Serves a Crowd

Fennel & Pear Strata

September 20, 2011
3 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

I love strata. I love that it can be pretty much whatever you want it to be. I don't love the overnight rest. Sometimes - no, make that usually - the idea of planning breakfast before I've even gone to bed the night before is just beyond me. However, I discovered that if I use stale croissants as opposed to the stale bread required by most strata recipes (the grocery store variety are fine here), they're so tender that given a rest of an hour, you can have both the idea and the breakfast/brunch on the same day. They form a tender crust which cradles the other ingredients. Life doesn't get much better than that in my house.

The sweetness of the pears pairs beautifully with the savory-sweet crunch of the fennel and the creamy/tartness of the cheese(s). A sprinkle of sea salt over the pears before they caramelize in the oven is the finishing touch.

This doubles nicely, but please be aware that in a larger baking dish, the bake time will be longer by probably 10-15 minutes. —boulangere

Test Kitchen Notes

Like boulangere, I love strata, too. The flavors in this one called out to me -- fresh pears, crunchy fennel, melty Cambozola, a touch of rosemary -- like a classy cheese-and-fruit plate baked into a creamy, rich custard. But the clincher for me was boulangere's discovery that using croissants, rather than bread, does away with the need for an overnight rest. Woo-hoo! No need to plan ahead, or (ahem) clear a space in my fridge. I peeled my bosc pears, as I find their skin to be somewhat leathery this late in the season. And the cooking time on my strata, baked in an enameled cast iron gratin dish, was closer to an hour than 35 minutes. But these were minor adjustments for a strata with taste that sends it soaring to the, um, stratosphere! —cookbookchick

What You'll Need
  • Melted butter, 2 to 3 ounces depending upon the size of your baking dish
  • 2 stale croissants, halved through the middle into 2 thin layers
  • 8 ounces wedge of Cambozola, rind trimmed (the cheese melts much better that way)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced (reserve some fronds for garnish)
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 pears of your choice - I like Bosc for their artful shape and color
  • 6 large eggs
  • 12 ounces table cream, 18% fat (or use half heavy cream and half whole milk)
  • Sea or kosher salt
  • 4 ounces crème fraîche
  • Mimosas
  1. Melt the butter. Brush it into the inside of a casserole dish large enough to accommodate all ingredients in single layers of each. My favorite is an 8 x 10 warm brown Emile Henry that I brought back from Paris on the last big trip my husband and I took together several years ago.
  2. Arrange the croissant halves in the casserole. It's fine if they overlap a bit here and there.
  3. If you are not familiar with Cambozola, you are leading a sheltered life. It looks like Camembert with veins of Gorgonzola shot through it. If you can't find it, use 6 ounces of either brie or Camembert along with 2 ounces of good crumbled bleu cheese, such as Maytag. Trim the rind off the cheese. It's not that I find it objectionable, but the cheese will be so much more tender without it. Slice it in 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange them over the croissants. If using bleu cheese, scatter the crumbles over the previous cheese.
  4. Trim the fennel bulb and slice it very thinly, less than 1/4 inch. A mandoline is your best friend here. Scatter the curls over the Brie. Season with some sea or kosher salt and pepper. Sprinkle 3/4 of the minced rosemary over the top. Reserve the remainder for garnish.
  5. Hooray! You don't need to peel the pears! Pear skin is very tender. Stand them on end and vertically slice off 1/4-inch thick pieces. Arrange them over the fennel in a single layer. Season with some sea or kosher salt.
  6. Whisk together the eggs and cream. Pour over the contents of the casserole. Cover casserole dish with plastic and set on a baking sheet, you know, just in case. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour so that the croissants can soak up some of the custard and become all, well, custardy. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  7. At the end of the rest period, remove the plastic and bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is nicely puffed and golden brown. When you tap your finger on it, it should feel springy and tender, but not squishy. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Cut into squares. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche on each, along with a sprinkle of minced rosemary.
  8. Make some mimosas and enjoy a lovely brunch.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • boulangere
  • BlueKaleRoad
  • fiveandspice
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • lapadia

