It all started innocently enough. I recall receiving a subscription to Seventeen for my 13th birthday, and I felt so grown-up. I used to read it cover-to-cover, taking every quiz and begging my mom to let me order 12 cassette tapes that were advertised for “just 1 penny!” C’mon, mom! It says that I would only need to buy 3 more tapes at regular club prices over the next two years. Then I can cancel at any time. Pleeeaaaaase?
After Seventeen came InStyle, Shape, Martha Stewart Living, and about a dozen other food-travel-fashion focused publications. Some smart little intern up at Conde Nast had obviously figured out that I fall into their “sucker” customer base. If they send me an initial subscription offer that is low enough, I simply won’t refuse. Only $1 an issue? Well heck, sign me up!!
This year, I realized that going through my mountain of magazine subscriptions each month had started to become a chore. I would speed-read through the June issue only to find the July issue waiting for me in the next day’s mail. It was time to make some tough decisions and give a few titles the axe.
Gourmet was never my favorite of the food magazines—yes, I said it. Over the past few years, I personally found their content to be less and less approachable, and I would often go through entire issues without dog-earing a single recipe. That being said, my Gourmet subscription was never in danger of being canceled. When I heard that it would no longer be published after November, 2009, I was very surprised. I hardly thought that a magazine with Gourmet’s reputation and longevity would fall victim to the economy. Although yes, this will help with my magazine clutter, Gourmet’s presence will definitely be missed.
I recently received the final issue of Gourmet magazine in the mail, one that I will keep in a special place rather than tossing it in the recycling bin after the must-try recipes have been removed. When I first subscribed to Gourmet, I saved every single issue. A few years later, I decided that I only needed to save the October-December issues, as those were the ones to which I referred most often. Finally, I stopped saving any magazines at all–except for Martha’s, that is–because I just ran out of room. Open a random cabinet in my kitchen and chances are pretty good that you will find a stack of Martha Stewart Living staring back at you. I just can’t bring myself to throw them away. Perhaps I need an intervention.
This recipe was inspired by one that was included in the second-to-last (October ’09) issue of Gourmet, and it’s sort of a tribute to the groundbreaking publication. The original recipe is for a Butterscotch Pear Pie, delicious sounding, yes, but practical for me, no. A whole pie isn’t something that Eric can easily take in to work, especially while balancing his coffee mug, Blackberry, lunch, and keys. One of those items would not make it, and that would likely be the pie. There’s also the whole pie plate dilemma. Every time that I give someone a pie, it takes the better part of a year to get my pie plate back. So, instead of making the pie recipe, I used the filling recipe to create these pear pie bars with a pecan-studded brown sugar streusel topping. I also decided to add some dried cranberries to the filling for a punch a tartness. Cut into squares, this dessert is portable pear-fection! Here are some extra tips for making these palate-pleasing pear bars:
- In order to facilitate the cutting process, it is best to chill the bars, covered, for at least 2 hours. This helps to firm up the filling a bit. Use a very sharp chef’s knife to cut the bar into squares.
- The bars will last, tightly covered and chilled, for 2-3 days. If you want to serve them warm, place them on a baking sheet, covered with foil, in a 350F degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Crisp the streusel topping by removing the foil for the last few minutes.
- There are many variations that you can try with this recipe. Use a mixture of tart and sweet apples instead of pears, or use a combination of apples and pears. Instead of cranberries, use tart dried cherries or diced figs. Use walnuts or hazelnuts in place of the pecans in the streusel topping.
Makes 12 bars
For the crust
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup golden brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 pounds firm, ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the streusel
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into cubes
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Prepare the crust: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Mix in the egg until well combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed until combined. With lightly floured hands, press the dough into the baking pan, making a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Bake the crust for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Keep the oven on.
Prepare the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and brown sugar. Toss the pears and cranberries with the brown sugar mixture, lemon juice, and vanilla. Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes until juices start to form. Spread the pears in an even layer over the baked crust.
Prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, both sugars, the cinnamon, and the salt. Add the cubed butter, rubbing together the ingredients with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in the pecans. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the pear filling, pressing lightly to adhere.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 20-30 minutes longer, until the topping is browned and crisp. Let the pan cool completely. Cut the bars with a very sharp knife; dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve.