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Mulled Bartlett Pear Crisp

A surfeit of holiday flavors from top to bottom.

6 servings


About 40 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to bake


A pear lacks the bold, operatic range of an apple. A raw apple is crisply explosive and perfumed; a raw pear is yielding and juicy, neutrally sweet. A baked apple delivers rich basso, fleshy succulence; a baked pear issues a faraway lilting aria. Each could be called autumn’s leading lady, but for this performance we’ve chosen the pear. A poached pear is so quenchingly light, so lush and silken slipping down your throat that you crave it no matter how sated you are. Season the pear with red wine, the dry pucker of cranberry, the low notes of cinnamon and clove, a short, high burst of lemon, and this dessert gets close to Glühwein’s wintry mystique.

But wait, the pears fall back to earth in a meteor shower of crunchy, buttery streusel topping, and lo, they’re a crisp. A crisp must be coddled with ice cream, but not mere vanilla, in this case. We’ve made a fresh ginger, honey, and lemon ice cream: part hot, part warm, part cool—all creamy.

It adds up to a lot of dimension in one gravity-defying dessert.

Baking Notes

We have adopted a two-stage cooking process to maximize the impact of both fruits and the topping. Most of the cranberries called for in the recipe are used to make a spiced stock with red wine. But a good spoonful of cooked berries is held back to grace the top. The pears are cooked in the cranberry stock, the streusel is given a head start on its own in the oven, and everything comes back together briefly in a shallow baking dish at 400 degrees.

One of the nicest things about this recipe is that the pectin in the cranberry skins thickens the sauce, eliminating the need for cornstarch or flour.

Bosc pears are often regarded as the best variety for cooking due to their firmer texture, but we love the supple, juicy Bartlett for this crisp.

equipment mise en place

For the streusel, you will need a digital kitchen scale, a baking sheet, parchment paper, a small mixing bowl, a fork, and a long metal spatula.

For the filling, you will need a straight-sided 10- or 12- inch sauté pan, a wooden spoon, a slotted spoon, 2 small bowls, a fine-mesh sieve, a large mixing bowl, a paring knife, a melon baller or small measuring spoon, and a shallow 1½-quart baking dish.

  • for the streusel:

  • for the filling:

    • 5
      ounces (⅔ cup plus 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
    • 8
      ounces (1 cup) Cabernet Sauvignon
    • ½
      cinnamon stick
    • 2
      whole cloves
    • 6
      whole black peppercorns
    • teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 8
      ounces (2 cups) fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
    • 3
      wide strips of zest and 2 tablespoons juice from 1 large, juicy lemon
    • 3
      pounds red or yellow Bartlett pears, ripe, but not spongy
  • for serving:


    Make the streusel: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss together, breaking up any lumps of sugar with your fingertips. Drizzle the melted butter into the dry ingredients and toss together with a fork. When the butter is mixed throughout, rub the streusel into chunky bits with your fingertips (fig. 1.1). Turn the streusel onto the prepared baking sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes, turning it occasionally with a long metal spatula. It will seem soft, but will become crisp as it cools. Set the streusel aside (fig. 1.2). 


    Make the filling: Combine the sugar, wine, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns in a straight-sided 10- or 12-inch sauté pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Add the cranberries, cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally. When the berries just begin to pop, use a slotted spoon to transfer about ½ cup of them to a small bowl (fig. 2.1). Continue to cook the cranberries in the pan, partially covered, until they are completely spent, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over another small bowl, pushing hard on the cranberries to extract both the juice and pulp. There should be between ¾ and 1 cup of liquid. Pour the liquid back into the sauté pan and set the pan aside.


    Pour the lemon juice into a large mixing bowl. Working one at a time, cut the pears in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and strip out the fibrous cores with a melon baller or small measuring spoon (fig. 3.1). Peel the pear halves, cut the halves into large chunks (fig. 3.2), and toss them in the bowl with the lemon juice. When all the pears are prepped, bring the cranberry stock to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the pears, lemon juice and all, and poach them in the stock, stirring frequently—but gently—until the pears are just tender, about 5 minutes. While the pears are poaching, heat the oven to 400 degrees.


    Turn the hot pears into a shallow 1½-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved cranberries and streusel over the top. Bake until the streusel is toasty brown and the filling is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve with Ginger, Honey, and Lemon Ice Cream, or vanilla ice cream, if you prefer.

    1. 1.1
    2. 1.2
    1. 2.1
    1. 3.1
    2. 3.2