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Author Notes: We always have fresh fruit and good sandwich bread on hand, so I make this simple, humble traditional American dessert often. Those who’ve eaten here, or who have seen my recipes, know that we love just about anything on or otherwise made with toast. (In fact, toast is one of the main reasons I make bread as often as I do!) So it shouldn’t surprise you that I long ago stopped using regular breadcrumbs in my fruit Betties, opting to use small chunks of cinnamon toast instead. This pear and quince version is a bit fancier than my typical Sunday supper dessert, as I’ve added a hidden treasure on the very bottom: raisins soaked in rum, then doused in brown butter. The topping is also drizzled with brown butter. If you don’t have quince, or the time to make quince sauce (which in my experience is the easiest way to deal with what must be the most difficult fruit on the planet to peel and core), use a good unsweetened applesauce instead. And if you don’t care for the rustic bits of brown buttered toast on top, chop the toast pieces up more finely to make bread crumbs. I’ve included alternate instructions below. Either way, this is not just a tasty dessert – and one which won’t induce or aggravate a food coma -- it’s also excellent for breakfast the next day. Enjoy!
The Pear and Quince Brown Betty
- 1/3 cup of yellow raisins
- 1/3 cup of rum, bourbon, pear eau-de-vie, or apple or pear cider
- 8 ounces sandwich bread (4 or 5 slices)
- ¾ of a stick (6 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons of organic dark brown sugar, or more to taste
- Scant 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom
- ½ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger (or ¼ teaspoon ground ginger)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ cups of quince sauce - see recipe below (or unsweetened applesauce)
- 1 ½ - 2 pounds of Bartlett or William pears (4 - 6, depending on size)
- Gently warm the spirits or cider and add the raisins. Separate the raisins as you add them to the liquid, so they will all plump up nicely. Set aside for at least ½ hour.
- Toast the bread lightly on both sides, preferably under your broiler. It’s faster, plus you’ll be turning the broiler on and using a baking sheet anyway for the next step.
- Cut the toasted bread slices into ½ inch squares. I do this by stacking the bread, then cutting it vertically into half-inch strips, then rotating the baking sheet and doing the same thing at 90 degrees.
- Spread the bits out on the cookie sheet and toast under the broiler for another 20-30 seconds, to further crisp up all the toast bits. Watch carefully however, lest they burn!! You should have about three cups of toast bits and crumbs.
- Preheat for oven baking at 375 degrees. Arrange the racks in your oven so that the casserole dish will be sitting in the middle of it, if possible.
- Combine the sugar, ginger and spices in a small bowl.
- Using a spoon, remove the raisins from the soaking liquid and place them on the bottom of a 1 ½ quart oven-proof dish (preferably one that has a cover).
- Put the quince sauce in a large bowl. Pour the leftover soaking liquid into the quince and stir well.
- Quarter, core, and peel the pears, then cut each quarter into 2 or 3 slices, in that order. Drop the pear slices into the quince. When you have finished, very gently stir to combine the pears with the quince sauce.
- Make the brown butter by heating the butter in a heavy saucepan on the stove, over medium heat. Cook it briskly for a while, stirring occasionally. The foam on the top will eventually disappear, as the water in the butter evaporates. The solids will drop into the melted fat and continue to cook. Watch attentively as you stir. The minute the solids begin to appear a nutty brown color, remove the saucepan from the heat. Continue to stir, off the heat, for another 10 seconds or so.
- Put one cup of toast bits over the raisins in the casserole, then sprinkle it with 2 teaspoons of the sugar and spice mixture. Drizzle over it about half of the brown butter.
- Spoon half of the pear and quince mixture on next, then sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the sugar and spice mixture. Then sprinkle on a second layer of toast bits (about one cup).
- Spoon the remaining pear and quince mixture on, and gently smooth it out. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. (If your dish does not have a lid, aluminum foil tightly covering it will do just fine.)
- Remove the cover and sprinkle on the remaining cup of toast bits. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar mixture, and then drizzle all over it the rest of the brown butter.
- Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.
- Serve with a smile. A touch of crème fraiche with a few drops of rum or bourbon in it is also nice with this. As is vanilla ice cream.
- Enjoy!! ;o)
- N.B. If you prefer not to cover the Brown Betty with toast pieces, cut the last cup of toast bits very finely (in a food processor or by hand) to make crumbs, and toss them with the sugar mixture and remaining brown butter before spreading on the top. Then bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. You won't get quite the same toast flavor experience this way, but it will taste pretty good anyway.
The Quince Sauce -- N.B. This can be doubled or tripled.
- 2 pounds of quince
- Quarter the quinces, then cut each quarter into halves, or thirds if the quinces are large.
- Cover with water in a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Turn down to a simmer and cook for about an hour. Check occasionally and add more water, if necessary, to keep the fruit covered. Your house will smell more gorgeous than you ever could have imagined.
- Strain the cooked quince through a colander or chinois which you’ve lined with a piece of damp cheesecloth. Reserve the quince juice for another use. (It’s full of pectin, by the way.)
- Put the cooked quince through a food mill. I use an ancient Foley mill that has only medium-sized holes, i.e., it’s not adjustable. It works well for this. You could also press it through a chinois, without the cheesecloth. Make your sauce finer or chunkier, to taste.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Pears
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Non-Pie Thanksgiving Dessert