Irish Custard with An Orchard Pear Crumble

Recipe Pin
1 hour 35 minutes
6 servings

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Pears are typically regarded as an autumn fruit until paired with this wholesome Irish custard to top An Orchard Pear Crumble.

a green bowl, with custard and pears

I gather D’Anjou or Bartlett pears for this mildly sweet crumble. You may also use apples in conjunction with or in lieu of the pears in this recipe. Bramley apples are especially beautiful for this method. A vintage Saint Patrick’s Day dessert!

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Too often, pears are disregarded. They are looked at as an autumn fruit in the States. But not in this recipe, as this is not your average “cake batter” dessert…

I commonly use pears because they are versatile and can be used in any type of dessert that calls for a fresh fruit ingredient. Paired with this wholesome Irish custard, they kiss the palette as a delightful Spring Saint Patrick’s Day dessert.

Think of this recipe as a new look at a sort of traditional Irish apple cake in which the apples are replaced by sweet pears. Grocery stores have made much easier access to MANY pear varieties, so finding what you need for this method should not be hard.

My Most popular Irish Recipes…You Know, for Inspiration!

LESS IS BEST…where sugar is regarded in this method, that is. This dessert is carried almost solely by sweet honey, warm cardamom and cinnamon, and the seeds from vanilla bean pods.

The sugar fix comes by way of brown sugar and granulated sugar, however both play only supporting roles in the cast of ingredients. Ready to bake?

How This Recipe Came About…

Among my favorite desserts to prepare as an ending to a nice supper, are custards. To me, a custard is a culinary work of art. An outstanding kitchen achievement, and a true testament to caring about food needing to be fabulous. Well, and I made it again last night!

My big box store had vanilla bean pods this week. One sleeve was equal to ten vanilla beans, so into my buggy they went. I felt the price was fair at $14 (US) as vanilla beans generally tend to run higher than this in the traditional grocery. That, and you certainly aren’t getting ten beans!

Steeped in heavy cream with scant sugar over gentle heat, I will have a smooth finish custard in no time. But the pears on the other side of that same store are what prompted a whole bunch of messing around in my kitchen, and ultimately this post.

Do You Have What’s Needed For Irish Custard with An Orchard Pear Crumble? Check The List!

for the Irish Custard

  • whole milk
  • heavy cream
  • two vanilla beans (one for custard, the other for the crumble)
  • egg yolks
  • granulated sugar
  • cornstarch

for the Orchard Pear Crumble

  • almonds or almond flour
  • quick cooking oatmeal
  • light brown sugar
  • unsalted butter
  • pears, choose from Bosc, D’Anjou, Bartlett, Forelle, or Concorde
  • Irish whiskey
  • honey
  • a lemon
  • apple pie spice
  • ground cardamom
  • ground cinnamon

What Are The Best Pears To Use For Baking?

Oh, how I do love a pear. I use them on my charcuterie boards, in muffins and breads, and poached in fruit stews and compotes.

Last fall, I poached pears in a vanilla bean and Irish whiskey sauce. Plated with vanilla ice cream, I used them to try out a few caramel sauce recipes I’d been meaning to experiment with.

Local farms outfitted me with beautiful Bartletts, but among the favorite features of the dessert was by far the Irish whisky poaching liquid. The recipe I share today is an adaptation of those Irish whiskey poached pears.

To pull off pears in a bake, steer clear of tender flesh pears that easily fall apart when exposed to high heat. For cooks and bakes, pear varieties ideal include the Bosc red pear, red and green D’Anjou pears, Bartlett, Forelle, and Concorde pears.

These varieties hold their shape and flavor extremely well even when cooked at high temperatures. They also tend not to turn brown after being cut.

a casserole dish, with baked pears

What Type Of Whiskey Should I Macerate The Pears With?

Irish whiskey, of course. Now before I launch into ‘a whiskey 101,’ let me say that if your preference is to go without whiskey in this recipe, simply omit it.

For those who will macerate using whiskey, you may have executed a step like this in an apple crumble recipe. Mix apples and whiskey in a large bowl and walk away for 30 minutes? THAT step.

In terms of whiskey, any Irish whiskey you’d enjoy drinking will do. Irish whiskeys are distilled three times. Because we here in the US have a massive surplus of used Bourbon barrels, many Irish distilleries purchase to use specifically to age their Irish whiskey.

