I am made of opposites. Forever running and forever lazy. In love with sunny days and intoxicated by the rain. Obsessed with organizing and loving the freedom of a mess. I feel like a pendulum constantly swinging from one extreme to the other, and looking back wondering who I was yesterday, and what I’ll be like tomorrow. The past two weeks I have been in running rushing chaotic messy not a spare minute in the day mode. Every time I think I have a free second, I either remember something I need to be doing, or someone knocks on my door to remind me not to sit down. Today I woke up to health insurance issues needing to be resolved, doctors appointments to make, parties to plan, and a car that wouldn’t start. I knew it was the peak of the pendulum swing. I felt it. The need for quiet setting in. The desire for things in my home to look clean and shiny again, and for my phone to finally lay silent.
I let myself wrap up loose ends throughout the morning, and let the broken down car roll off my back. As the afternoon light –my favorite light this time of year- started streaming into my kitchen and warming my chilly wood floors, I felt inspiration for this new me start to take place. I opened all my windows. I made tea. I let myself be lazy and productive at the same time. I decided on Brown Butter Pear Bars as my afternoon recipe of choice, and took Wally for a long, languorous walk in the fall air. Paying attention to nothing in particular and just enjoying the wind and the light. At the end of our little, lazy adventure, Wally stopped to snack on some tiny daisy-like flowers (white heath aster perhaps). I took his advice and decided to let them bring some floral life to my images for the day. Picking wildflowers on a windy fall day with my puppy? Yes…the pendulum was definitely swinging the other –much needed– way.
These Brown Butter Pear Bars are so easy. A perfect way to be lazy and slow and content while still getting something done. I pinned the recipe sometime last week when I was browsing pear recipes after being wowed by the little farm I found close to the house. I knew I would have bartlett pears left over from my Maple Cheesecake recipe, and when I saw this recipe by Laura over at Tutti Dolci, I was instantly obsessed. You don’t even have to get out the mixer people. I still had my pajamas on…my hair thoughtlessly piled up, letting the wind coming through the windows give goosebumps to my flour covered arms. Walter snoring in his chair at the table, and my kitten Samson singing in the other room; chasing the sunshine glittering on the walls. Cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, brown butter. Tutti Dolci knows what fall really means. Juicy -almost too ripe- bartlett pears to brighten up the warm heaviness of the crust and filling. My house smelled like family. Ironically my little brother wandered up onto my porch to help me with my almost forgotten car dilemma while I was cutting these into bars. Needless to say, when he went home I was several Brown Butter Pear Bars shorter than I started.
Photographing these was almost effortless. I was drugged by the lazy feeling I had let myself fall into. With the sunshine pouring through my kitchen window, backdrop, dish, and composition decisions flowed like water. If it felt right I picked it up. My reflectors floated into place and my camera behaved flawlessly. After the frustrating experience of photographing last week’s Maple Cheesecake, this was as easy as sleeping, and as renewing. The light started to die on me as the evening crept up, and my window wasn’t quite pulling it’s weight about half way through. In a nonchalant manner, I moved my set-up to the field behind my house, and added a few flags to tone down the now –much– brighter setting sun. I usually struggle to end a shoot. Always being afraid I’ve missed something, and that if I just work for five more minutes I’ll get that perfect image. This wasn’t like that. I forgot about the time. I didn’t quit early but I didn’t labor over it either. I played with props and flags and reflectors and food placement and flower placement until I just felt contentedly done. I didn’t agonize. When the wind blew my perfectly placed daisy’s half way across the shot…I left them. At the end, I traded my camera for a pear bar and rolled over onto my back to watch the dark creep across the sky and savor the delicious, slow adventure that this afternoon had been. In everything, give thanks.
Brown Butter Pear Bars
Adapted from Tutti Dolci (thank you for this fall gem!)
15 Bars (I like to cut mine a bit big!)
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup melted, unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups of finely diced pears (about 3 large, fresh pears)
Dice your pears very finely. If you LOVE pears – bigger chunks will work too, but I love the way the small pieces almost melt into the filling.
Preheat your oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper. –I was out when I made this, so I lined my baking pan with aluminum foil and the results were still fantastic-
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Slowly fold the dry mixture into the wet until fully -but gently- combined into a dough.
Scoop the dough into the 9 x 13″ lined baking pan. Use your hands or a spatula, press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan, creating your crust. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes -until golden brown- and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. For fastest cooling, place baking pan onto a wire cooling rack. Keep the oven on at 350.
To make the filling, first brown the butter. Do this by cutting your butter into even squares, and placing them in a large sauce pan on medium heat. Stir constantly. The butter will foam quite a bit, turn bright foamy gold, then go clear with little particles in the bottom of the pan. Be sure to consistently stir these particles to keep the butter from burning. After about 10 minutes, the butter will turn a nutty, dark gold/brown. Watch carefully to avoid burning! Once you reach the desired color, pour the butter into a bowl or glass measuring cup to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until combined. Add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk until smooth. Pour in the brown butter a little a time, and whisk constantly until smooth and fully combined. Gently fold in the diced pears.
Pour the filling on top of the crust and spread evenly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. The surface should look puffy and moist but not wet or burned. Let the bars cool completely while still in the pan.
Pull the parchment paper -or aluminum foil- slowly out of the pan and carefully separate edges from the bars. Cut into squares or rectangles -even triangles would be cute- and serve.
Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before serving again.