Caramelized pears accented by fresh thyme, with a cornmeal bacon crust, drizzled with a syrup boasting the complex medley of sap and herb. What more could you want? The key ingredients are the maple syrup and the thyme, so be sure to get the best quality you can. Maple syrup caramelizes the bacon and the pears, while adding a finishing touch as a sauce. Thyme balances the sweetness of the pears without dumbing it down, and adds a surprising touch when infused in maple syrup. —Wareham
For the dough: Cut the bacon into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces, cook in a pan over high heat, when crisp add the brown sugar. Stir continuously for two minutes or until the pan is getting dry, then add the maple syrup. Cook, stirring, until bacon is caramelized and crisp. Remove bacon from pan using slotted spoon letting oil drip off, then spread bacon in a thin layer on a baking sheet or plate to cool.
Proof yeast with sugar in 1/4 cup of the warm milk until foamy and yeast is doubling in size, about 5-10 minutes. Beat in remaining milk, egg and egg yolk, creme fraiche and butter. Stir in cooled bacon, making sure the little pieces aren't all stuck together.
Mix in flour, cornmeal and salt and knead using the dough hook until a soft dough comes together. Turn out onto a board and knead with your hands, about four minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.
Transfer to an oiled bowl, turning dough to coat with a little oil, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place or until doubled in size.
For the pear filling: Mix granulated sugar with brown sugar, set aside.
Remove cores and stems, and cut pears into rough 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with sugar mixture to coat.
Heat butter in a large heavy pan, cast iron works well. When hot and foaming, add sugared pears and 3 thyme sprigs. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is bubbling. Cook about 3-5 more minutes, and then pour off most of the liquid, leaving just a bit to coat the bottom of the pan and the pears. Pears should now brown easier, but keep stirring so they don't get stuck. When pears are starting to get soft, 2-3 more minutes, add the 2 tablespoons maple syrup and stir continuously until liquid has been cooked off. Remove from heat, place pears in a bowl and let cool.
For the thyme maple syrup: Place 1 cup maple syrup with 4-6 sprigs thyme in a saucepan. Four sprigs makes for a medium-mild sauce, while six will be quite strong.
Bring to a boil, and let boil gently for three minutes. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit for at least an hour.
Strain out thyme, and refrigerate syrup.
Assembly: Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Punch down dough, and roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into circles, any size will work, whatever size cutter you have handy, I find 4-6 inch circles easiest to work with though. Spoon filling into center, be sure to squeeze out extra liquid before placing it on dough. A little less then 1/4 cup filling seemed to work well for mine, you want them plump but not to the point to exploding. Moisten edges of dough slightly, and press closed firmly with your fingers, then use a fork to crimp the edges.
Arrange empanadas about 2 inches apart on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Beat egg with 1 tbsp water, and brush on tops of empanadas. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, just a few.
Bake 10-15 minutes, or until golden.
Serve warm, and drizzle with thyme maple syrup. Also, some extra syrup in the side is good for dipping.