When camping, dessert typically consists of such campfire classics as s’mores, fruit cobblers, and caramelized bananas or peaches. Don’t get me wrong, these traditional camping delights are one of the main reasons I enjoy spending a night under the stars. I can’t deny the nostalgia I get when roasting a marshmallow on the end of a long stick I spent an hour searching for through the dark, stumbling and tripping over fallen tree branches. Childhood quickly returns as one crunches into a gooey, chocolate and marshmallow graham cracker s’more. It is awesome.
However, since purchasing a dutch oven, I have discovered dessert can be more than something concocted over the flames of a fire on the end of a stick. Dessert can be something you find in a five-star restaurant, such as this baked pear with dried cherries.
While this dessert is decadently eye-catching, and smells sweet and rich, it is incredibly simple to put together. It requires very few ingredients, minimal prep time, and cooks quickly.
For this dessert, gather together a pear per person. For this time, I did three pears, but a 14 inch oven, like the one I used, will hold up to six. Some dutch oven recipes require a specific oven size in order to create a perfect cooking environment. One of the beauties of this dessert is it can be prepared in any size oven.
Other necessary ingredients include a bottle of your favorite semi-sweet white wine. I used a pinot grigio, but others such as a moscato or zinfandel would work great. Another option would be a semi-sweet red wine. A pinot noir would work nice or maybe a red zinfandel. Also needed for the recipe is some honey, ground cinnamon, nuts, and dried fruit. I used walnuts and dried cherries this time, but other great alternatives could include almonds or pecans for the nuts and currants or cranberries for the dried fruit. As you can see, it is a very flexible and diverse recipe.
Before prepping the pears for cooking, start the cooking coals. The coals are easiest to start in a charcoal chimney. To do this, crumple up some newspaper and place it below the chimney, pour the desired amount of coals into the chimney, for this recipe you will need around thirty, and light the paper. Allow the coals to cook until the ones at the top of the chimney are just starting to turn grey. This can take awhile, so you want to start the coals a good time in advance, such as twenty minutes.
When making desserts, I like to line the inside of the dutch oven with aluminum foil. This helps to keep the pears from sticking to the bottom of the oven, and also makes clean-up easy.
To prepare the pears, begin by removing the peels. Cut the stem off from the top of the fruit, and then remove two thin slices from each side of the pear. Removing the thin slices creates a stable base for the pear to sit in the oven. Finally, cut the pears in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and coarse center for the fruit, which also creates a nice bed for the honey and cinnamon to settle into.
Lay the pear halves into the oven and drizzle them with honey. Sprinkle each pear with your desired amount of cinnamon. Drop in the dried cherries and nuts. It is okay if some of the ingredients end up in the bottom of the oven instead of on top of the pears, they will just cook down into the wine and create a syrup.
At this point, it is easiest to carry the oven over to the coals. Set the oven on top of about 10 to 12 coals. Slowly pour in your wine, being careful to not splash it over the pears. The amount of wine needed will depend on the size of your oven. I just kept pouring until there was about a half an inch of wine in the bottom of the oven. Cover the oven and place about ten coals on the top of the oven. Allow the pears to cook for twenty to thirty minutes, or until they are soft.
The sweet aromas of the pears and dried cherries may seem like this dessert is already enough, but it doesn’t stop here! Plate up two halves of pear per person, making sure each serving is covered with a generous portion of cherries and walnuts. Drizzle the sticky, thin syrup from the bottom of the pan over each pear, and top everything off with a dollop of whipped cream. The warm pears and sticky honey will melt in your mouth, and everything is topped off with the sweet, cool taste of the whipped cream and a slight crunch from the walnuts! This dessert will make you simply sigh.
So, enjoy this decadent fruit dessert, but fear not, s’mores are still on the menu for all camping excursions.