This gives most Irish whiskeys vanilla, honey, and warm spice flavor profiles in common. And all of those profiles compliment the humble pear PERFECTLY.

a green bowl, with custard and pears

How To Make A Pear Crumble?

I begin by peeling, coring, and chopping my pears. Half inch chunks are perfect or even a few a bit larger. Forget the proverbial lemon juice. Here we are tossing with four tablespoons of Irish whiskey.

So, four tablespoons may not seem like much, but have you ever tasted Irish whiskey? To my point, a little whiskey goes a LONG WAY to flavor these pears adequately. Leave them sit for 30 minutes while you work on the topping.

I almost always have almonds on hand for grinding almonds into almond flour. Alternatively, if you have almond flour handy, measure out enough to equal approximately a cup and a quarter.

Combine the ground almonds with some quick cooking oatmeal, light brown sugar, and large chunks of VERY COLD unsalted butter. Personally, I use my fingers to mix oats and everything else together until it resembles peas, but the food processor and a few quick pulses will do the same.

Grab a pretty casserole dish. Use a pat of softened butter to grease the bottom and the sides of the casserole. Be liberal…it’s dessert after all.

And back to those pears which are sufficiently macerated by now…drain about half of the remaining whiskey from them. Hint, hint…there won’t be much liquid left.

Add some sweet honey, lemon juice, apple pie spice, ground cardamom, cinnamon and the seeds scraped from a whole vanilla bean to the macerated pears. Transfer into your prepared baking dish and top with the crumble until everything is evenly covered.

So, I bake until two things happen – I can smell the crumble, and the fruit is bubbling up from beneath the oatmeal topping, anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes. Check things beginning at 35 minutes though so you can prevent the crumble from too heavily browning.

Allow to rest on the counter while you prep the vanilla custard. That’s right, you have to wait!

How To Make Vanilla Custard?

My recommendation is to prepare the custard last. Why? This custard is served warm over the crumble.

This method is as simple as bringing the milk, the cream, and one of the vanilla beans to a gentle simmer over low heat. I like to use a nonstick saucepan for this. Ensure you’ve run a paring knife down the side of the pod exposing all of those tiny little seeds!

Once the cream mixture is good and heated, allow it to cool slightly before removing the pod. Don’t toss that vanilla bean! See my notes in the recipe card for getting the most from vanilla beans.

Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together using the tines of a fork until well blended. Temper the yolks by spooning a little of the hot cream mixture into the yolks and whisking vigorously. Do this once more before adding all of the yolk to the cream mixture.

Return the lot to the nonstick saucepan and heat over low heat stirring constantly until thickened, about 12 to 15 minutes. Pour into a pretty pitcher and serve immediately over the Orchard Pear Crumble.

a casserole dish, with pears

How To Serve Irish Custard with An Orchard Pear Crumble?

I spoon generous portions of the pear crumble into adorable avocado colored bowls and add heaps of the Irish custard atop. No cream cheese frosting, peanut butter sauce, no dark chocolate chip gooey stuff, just a wholesome dessert with ingredients that have been minimally processed.

It’s a nice change. It’s perfect comfort food.

Can Irish Custard with An Orchard Pear Crumble Be Made Ahead?

Yes. And this is quite easy despite the custard needing to be served warm. Always make the Orchard Pair Crumble first and up to 6 hours in advance. It’s easy and then it’s done and out of the way.

When you get to the custard, and if it’ll be some time before you are ready to serve it, pour it into a pitcher and use plastic film to cover the actual surface of the custard.

Place the pitcher in a medium saucepan filled halfway up the sides with water. Heat the saucepan over medium heat until the water is just steamy.

Reduce to a simmer and keep the plastic film in place to keep the custard from forming a skin and hot for up to 2 hours in advance.

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Irish Custard with An Orchard Pear Crumble

