Pears baked with Pedro Ximénez sherry, brown sugar and crème fraîche

Serves 4

This is a lovely, simple, early-autumn dessert. These pears came from our garden and I am not entirely sure of their variety, but conference pears are what they most closely resemble – a variety that is easy to find and has an earthy, slightly roughly textured skin. Please don't peel them, as they are much nicer when the skin is left on. Pedro Ximénez is a dark, raisiny sweet variety of sherry that lends depth and richness to this dish; you can, however, use Marsala if you prefer.

4 pears
200ml/7fl oz Pedro Ximénez
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
The peel of one lemon
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise
3 tbsp crème fraîche, with extra to serve

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Slice the pears in half lengthwise and scoop out the cores using a small spoon. Lay the pears skin-side down in a roasting tray and pour over the sherry. Scatter over the sugar and tuck in the lemon peel and vanilla.

Cover the entire tray tightly with aluminium foil and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes then remove from the oven, take off the foil and stir in the crème fraîche.

Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, by which time the pears should be cooked through but still retaining their shape. They should also be honey-brown and very glossy.

Remove, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Serve with an extra dollop of crème fraîche alongside.

During the colder winter months to come, these pears will be even more comforting when served warm.

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