Honey Pear "Baklava" for Baking NOW

I'm so excited to be featured for this week's Baking NOW tour, hosted by Beth Billstrom of More than Oregano! If you are new to the tour, each week of the tour features a recipe that's either handed down through family or an original creation. Recipes debut each Tuesday leading up to Christmas. I've been brainstorming a new, original recipe for weeks now, and I think this Honey Pear "Baklava" is the sweet dessert I've been hoping for! (Confession: I tried this recipe out on my garden club, and it went over so well that I decided to share it here!)

First - a little background. This growing season produced 130 pounds of Kieffer pears in my garden - that's a record breaker! As a result, I've been trying to come up with several different ways to use up my pear abundance, including gifting pears to friends, coworkers and relatives. So I was in a pear state of mind when coming up with a recipe for the Baking NOW tour.  Additionally, I'm a pastry chef, and when I used to work in the bakery full time, I would regularly be responsible for making baklava, a delicious Greek dessert. Not only did I enjoy making that dessert, but I loved to eat it as well!

However, traditional baklava calls for nuts. And I have plenty of friends who either don't care for nuts or are allergic to them, so for my tour stop, I wanted to make my dessert nut-free, hence the quotation marks for baklava in the title of Honey Pear "Baklava." It looks like baklava, but, in my mind, it's technically not due to the lack of nuts.

The finished product: Honey Pear "Baklava"
Anyway, I digress! Here's how you can make this delicious, sweet dessert, just in time for Thanksgiving this week!

Filling:
6 pears, peeled, thinly sliced (I used Kieffer pears but any ripe pears will do)
2 ounces of sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/4 teaspoon of mace

For assembling:
One roll of fillo dough (phyllo pastry sheets), found in the grocery store's freezer case. Let this defrost in the fridge before using.
1 pound of butter
A 13x9 pan

Syrup:
5 ounces of sugar
6 ounces of water
3 ounces of honey
A good squirt of lemon juice
1 small cinnamon stick

Time:
The prep time for me took about an hour, which included peeling and slicing the pears.
The cook time is about 60 minutes.

Steps:


1. First, remove the fillo dough from the fridge and let it start to come up to room temperature. I don't unroll it immediately because it will dry out and be more prone to breaking.

2. Take the butter and put it in a pot on your stovetop at the lowest heat setting. You want to melt it but not burn it.



3. Next, peel and slice your pears. I found the easiest way to do this is to peel first, then cut a little off the bottom of the pear so it can stand upright without falling over. Then cut into fours, getting as close to the center as possible. If you get a little bit of the core in your slice, you can use a melon scooper to scoop it out. Cut it as thin as you dare.


4. Put your sliced pear pieces in a bowl ...


... and add the spices and sugar.


5. Now you can unroll the fillo dough that has been warming up on the counter. Take your pan and melted butter, and brush some of the melted butter so it coats the bottom of the pan. Take a piece of fillo dough and place it on top. Then brush with melted butter again. Repeat this eight times. If the fillo dough breaks, I use it anyway, just trying to make the ends line up.


6. Take your pears and put half in the pan. Try to spread it out evenly, being careful not to spoon the excess liquid on as well. (The sugar begins to break down the pears, which causes it to start to liquify.)  Take another piece of fillo dough and place it on top. Brush with butter. Do this five more times.


7. Put the remaining pears on top, again, being careful not to add any additional liquid from the bowl. Add the next layer of fillo, brush with butter, and repeat until you run out of dough. This will vary with each package, but I use it all up. When you run out of dough, put the tray in the fridge to firm up for about 10 minutes.

8. Now start your syrup. You'll put all the ingredients in a pot and cook on low heat on your stovetop. You just want to bring it to a boil. Once it begins to boil, remove it from the heat and let it cool.


8. Then I take the pan back out of the fridge and cut it as shown above, 6 rows long by 4 rows wide. I take my knife and cut it diagonally through each square piece. I cut the dessert at this point before I bake it because I find it harder to slice afterwards.

9. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. After the 40 minutes, remove the foil and bake it for an additional 20 minutes, or until it is "golden brown delicious" as we said in culinary school. It is ready when it looks like the photo below.


10. Let the dessert cool for roughly 10 minutes. Then take your cooled syrup and pour it on top. Depending on how "wet" you like it, you could use some of it or all of it. I don't like mine too wet, so I "eyeball it" (a term pastry interns used to hate for me to use!).

Using a knife, recut the pieces. If you have an offset spatula (which is commonly used for cake decorating), you can use that to take the pieces out of the pan. (A cake server would work as well.) I like to place each piece in a cupcake wrapper for presentation. 


I think it tastes best when it's still warm. The combination of the honey syrup with the pears is divine. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

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