Individual Poached Pear Cheesecakes
- SERVINGS: 9
- 1 1/2 cups sugar plus more for the ramekins
- 2 tablespoons pear brandy
- Three 1/2 -inch-wide strips of lemon zest
- 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 2 star anise pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 ripe Bartlett pears—peeled, halved lengthwise, and cored
- 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- In a nonreactive saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of the sugar with the brandy, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, star anise, cloves, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then add the pears. Lower the heat, set a plate on the pears to submerge them and simmer until tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pears to a plate to cool. Boil the liquid until reduced to a syrup, about 4 minutes. Strain and let cool.
- Butter nine 1/2-cup ramekins and coat with sugar. Trim the pears so that they're 2 inches long, then slice them 1/4 inch thick. Fan the slices, overlapping slightly, in the prepared ramekins and add 1 teaspoon of the poaching syrup to each.
- Preheat the oven to 325°. Using a standing mixer fitted with a paddle or an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar until smooth, then beat in the mascarpone. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time. Spoon the batter into the ramekins and set them in a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the pan to reach two-thirds of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until just set. Transfer to a rack to cool, then refrigerate overnight.
- Run a knife around each cheesecake and invert onto a plate. Spoon a little of the reserved poaching liquid around each cheesecake and serve.