Jenny DeRemer
Pears are typically regarded as an autumn fruit until paired with this wholesome Irish custard for a Spring Saint Patrick's Day dessert.
5 from 1 vote
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Irish
Servings 6 servings
Calories 1103 kcal



for the orchard pear crumble

  • 1 ¼ cups almond flour if you have almonds but not almond flour, add the almonds to a food processor and pulse until very fine equaling 1 1/4 cups
  • 1 ¼ cups oatmeal quick cooking
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter divided; 1 3/4 cups cubed and very cold, 1 tablespoon softened to room temperature
  • 4 ½ cups pears cut into 1/2-inch or slightly larger pieces; Bosc, D’Anjou, Bartlett, Forelle, or Concorde
  • 4 tablespoons Irish whiskey
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean

for the Irish custard

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean split down the middle with a pairing knife to expose seeds
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


make the orchard pear crumble

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, toss the chopped pears with the Irish whiskey. Let the pears macerate for 30 minutes tossing a few times during that time.
  • To a separate bowl, add the oatmeal, almond flour, brown sugar, and cold cubed butter. Use your fingers to rub the mixture together until the grain resembles peas. Alternatively, you may add all to the barrel of a food processor and pulse until you reach the same consistency.
  • After the pears have macerated, drain about half of the liquid but not all. Add the honey, lemon juice, apple pie spice, cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla bean seeds to the pears and toss well.
  • Turn the pear mixture out into the prepared baking dish evenly. Top evenly with the oatmeal and almond topping.
  • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the top is sufficiently browned, you can smell the bake, and the fruit is bubbling up from beneath the crumble topping.
  • Pull from the oven and allow to sit on the counter until ready to serve. The crumble may be eaten warm or cool.

make the Irish custard

  • Bring the milk, cream and vanilla bean to simmering point slowly over a low heat. Remove from heat and let cool slightly and remove the vanilla bean.
  • Whisk the yolks, granulated sugar, and cornstarch together in a bowl until well blended. Using a ladle, spoon a little of the hot milk into the yolks to temper them, whisking constantly so the yolks do not cook. Repeat once more before adding the yolk mixture to the milk mixture entirely and whisking vigorously.
  • Return to the saucepan and over a low heat gently stir with a rubber spatula until thickened, about 12 to 15 minutes. The custard may become lumpy as it thickens, and this is okay.
  • Pour the custard into a pitcher once thickened and serve immediately over the orchard pear crumble.


Substitutions: the pears may be substituted with Granny Smith or Bramley apples in equal measure. The vanilla beans may be substituted with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (first choice) or 1 full teaspoon vanilla extract.
Omissions: the Irish whiskey may be omitted altogether if your preference is to use no alcohol.
Make Ahead: the pear crumble may be made ahead up to 6 hours and allowed to rest at room temperature until ready to serve. The Irish custard may be made ahead by 2 hours. If not serving right away, use plastic film to cover the actual surface of the custard preventing a skin from forming. Custard may be kept warm by placing the pitcher of custard in a medium saucepan filled halfway up the sides with water. Heat the saucepan over medium heat until the water is just steamy. Maintain the simmer. Keep the plastic film in place and serve within 2 hours.
Uses For Those Vanilla Bean Pods After This Recipe: once you’ve removed the vanilla bean from the milk mixture, run it under cool tap water and dry it using a paper towel. DRY IT WELL. Together with the scraped vanilla pod, put to use immediately in one of the following ideas:
Create a vanilla infused sugar. Rub the vanilla seeds into white sugar. Rubbing the vanilla into the sugar will release the aroma of the vanilla and infuse the sugar with a natural vanilla taste. The sugar can then be used when sugar is required in a recipe.
Make your own vanilla extract for baking. Place two or more split vanilla pods lengthwise in a clean, dry glass container. Add a pint of high-quality vodka, rum, or bourbon to the container and seal the container. Place in a cool, dark place such as a closet or pantry for one month if you are using rum and three to four months if you are using vodka. Swish the jar periodically. The richness of the extract will depend on how long you allow the pods soak in the alcohol.
Put dried vanilla in your coffee beans. Infuse your coffee with a natural vanilla flavor by placing dried vanilla in your bag or can of coffee beans. Place in the coffee for several weeks. Over time, the coffee beans will become infused with the vanilla.

The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.

Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 1103kcalCarbohydrates: 88gProtein: 12gFat: 80gSaturated Fat: 43gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 305mgSodium: 66mgPotassium: 381mgFiber: 7gSugar: 70gVitamin A: 2262IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 233mgIron: 2mg
Did you love this recipe?Leave a comment and Let me know how it was!

5 from 1 vote

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  1. This is awesome. I would love it if you would share this on The Fabulous Friday Link Party this Friday. You can find the link on my website.
    I love your blog name. I’m sure that you are extaordinary.
    Blessings to you.5 stars

    1. Renae, this is such a kind invitation, and I absolutely will! I am excited to see your site (I got a quick peek, and I already want to craft everything I’m seeing!) and mingle with the other partygoers 🙂