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A great little dessert for a very special occasion - or not. These cheesecakes are not difficult to make at all, are a great presentation, and one class act.
- 1 1⁄2 cups sugar, plus
- sugar, for coating the ramekins
- 2 tablespoons pear brandy
- lemon, zest of, three 1/2 inch wide strips
- 3 inches cinnamon sticks
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 2 star anise pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 ripe bartlett pears, peeled, halved lengthwise and cored
- 1 1⁄2 lbs cream cheese, softened
- 1⁄2 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- In a saucepan, combine ¾ cup of the sugar with the brandy, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, star anise, cloves and 1 ½ 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 ½-cup ramekins and coat with sugar; trim the pears so that they’re 2 inches long, then slice them ¼ inch thick; fan the slices, overlapping slightly, in the prepared ramekins and add 1 tsp of the poaching syrup to each.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy; beat in the remaining ¾ 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.