipes — one from Smitten Kitchen, one from Chateleine — in putting this together.


  • Pears (one per person), peeled, halved, core and stem removed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or bourbon
  • 2 tbsp water


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the prepared pears into a baking dish, cut-side up, and pour the water on the bottom of the dish.

Put the sugar into a small bowl. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise then carefully (I use the rounded edge of a butter knife) scrape out the seeds and mix them in with the sugar. Pour the melted butter in the bowl and mix thoroughly, then add the lemon juice or bourbon.

Generously brush the vanilla sugar mixture over the pears. You can hold some back to continue basting during the cooking process, or pour it all in and baste from the pan. Either way, you will end up with caramelized vanilla goodness.

Cook for about 30 minutes, the flip over and cook for another 30, basting periodically. The cooking time may increase or decrease depending on how ripe the pears are — the perfectly prepared pears should cut easily with a fork.

To serve, top with ice cream and more of the caramelized vanilla sugar from the pan.

Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.

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