Amaretto-Pear Baked Oatmeal

IMG_1358There we were, walking around the farmer’s market, minding our own business, when the strangest thing happened. I found myself drawn to a table covered with little boxes of the handsomest pears I’d ever seen. “You’re not even that fond of pears, honey,” James said. I felt that was beside the point.

I loved how small they were (low commitment) and how golden yellow they were – as opposed to the green ones and reddish brown ones that are often to be found. I bought them in a very impulsive moment. I’ve been known to do this, but not often.

A day or two later, I sliced into one of the pears and was greeted with the most intense fruity smell! It was one of those “Aha!” moments you get every once in a while in the kitchen. Like a child, I immediately threw a slice into my mouth. “It’s so good!” my mind exclaimed. We each had two pears for dessert, that night!

Come to find out, these magical miracle pears were not so extraordinary. I was later informed by the farmer when I returned the following week to buy twice as many, that these “yellow pears” were not really all that special, just very ripe Bartlett pears. “So,” I thought, “this is what’s been my hang-up with pears, all this time! They’ve been IMG_1359selling me unripe pears and I’ve been trying to like them for years!”

It’s silly to think of it – spending all this time eating rock-hard, unripe pears and wondering how anyone could like such a tasteless, grainy fruit. As I was eating a pear, recently, I was chewing while regaling James with a childhood memory of mine. One of my great aunts who lived in the lot next to ours, growing up, had a giant pear tree. I remembered one sunny day when my grandfather (my great aunt’s little brother), climbed the tree and tossed down pears to my dad. And I remember my grandfather peeling one of these pears for me, handing me the slices as he peeled them with his pocket knife. So striking was the taste of those pears that I’ve never really found pears that tasted like them again… until now.

Of course, it now makes sense to me why these magical miracle pears are never to be found in the supermarket. A ripe pear is a very fragile thing. A supermarket would likely end up throwing away frightening amounts of them every day that were bruised or disgraceful-looking to the shoppers. Sigh… so I feel very ignorant for not having known about this. It’s as though I brought home a bunch of green bananas and proceeded to try to eat them and then had the gall to be appalled at their terrible taste.

Speaking of bananas, pears ripen at nearly the same rate, as it turns out. Pears should be allowed to ripen at room temperature and then be refrigerated until you’re ready to use them. Just be sure to keep them clear of apples! Apples are sneaky – releasing gases that actually speed other fruits past ripe to just plain rotten. A few bad apples really do spoil the whole bunch!

Amaretto-Pear Baked Oatmeal 1

I confess all of this pear ignorance, of course, to introduce today’s recipe. I’ve already mentioned my mission for coming up with seasonal variations on baked oatmeal. These magical miracle pears were the inspiration for my latest creation.

Pears – even ripe ones – have a very delicate, almost floral taste. It’s very easy to overshadow it by adding bold spices or other flavors. Similarly, almonds add richness and flavor but are also easily pushed to the background of a taste. I thought they would be natural allies. They seem to get along splendidly. I was careful to avoid going overboard on the cinnamon so that the pear and almond wouldn’t be drowned out.

Amaretto is one of my favorite liqueurs to have on-hand. With just a wee bit, you can add stunning amounts of almond flavor to a pot of coffee, quick breads, or just about anything. If you don’t have much use for amaretto in your kitchen, you can approximate a substitution by adding twice as much almond extract as I’ve called for. Do be careful, though, almond extract is more concentrated and not nearly as mild as amaretto. A little bit goes a very long way.

Amaretto-Pear Baked Oatmeal 2

An added bonus in making this recipe is that it’s very easy to make even on a busy morning. The night before, you can mix separately the oat mixture and the milk mixture. In the morning, simply preheat the oven while you’re slicing the pears, combine the two mixtures, and you can take care of your other morning business while the oven takes care of making your breakfast! Just like my other recipes for baked oatmeal, the leftovers are easily reheated for a quick breakfast later in the week. I mention more about tips and suggestions for making baked oatmeal in this post.

Amaretto-Pear Baked Oatmeal
A Tales of Thyme & Place Original
Serves 4-6

    2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup sliced almonds
    1 cup low-fat milk
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    1 large egg
    1 tablespoon amaretto (almond liqueur)
    1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    2 medium ripe Bartlett pears – cored and sliced
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter – chilled and cut into small pieces
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 cup half and half

    Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

    In a medium bowl, combine the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and almonds.

    In another medium bowl or large measuring cup, combine the milk, applesauce, egg, amaretto, and almond extract. Whisk until thoroughly mixed and egg is well-beaten.

    Pour milk mixture into oat mixture. Stir until evenly combined; pour into prepared baking dish, spread to edges. Top mixture with pear slices in a single layer, overlapping slices slightly. Dot with butter; sprinkle with cinnamon.

    Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until completely set. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5-10 minutes. Pour 2 tablespoons of half and half into the bottom of 4 bowls or small deep plates. Divide oatmeal slices between the bowls or plates, placing slices atop the half and half. Serve warm.

Amaretto-Pear Baked Oatmeal 3

When the oatmeal emerges from the oven, you’ll notice that the dots of butter have melted and oozed all around the pears, melding them to the oatmeal in ways that are just this side of carnal. Letting the oatmeal rest for 5-10 minutes before serving it is important if you want the slices to be neat. If you attempt to serve it fresh from the oven, you’ll wind up with a very tasty mess.

If the idea of having a lashing of “cream” at the bottom of your breakfast bowl doesn’t sit well with you, feel free to use milk. But, for me personally, a little bit of cream is sometimes just what I need for motivation to face the day!

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~ by Jason on October 7, 2010.

2 Responses to “Amaretto-Pear Baked Oatmeal”

  1. Beautiful as always! I am going to try this…especially since Aunt Myrtle’s tree is still there. FYI: they destroyed her old house and built a really cute house in its place. She is living back here now and doing well. Keep on trying new impulsive foods…you never know what kind of adventure they may lead to…or should I say “venture” 😉

    • Thanks, Benji!

      You don’t know how pleased I am to hear that that pear tree is still there… in spite of what happened to her house.

      Promise me you’ll go snag some of those pears before they’re all gone! 😀

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