If you like apples, just wait till you taste these pear recipes

Fresh California pears are now in season. From left, the pears are: Forelle, Bosc, Red and Bartlett.
Fresh California pears are now in season. From left, the pears are: Forelle, Bosc, Red and Bartlett. MCT

Pears need patience.

It’s tempting to grab one – at the farmstand, grocery store or straight off the tree – then sink in your teeth. But that pear will be better with a little extra time.

“I love Bartlett pears; they have such good flavor,” said Folsom food expert Patty Mastracco, who has developed many pear recipes over the years for pear advisory boards and other groups. “But you’ve got to educate people about what color they should be. People think Bartletts should be green – that’s what you see in stores – but you need to wait until they’re nice and yellow. That’s when they’re really ripe and ready.”

Now is the time to put that lesson to the test. Fresh California pears are still in season and plentiful. And not just the summer-loving Bartletts (which start ripening in late June) but a wide range of later ripening varieties. (And some of them stay green – or red – when fully ripe.)

In addition, more fresh pears are rolling in from the Northwest, meaning supply will be plentiful through Thanksgiving.

Recently, Mastracco created some new pear recipes for Sacramento-based Blue Diamond, using Almond Breeze as a non-dairy substitute for milk or cream. Besides lightening up traditional dessert recipes, the almond “milk” gives the final product a subtle almond aroma and flavor; a perfect complement to pears.

“The Delta pear cake is amazing!” Mastracco said. “It’s the best ever.”

Mastracco often substitutes pears for apples to give recipes a fresh twist.

“Just about anything you do with apples, you can do with pears,” she said. “Instead of apple, try pear pie, muffins, cake, bar cookies, quick breads, salads, even a big Dutch Baby pancake. Everything with pears is way better.”

For early fall, Mastracco especially likes pear pie.

“People are always surprised that they like pears more than apples,” she said. “But try using pears in your favorite apple pie recipe. You’ll love it.”

Not all pears are meant for baking. Comice, for example, are too tender and tend to disintegrate into mush when cooked. For cooking, choose Anjou, Bosc or Bartlett; they hold their shape and texture.

Seckel and Forelle also are good cooked, but are small; you’ll need more for most recipes.

Of course, these pears are delicious fresh, too. Experiment with different varieties to find your own favorites.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

Delta Pear Torte

Folsom’s Patty Mastracco adapted this recipe, using Almond Breeze instead of milk or cream. Along with the addition of almond flour, it gives this pear torte a pleasant almond scent and flavor. For easy removal of the cake, line the bottom of the baking pan with parchment paper, trimmed to fit, before baking.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

1/4 cup butter or buttery spread

2 medium firm but ripe California Bartlett pears, peeled and cored

3/4 cups packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For cake:

3/4 cups Blue Diamond Hint of Honey Vanilla Almond Breeze

1/2 cup butter or buttery spread

1-1/4 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1-2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup almond or fine almond flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt 1/4 cup of the butter and spread it in the bottom of a 9-inch round baking pan. Cut each pear into 16 slices and arrange in a circular pattern in prepared dish. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top; press down lightly.

Heat Almond Breeze and the remaining 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted and Almond Breeze is hot. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in sugar and vanilla. Let cool slightly, then whisk in eggs. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir into Breeze mixture, mixing until batter is smooth. Spread evenly over pears.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake. Place a plate on top and holding on 2 sides with a dish towel, carefully flip over. Remove pan. Makes 10 servings.

Recipe courtesy Blue Diamond

California Pear Bistro Salad

Serves 4.

8 cups assorted mixed salad greens

2 fresh California Bartlett or Comice pears, cored and sliced

½ red onion, sliced thinly

½ cup walnut halves

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

Balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Line a large platter with greens. Top with pears, sliced onions and sprinkle with walnuts and crumbled cheese. Combine vinegar and oil to taste. Drizzle dressing over salad. Serve with crusty bread, if desired.

Recipe courtesy California Pear Advisory Board

Pear, Almond and Maple Scones with Maple Pear Butter

“These scones are terribly addictive,” said Folsom food expert Patty Mastracco. “Be prepared for recipe requests!”

Makes 10 scones

Pear Butter:

1 large very ripe pear, peeled, cored and mashed

1/3 cup butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Pear Almond Scones:

1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla or Original

Unsweetened Almond Breeze

2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon maple extract

1 cup peeled, cored and diced ripe pear

1/2 cup sliced Blue Diamond Almonds

1/2 tablespoon sugar (for topping)

To prepare butter, place mashed pear in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until excess liquid has evaporated and mixture is very thick, stirring almost constantly at the end of cooking. Let cool slightly, then stir in butter and maple syrup. Let cool to room temperature. (May be prepared up to a week ahead and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease. Place Almond Breeze and lemon juice in a measuring cup and let stand for 5 minutes to create “buttermilk”.

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until butter is the size of peas, being careful not to overmix. Stir in Breeze mixture and extract with a fork until mixture forms as soft dough. Lightly stir in pears.

Turn mixture onto a lightly floured board and gently knead several times until dough is smooth. Press into a 10-inch circle and cut into 10 wedges with a sharp knife. Place on prepared baking sheet and brush lightly with additional Breeze. Sprinkle with almonds and remaining 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with Pear Butter.

Recipe courtesy Blue Diamond

Steel Cut Oats with Pears, Cinnamon and Almonds

Patty Mastracco makes a double or triple recipe of the toasted oat topping. Store the topping tightly covered in the refrigerator for quick breakfast prep.

Makes 4 servings.

4 cups Blue Diamond Vanilla Almond Breeze

1 cup steel cut oats

1 ripe pear, peeled, cored and diced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Toasted Oat Topping:

1/2 teaspoon butter

2 tablespoons sliced almonds, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon steel cut oats

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Bring Almond Breeze to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in oats; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Stir in pears, brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes more. While oats are cooking, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in almonds, oats and cinnamon; cook, stirring frequently for a few minutes or until fragrant. Let cool slightly, then stir in brown sugar. Spoon hot oats into 2 bowls and sprinkle with oat mixture.

Recipe courtesy Blue Diamond

Roasted Pears with Honey Yogurt

Serves 4.

4 fresh California Bartlett or Bosc pears, cored and cut into quarters

½ cup light brown sugar

1 cup honey-flavored Greek yogurt

½ cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts) or ½ cup granola

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Use a cast iron pan, or line a heavy roasting pan with aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place the pears, cut side up on the pan and sprinkle with brown sugar. Roast for 25 minutes or until sugar is caramelized and the pears are golden and slightly softened. Baste if necessary.

Spoon into bowls and top with honey-flavored yogurt. Sprinkle with nuts or granola. Serve warm for breakfast, dessert or snack.

Recipe courtesy California Pear Advisory Board

Port Wine-Poached Pears

Serves 4

1 cup port wine

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 (2-inch) strips orange peel

1 (2-inch) strip lemon peel

1 stick cinnamon

1 whole clove

4 firm, ripe Bosc pears

Ice cream for serving, optional

Combine wine, sugar, orange peels, lemon peel, cinnamon, clove and 2 cups water in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Cut 1/4 inch from pear bottoms to make a flat surface. Peel pears and nestle them in the bottom of pan containing wine mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until a knife slides into pears with ease, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool in pan. The pears will continue to take on color as they cool in the liquid.

To serve, transfer pears, cut-side down, to 4 plates and drizzle some of the sauce from the pan over pears. Serve with ice cream if desired.

Recipe from St. Louis Post-Dispatch