48 Reviews

Blake March 15, 2022
Just made this for my wife and I. Wanted to test run if before we serve it to our friends that will be coming to visit soon.
It was delicious for sure, but our cook time was way more than the 35
minutes. More like an hour!
Because of the extended time, we will probably cover it for the first half an hour and let it brown for the duration.
We found the flavour of the pears as well as the fennel very subtle, but so delicious. All the ingredients made for a perfect combination.
We will make this again, but we decided we’ll use a little more pear as well as fennel. Our friends will be impressed! Thanks!
Nancy H. October 12, 2020
I cooked this yesterday and was terribly disappointed. There is far too much butterfat and not nearly enough blue cheese flavor nor is there much pear flavor or texture to offset the butterfat. I ended up throwing it away after spending too much on croissant, whole milk and heavy cream because we don't have 'table cream' where I live let alone all the Cambozola.

At least with some of the leftovers I can make a tartine with walnut bread, Cambozola and pears.
Nancy H. October 12, 2020
Oh, right, the fennel. I could tell this fennel wouldn't cook in the allotted time so I cooked it for about 2 minutes in the microwave. The texture was fine - I could cut through it - but like the pear flavor overwhelmed by all the butterfat.
boulangere April 11, 2013
For some reason, there are no tester's notes, which is a shame, as I don't know whom to thank for giving this a try and saying nice things about it.
boulangere April 11, 2013
Oh, I'm so happy to know it was you, and that you enjoyed it so! Thank you profoundly. Thank you, Mrs. L.! Without you, I'd never have found Stephanie's sweet comments. Long live the leftovers!
BlueKaleRoad November 21, 2011
Stratas are just wonderful. What a combination of flavors you created here - I'm so glad the pear idea wouldn' t leave you! This will be a holiday treat to savor.
boulangere November 21, 2011
Thank you Blue! I kind of see a strata as an all-purpose dish: a great way of using up stale things, leftover things, and coming up with a great breakfast, brunch, or even dinner.
fiveandspice November 18, 2011
This still just looks, mmmm. So lovely.
boulangere November 18, 2011
Thank you kindly.
TheWimpyVegetarian November 18, 2011
This looks like another wonderful dish to try to yours! I'm so glad you didn't abandon the idea even though the contest deadline for pears had passed!!
boulangere November 18, 2011
Too sweet you are!
lapadia November 16, 2011
Fennel and Pear, delicious, sorry I missed this before, hmm, now thinking this flavor combo might make a good sorbet, too.
boulangere November 16, 2011
lapadia March 23, 2013
And now I am reminded again of this wonderful flavor combo, I need to catch up with my to do cooking list!
boulangere March 23, 2013
Thank you, lapadia; I've got a fairly long one of those, too.
wssmom September 26, 2011
Love the cheeses line .... I had a friend named John Nazareth, and we were always egging him on to open a cheese shop and call it "Cheeses of Nazareth." Oh, and the recipe is YUM!!!
boulangere September 26, 2011
LOL! I seriously just about had to sit down on the floor I was laughing so hard. And thank you very much.
SKK September 24, 2011
B, this is wonderful. Thank you. It is on my list.
boulangere September 24, 2011
Oh thank YOU, and I hope you enjoy it.
lacerise September 22, 2011
This dish sounds like something out of a dream. I think I might bring it to a bridal shower I'm going to in a couple of weeks. What's that you've topped it with?
boulangere September 22, 2011
Simple whipped cream. You could even add a touch of brandy to it. Enjoy your party!
drymeat September 22, 2011
I hade a slice of Fennel & Pear Strata for desert during lunch and the taste was delightful and fluffy! I enjoyed the egg part of the desert. I give the treat a 7 out of 8! I would like to switch up the pear with strawberries! ;)
boulangere September 22, 2011
Almost any fruit would likely do as the top layer. And I really love sospled's idea of a sprinkling of sea salt on top as a perfect finish.
drymeat September 22, 2011
I hade a slice of Fennel & Pear Strata for desert during lunch and the taste was delightful and fluffy! I enjoyed the egg part of the desert. I give the treat a 7 out of 8! I would like to switch up the pear with strawberries! ;)
