These sweet, poached pears hold a hint of smokiness from cardamom pods, which accentuates the filling of warm sweetened ricotta and melted white chocolate in the hollowed-out pears. Serve this dessert at a fall dinner party or Thanksgiving feast.
6 Bartlett or Bosc pears, ripe but firm
6 cups water
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
10 green cardamom pods, roughly crushed to break open
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 tbsp granulated sugar
5 tbsp white chocolate, coarsely chopped (not grated)
6 10" squares phyllo pastry
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Step 1: Peel and slice about 1/8" off bottoms of pears so they will stand upright, then slice in half from stem to bottom. Remove stems and seeds. Hollow out each pear half so a tablespoon can completely sit inside the cavity. Set aside.
Step 2: In large pot, mix together a poaching liquid from the next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add pears, loosely cover and simmer another 45 minutes until pears are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove pears from liquid with slotted spoon and allow to cool. As an option, continue to simmer poaching liquid until it is a golden syrup (about 30 minutes) to drizzle on baked pears. Note: Poached pears can be chilled at this point for up to 2 days before baking.
Step 3: In a bowl, mix together ricotta and 2 tbsp sugar until blended. Mix in chopped chocolate. Scoop 1 rounded tbsp of ricotta mixture into 6 pear halves. Cover with another pear half (one without the ricotta mixture). Press together to seal.
Step 4: Place a pear upright on centre of a piece of phyllo. Gather up phyllo over each pear. Wet the inside of phyllo lightly with water where it meets at the top of the pear, twist slightly and pinch together. Using scissors, trim phyllo bundle into an attractive "spray". Repeat for all pears.
Step 5: Place in generously buttered glass baking pan. Brush phyllo with melted butter. Bake in preheated 375ºF oven for 15 minutes or until phyllo is golden. Serve with sugar-cardamom syrup, if desired.