Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
2 teaspoons plus 2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pear brandy
Pinch of star anise grated with a zester
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ripe Bartlett pears
Lime zest, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange two racks equally spaced in the oven. Place six (6 1/2-inch) individual gratin dishes on two sheet pans.
In a small bowl, combine the vanilla seeds with the 2 teaspoons of sugar. Spread the butter in the six gratin dishes and sprinkle with the vanilla and sugar mixture. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and the remaining 2/3 cup sugar on medium speed, until blended. Lower the speed and add the flour, cream, milk, and brandy. Whisk in the star anise and salt and set aside for 10 minutes. It will be the consistency of pancake batter.
Meanwhile, peel the pears and cut them in half through the stem. Using a melon baller, remove the cores and, using a small paring knife, remove the stems from the center of the pears. With the cut sides down, slice each half crosswise in 1/4-inch-thick slices, keeping the pear’s shape intact. Transfer half a pear to each gratin dish, fanning them out in overlapping slices down the middle of the dish and using the extra small pieces to fill in the sides. Divide the batter equally among the gratins (the pears will only be half immersed in the batter) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the custard is set. Sprinkle with lime zest and serve hot or warm.
Pro tip: Bartlett pears go from hard to mealy really quickly. Choose pears that are firm and allow them to sit at room temperature until they just yield to firm pressure.
2018, Cook Like a Pro by Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved