Pear and apple crisp with vanilla bean-infused brown butter and cardamom cream

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Let me tell you about why I think I secretly buy fruit. I’m not really a fruit eater. I never have a sudden urge to bite into an apple, not to bake fruit pies (other than this incredible nectarine tart). I don’t go crazy when it’s strawberry or raspberry or whatever other season, with the exception of cherries, which I don’t even like that much, other than the excitement factor of them coming from my back yard. I buy fruit because I know it’s good for me and I should eat it. Unfortunately, it usually ends up staying in the bowl for so long that I suddenly have 6 ripe nectarines or 4 mushy almost-brown pears. And then what happens? Dessert-making damage control.

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So, yeah, you figured out that today’s recipe was the result of me buying a bunch of pears and never eating them and needing a way to use them up quick – before they met the garbage can. I’m so glad that these pears were forgotten or even passed over for so many days, because the dessert that I decided to make, which ended up including a couple of apples as well, was pure bliss. It wasn’t even all that sugary, which meant that I could really taste the fruit. And the almonds, the brown sugar, the cardamom. Each ingredient stood out and yet didn’t overpower the others. This dessert made me love fruit. At least for a few days.

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As things stand now, I’ve got three very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl. We’ll see if I can manage to eat them in the next couple of days, or if they, too, will become dessert. And speaking of using up fruit… After my fabulous nectarine tart and spicy sweet nectarine and tomato gazpacho a few weeks ago, I bought even more nectarines that I didn’t eat and was, yes, it’s possible, desserted out. So I changed up my recipe for beer-braised pulled pork by replacing the beer with red wine and the honey and brown sugar with puréed nectarines. It was seriously good, and if anyone’s interested in the actual recipe, it’s all yours!

Pear and apple crisp with vanilla bean-infused brown butter and cardamom cream
Inspired by and adapted from Pear Crisps with Vanilla Brown butter from Gourmet and Caramelized pear tarts with cardamom cream, also from Gourmet, via Epicurious

Ingredients:
1 1/C C flour
1 C whole almonds
1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 t salt
3/4 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 vanilla bean
1/2 stick butter
1/4 C brown sugar
2 T sugar
1 T flour
4 ripe pears
2 small apples
1/4 t ground cardamom

1/2 C heavy cream
2 T sugar
6-8 cardamom pods

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Begin by making the topping. In a food processor, combine the flour, almonds, brown sugar and salt and pulse until the almonds are finely chopped, but still in small pieces. Add the melted butter and pulse once or twice to combine. Set aside.

Prepare the filling and preheat your oven to 425°. In a small saucepan, add the remaining butter, the seeds from the vanilla bean and the pod itself. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, stir occasionally, until the butter is browned and smells nutty. Be careful not to burn it, as the vanilla seeds will make it difficult to tell. Let cool slightly.

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In a large bowl, combine the remaining sugar, flour, ground cardamom and salt. Remove skin from the apples and pears and chop roughly, adding the fruit and any juices you can to the bowl. Toss to combine. Discard the vanilla pod and add the browned butter to your fruit. Stir to combine and place in the bottom of a baking dish. Add the crisp topping and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and insides are bubbling.

While the dessert is in the oven, make the cardamom cream. You could substitute finely ground cardamom for the pods and make whipped cream, but I preferred a lightly frothy cream infused with the entire pods. To make it, simply combine the heavy cream and sugar in a small saucepan. Add the cardamom pods and bring to a light simmer over medium heat. Once it begins to bubble, remove from heat and cover with a lid or small plate and let the mixture steep for 15 minutes. Strain to remove pods, and beat the cream for about 3-4 minutes until it thickens and becomes frothy. Pour over the hot crisps right out of the oven and enjoy.

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