I canít decide what the best thing is about this dessert: how delicious it is, how elegant it looks, or the reaction I get when I serve it. (Donít let the length of the recipe throw you off; itís easier than it looks.)
The recipe serves a crowd, but it can be cut in half for smaller groups.
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Select a ceramic or glass baking dish thatís just wide enough to hold all the pears snugly. It should also be at least two inches deep.
2. Juice the lemon and place juice and rind in a large bowl. Add several inches of water. Use a sharp knife to peel the pears and trim a small piece off the bottom of each one (so that it will stand upright when placed in the dish). As each pear is peeled and trimmed, place it in the lemon water (to prevent browning).
3. When all the pears are peeled, gently remove each one from the water, let excess water drain off, and place it upright in the baking dish. Pour wine evenly over the pears. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar evenly over pears.
4. Bake 30 minutes. Use a turkey baster or spoon to baste pears with pan juices. Sprinkle on another 1/2 cup sugar. Continue to bake, basting once more if you like, until pears are very tender when pierced with a fork, 10-20 minutes longer.
5. Use a turkey baster to transfer wine sauce in baking dish to a saucepan. Add the rosemary sprig to the sauce. Let pears cool while you boil the wine sauce until it thickens to a glaze and is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Cool to room temperature. Remove rosemary.
6. Whip the heavy cream in a clean, cold bowl with clean, cold beaters at medium speed 3 minutes, then increase speed to high and whip until cream thickens to a very soft texture. Sprinkle in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping briefly after each addition. Continue whipping until soft peaks form (take care not to overbeat).
7. Pears may be served warm, at room temperature or fully chilled. (The glaze is best at room temperature.) To serve: Place two small pears (or 1 larger one) on each of 10-12 dessert plates. Drizzle each serving of pears with 2 tablespoons glaze. Add a dollop of whipped cream to the side, and arrange 2 toasted almonds on either side of the whipped cream.
Copyright by Terese Allen