I have a soft spot in my heart for lumpy bumpy homegrown pears… Our very first house in the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn had a magnificent pear tree in the front yard along the driveway! This is the house where Working Girl and College Girl were both born back in the day, a time in my life when wallpaper was in everyone’s kitchen and those of us who made our own baby food were considered REALLY weird…

Plus I happen to kinda luv pears, maybe even more than apples! Life without apple pie would be plumb crazy, but I remain especially prone to making dishes with pears! I top my Thanksgiving salad with pears that have been poached in Riesling, I throw them in with grilled butternut squash dressed in balsamic vinaigrette, and I learned in Boston to add them to a grilled cheese sandwich made with gooey Italian cheese. And, ah sigh, I love to make all kinds of pear desserts!

So when a friend of mine offered me a bag of homegrown pears I was thrilled. These pears came from a tree in Marble Falls (a place I hear that also grows apples…) where unbeknownst to me they were growing quite happily right here in Texas. (But I have forgotten the name of the variety…) She reminded me that pears are picked mature but unripe from the tree, and that I should have about two weeks to wait until full ripeness. So I waited, meanwhile scouting pear dessert recipes… 

I narrowed it down to two. This one from Cook and Be Merry, and one from the Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook I won this summer for submitting, what else?, a dish made with and inspired by farmers market produce!

Both involve caramel… I made the cake, mostly because I wanted to feed a crowd and the tart was smaller. Maybe next time…it looks divine…

Gather Up:
3 cups peeled, diced, ripe pear
1 tablespoon sugar
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups chopped toasted pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Caramel Glaze:
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
¼ cup evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 cup Bundt pan.

Toss pears with 1 tablespoon sugar and let stand.

Beat eggs, 2 cups sugar, and oil at medium speed in an electric mixer until blended.

Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Add to egg mixture a cup at a time on low speed until blended.

Fold in pears, pecans and vanilla extract.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake about 1 hour, until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn onto serving plate.

Prepare Caramel Glaze buy stirring together the brown sugar, butter and evaporated milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly, bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool slightly to thicken.

Spoon glaze over cake. Serve extra sauce immediately with warm cake.

Recipe from the Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook.