In our September/October 2019 issue, we use pears in everything from a showstopping galette to Champagne-flavored muffins. With so many varieties available on the market, it can be tough to choose which pears work best for baking. We recommend using Bartlett, Bosc, and Anjou pears. These varieties have the highest volume and are widely available in grocery stores year-round. Here’s our guide to these fall harvest gems!
Bartlett pears are the only pears that have a true “pear shape” with a large, rounded bottom half that tapers to a smaller curved neck with a slender stem. Known as the canning pear, Bartletts hold their flavor when preserved and break down well when cooked. The two Bartlett varieties, red and yellow, are unique in that their skin color brightens as they ripen at room temperature. (Yellow Bartletts may be green when purchased but will turn golden as they ripen.) Other varieties show little color change as they ripen. Leave firm, unripe pears at room temperature so they can ripen. When fully ripe, Bartletts develop a smooth skin and a juicy, buttery-textured interior with sweet flavor. Check for ripeness daily. If you let them get too ripe, Bartletts will get mushy and bruise easily. We use them for making pear jam or butter, but if you do bake with them, make sure they’re not quite ripe.
Anjou pears are squatty with a round bell shape, short neck, and thick stem. One of the most popular pears in the United States because of their long shelf life and versatility, they are basic, all-purpose pears, great for snacking, cooking, or baking. Sometimes referred to as the Beurré d’Anjou, which translates to “buttery pears of Anjou,” the pears are named after the growing region in the Loire Valley of France where they are said to have originated. Anjou pears can be green or red and do not change color as they ripen. When ripe, Anjou pears are soft (though firmer than Bartlett pears) with a buttery yet slightly gritty flesh. They’re also juicy—if you take a bite, you’ll want to keep a napkin handy. It’s hard to beat their sweet citrus-like flavor. Anjou pears are especially great for baking because they can withstand high temperatures. We love using them for pies and tarts.
Bosc pears are oblong with an elegant elongated neck and long curved stem. People have appreciated the distinctiveness and natural beauty of Boscs since they were discovered in the early 1800s. Bosc pears are juicy but crunchy and retain their flavor and shape when cooked or baked. Their warm cinnamon-brown skin is covered in russeting. This, along with their deeply sweet flavor (including notes of woodsy spice), sets them apart from other pear varieties. When they’re not perfectly ripe, Bosc pears can be tough and tasteless. Choose firm, unblemished pears, and give them 3 to 6 days at room temperature to ripen. When checking for ripeness, remember that Bosc pears will give slightly less than other pear varieties, so they should be checked regularly.
RIPE AND READY: Regularly check to see if your pears are ripe by applying gentle pressure to the base of the neck, or stem end, of the pear with your thumb. If the flesh gives a bit and yields to pressure, it’s ripe.
POACHED PERFECTION: Short on time? Our Mulled Wine-Poached Pears and Champagne-Poached Pears also work as simple, sophisticated make-ahead desserts on their own. Once cooked, store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve with crème anglaise or mascarpone. Find these recipes in our September/October issue!