This recipe by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette, author of several cookbooks, published in Madeline Scherb's "A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made By Monks and Nuns" (Tarcher, $15.95) Scherb suggests using caramels from Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa. These caramels can be purchased online at trappistine.
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons Cognac or pear brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved, cored
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
12 to 14 vanilla caramels, unwrapped
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together eggs, sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add milk, Cognac and vanilla; mix until well-combined. Pour a thin layer, about 1 cup, of the custard into a buttered 13-by-9-inch baking pan, tilting the pan to spread it evenly over the bottom of the pan.
2. Bake until the custard thickens and sets, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; carefully arrange the pears cut side down over the custard. Pour the remaining custard over the fruit; sprinkle nutmeg lightly over the top. Arrange the caramels about 2 inches apart on the top. Bake until the custard is firm and starts to brown around the edges, 40-45 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition info: Per serving: 156 calories, 17 percent of calories from fat, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 57 mg cholesterol, 31 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 55 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.