drymeat September 22, 2011
I hade a slice of Fennel & Pear Strata for desert during lunch and the taste was delightful and fluffy! I enjoyed the egg part of the desert. I give the treat a 7 out of 8! I would like to switch up the pear with strawberries! ;)
sospled September 21, 2011
This is absolutely delightful and I think the addition of a little sea salt on the top would pair well with the sweetness of this dish. Thank you for sharing. I wish I had some more right now for supper.
boulangere September 21, 2011
OMG, sea salt on top of the caramelized pears would be heavenly. Thank you so much!
TheWimpyVegetarian September 21, 2011
Perfect!! I love this idea!!
TheWimpyVegetarian September 21, 2011
I love stratas and this sounds like one I need to try! I've but fennel and apple together, but hadn't tried pear and fennel. And I love the shortcut - I too can't plan that far ahead to do the overnight soak.
boulangere September 21, 2011
Oh, yeah, that's the only way I make strata and bread pudding any more.
TheWimpyVegetarian September 21, 2011
Good to know! Great tip!
fiveandspice September 21, 2011
Stratas are the best! Everything *and* the kitchen sink tastes good in one. This one looks particularly delicious though. Love the use of croissants! I worked retail in a bakery-chocolate shop for a while and there were always a couple (already stale by then! They sure don't stay fresh long!) croissants left over at the end of the day, and I took to bringing them home with me and baking them into a bread pudding or strata the next morning. It's probably good I changed jobs after not too long so I didn't completely outgrow my pants! But, man were they tasty.
boulangere September 21, 2011
Oh, I love them in bread pudding, too. My step-daughter worked in a See's Candy when in high school. The rule was they could eat as much as they wanted . . . .
boulangere September 20, 2011
I left my camera at work, so will post photos tomorrow, Wednesday.
boulangere September 21, 2011
Thank you, sdb. We polished off the whole thing at lunch.
hardlikearmour September 21, 2011
Yum-o-yum-o-yum!! I wish I had a slice right now!
boulangere September 21, 2011
I should have saved you one!
hardlikearmour September 20, 2011
Wow, b, I love it! This sound delicious, and infinitely tweakable. I could see adding some roasted golden beets and a sprinkle of goat cheese or gorgonzola just off the top of my head.
boulangere September 20, 2011
"Infinitely tweakable" should probably be the subtitle here. Pair the cheeses and vegetables as you see fit, and yours sound heavenly. I'm working on a version that I'll make and post tomorrow with figs and goat cheese. It's all about flavors and textures, not a recipe cast in stone. I'd love to hear what combinations you come up with.
hardlikearmour September 20, 2011
If it wasn't for your darn nut allergy, I'd suggest a sprinkling of toasted walnuts, too. Yum!
boulangere September 20, 2011
When I had my bakery/restaurant in California, I had a GREAT produce supplier out of Reno. Her name was Jayne ane she could get me anything my heart dreamed of. They also carried eggs. Being a somewhat remote resort location, unusual ingredients could be had to come by. At one point when Jayne was on - of all the nerve - vacation, I asked her substitute if they had cheeses. Into the phone she shrieked, 'WHAT?!?!?!" I explained, well, you know, like goat, fontina. . . . She said, "OH! I thought you said JESUS!"
hardlikearmour September 20, 2011
LOL! Did she think you wanted to cook Jesus?? Too funny. I bet you gave her a mini panic attack.
boulangere September 20, 2011
Honestly, I about fell down on the floor laughing. To this day the exchange brings me to my knees. Nuts? Heck, yes. It's your adaptation. Nothing cast in stone here.
boulangere September 20, 2011
And with croissants, you can be baking a strata in an hour, now twelve!
boulangere September 20, 2011
Not twelve, not now twelve. Sorry ; )
TheWimpyVegetarian September 21, 2011
This is hilarious. I love the do you have Jesus line. LOL!!
TheWimpyVegetarian September 21, 2011
Oh, and b, where was your bakery / restaurant??
boulangere September 20, 2011
LOL! Pears and fennel just kind of came to me. We had the pear theme, and then a bunch of fennel landed in my so to speak lap. Brie? Had some that needed a good home. Do we still use the word "serendipitous?"