Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baking and Books: Pear Crisp and The Strange Woman

I just used my Peach Crisp recipe and subbed pears for the peaches and reduced the sugar a bit. Easy!

Pear Crisp

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
¼ pound unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

2 lbs pears, peeled, halved and seeds and stems removed
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon non-GMO cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, ½ cup sugar, salt and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg. Rub in the butter until topping mixture resembles lumpy oatmeal. Set aside.

If the pears are firm, halve again. Otherwise, place halves in an 8” square baking tin and cover with ¼ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and cornstarch. Stir to combine. Spread topping evenly over pears and bake in the middle of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until topping is a nice golden color, but not browned. Serve hot or cold.

6 generous servings

Download printable copy


Not that they really have anything in common other than sharing a similar palette, but I still want to talk about my interlibrary loan! The Strange Woman by Ben Ames Williams became a movie shortly after its release. It's quite possible the book really was "talked of in a Whisper!" It's quite scandalous--sadism, murder, incest, pre- and extra-marital sex, prostitution...all going on within the realm of the temperance movement in 1830s Bangor, Maine. You may suspect (particularly if you've read/seen Leave Her to Heaven) that Ben Ames Williams didn't have a very high opinion of women. In the last chapter of The Strange Woman he writes, "Oh, men were fine, sensitive and delicate and tender as no woman would know how to be," and begins the novel with a quote from Proverbs:

For the lips of a strange woman drop honey,
And her mouth is smoother than oil:
But her latter end is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two-edged sword.

The quotations are apt; Jenny Hager is one nasty piece of work. She makes Scarlett O'Hara look like Mother Theresa. I'd already seen the movie, so I thought I knew what to expect--boy howdy, was I wrong. First off, the movie doesn't follow the book very closely at all and, secondly, the book is much more lascivious. Makes for fun reading, right? I was actually surprised by how absorbing The Strange Woman turned out to be. I wanted to know what Jenny would do next!
Be sure to watch the film* before you read the book so you won't be aggravated. The movie version suffers from the prudery of the production code, but whoever did the casting did a great job (if only the film had a dialog coach!). Hedy Lamarr (Jenny Hager), Gene Lockhart (Isaiah Poster), Louis Hayward (Ephraim Poster) and George Sanders (John Evered) are all a good fit for their respective characters. Ah, what might have been!

*Download free at Internet Archive
All Strange Woman photos are from Doctor Macro.


Crazy Sweet Tuesdays
Sweet Treats Thursday
Cast Party Wednesday
Whisking Wednesdays
What I Whipped Up Wednesday @ Sugar and Dots
My Best Recipes Every Wednesday


  1. This crisp looks delish with the icecream melting on top - pears in baked goods are terrific. Wasn't Hedy beautiful - she looked a lot like Vivienne Leigh.

  2. Yes, I always think those two look a lot alike. I think Elizabeth Taylor looks like the both of them, as well--three very beautiful ladies! No wonder I so desperately wanted to be a brunette as a child!

  3. Debra Daniels ZellerOctober 5, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Nice and simple. I like your recipe. What kind of pears did you use and would you ever add cranberries to this for a bit of color?

  4. I used Bartletts (also called Williams), because that's what I had, but any kind would be fine. Adding cranberries (or other dried fruits or nuts) would work with the recipe, as well.

  5. I love cooked fruit! I love fruit crisps! Yum. Thanks for the recipe. It's a keeper. :)

    Never heard of this movie. But it's funny, I was thinking of Louis Hayward just the other day - I'm trying to find one of his films but can't remember the title. It was a swashbuckler - NOT The Man in the Iron Mask, tholugh I love that one as well.

    Then someone else on their blog mentioned another film starring Hayward.

    And now you.


    Never a big fan of Hedy Lamarr, excpept in that Bob Hope spy movie. But I'm adding the title of the movie to my list anyway. :)

  6. A second book? Good to know, thank you!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.