Cheese and apple or pear is a classic combination; the slight sourness of the fruit balances the cheese perfectly. This prep-ahead pear honey thyme cheddar bites appetizer can be served as a canapé, as a salad, tossed with rocket (arugula) or even on a sandwich. Either way I think you’ll love it as most of the hard work is done way ahead of party time. The slicing of the pear is the toughest bit so once you’ve done that you can relax.
Did you know that Britain produces more varieties of cheese than France? 700 types of cheese come from our little island. I almost danced with joy when I saw one of my English favourites from Borough Market at Whole Foods in California for the first time – selfishly I wanted to spread the word and boost the sales so that they’d keep stocking it!
One of the surprises I had when we moved to California was that cheese is usually served with crackers when guests arrive along with drinks. In Europe we always serve cheese after our main course – either before, or after dessert depending on which side of the channel you live. This recipe can be served whenever you fancy, but these pear crisps are lovely served European style as a cheese course after dessert alongside a bowl of nuts, a jar of local honey and some room temperature cheese. They are a nice alternative to crackers for anyone who is gluten-free or low carb. My kids love them too.
Active prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 90-120 minutes
Pear honey thyme cheddar bites ingredients (to serve 4 people as an appetizer)
3 pears, under ripe are best
120g (4-6oz) good strong, Mature English Cheddar or, Stateside, Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar
2 teaspoons honey
a teaspoon of Maldon salt
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
optional – a baguette
- Preheat your oven to 110C (225F) yes that is right, it is a very low temperature.
- Very thinly slice pears lengthwise with a mandoline (if you have a death wish) or a chef’s knife if you want all your fingers to be with you when you eat this, be sure to sharpen your knife first. Take your time to slice them as thin as you can leaving the seeds and stalk intact, a slightly under ripe pear makes this easier. It also makes it easier if you lay the pear on its side then cut the first slice off the side and then flip the pear so it lies on this flat side rather than rolling around on the rounded edges. You’ll get around 9 slices per pear with a knife, more with a mandolin.
- Place the slices in a single layer on silicone mat or parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 1½-2 hours.
- After 1½ hours, flip the slices and continue baking until darkened slightly and edges have curled (they should still be pliable) – around 20-30 minutes further depending on how thick you cut your slices and how ripe your pear was.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and let them stand until cool. Store at room temperature in an airtight container until you are ready to use them – up to 1 week.
- To serve, roughly slice a chunk of cheese for each piece of pear – you want a rough edge to your cheese rather than a precise slice. Lay the cheese on top with a drizzle of honey, a few thyme leaves and serve on a platter. Sometimes I add a few chunks of fresh pear to the platter, topped in the same way. Or, if you need a little more heft in your meal, you can grate the cheese, lay it on a slice of bread, top it with the pear and then grill (broil) it for a few seconds until it melts before serving with the honey and thyme.
You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools.
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