Pear Custard Bars and Bird Stuff

I usually like to have a bird photo up on my computer monitor at work, and this is the one I’ve been enjoying for the past few days. There’s something about this sparrow’s calm, sweet expression that I really enjoy. Birds can put things back into perspective for you!

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I always try to share recipes worthy of an A+, but the following recipe for Pear Custard Bars merits an A++, and this is from someone who is not all that crazy about either pears or custard. What’s up with it? Well, there is the way the crunchy, nutty, buttery crust plays off of the cool creamy custard, and then there is the light fruity taste of the pears. The “custard” is actually cream cheese, but through some sort of recipe alchemy it tastes like you spent an hour hovering over a saucepan of cream, eggs yolks and sugar, nurturing it into a pale golden custard. The even better thing about this recipe is that I subbed low fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese for the full fat cream cheese called for in the recipe, and it still tastes fabulous. And I used pears packed in juice instead of sugar syrup, and, still, fabulous. This is something a little bit different, and really good!

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Pear Custard Bars

Crust
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts (see Baking Notes)

Filling/Topping
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can (15-1/4 oz.) pear halves, drained
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Crust: In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Stir in the flour and vanilla, and then the nuts. Press into a greased 8″ square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Increase heat to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Pour over crust. Cut drained pears into 1/8″ slices; arrange in a single layer over the filling. Combine sugar and vanilla; sprinkle evenly over pears. Bake at 375 degrees for 28-30 minutes (center will be soft set and will become firmer upon cooling). Cool, and than cover and refrigerate for two hours before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.

Baking Notes: As mentioned, I used the low fat cream cheese and pears in juice. You certainly could use full fat cream cheese and pears in syrup for over-the-top richness. In place of the macadamia nuts I used sliced almonds, chopping them up. Macadamia nuts are expensive, and the sliced almonds tasted great. When sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over the cream cheese, try to cover everything–the  plain cream cheese is white even after baking, and looks more appetizing with the sugary coating. This recipe is from a Taste of Home feature on pears.

While I have been having a surprising amount of fun photographing sparrows, this grackle was too much fun to miss!

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Lastly, the fall colors are really spectacular! Peace to you. Fran

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