We've used brown rice flour here for its rich flavour, but it
has the further benefit of making this gluten-free. (If it's not at
the supermarket you'll find it at health-food stores.)
2 tbspbrown sugar2cinnamon quills1vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped1star anise6small pears, such as corella200 gmcaster sugar60 gmbutter, diced, plus 125gm, melted125 ml(½ cup) pouring cream 125 gm(1 cup) pecans, toasted and ground115 gm(1 cup) brown rice flour2 tspbaking powder1½ tspground cinnamon2eggs, lightly beaten95 gm(½ cup firmly packed) brown sugar250 ml(1 cup) milk1 tspvanilla extract50 gm(¼ cup) raw caster sugarTo serve:icing sugar and ginger ice-cream
Place sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean and seeds, star anise and 1 litre water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and bring to a simmer, add pears and cook until tender (25-30 minutes), then set aside.
Meanwhile, stir sugar and 60ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves (3 minutes), bring to the boil and cook without stirring until caramel (6-8 minutes). Add diced butter (be careful, hot caramel will spit), whisk to combine, then add cream and a pinch of sea salt, whisk and set aside.
Preheat oven to 180C. Combine pecans, flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine eggs, brown sugar, milk and vanilla, then gradually add melted butter, stirring until incorporated. Add pecan mixture to egg mixture in 2 batches, stirring to combine between each addition.
Divide batter among six 1½-cup buttered ramekins and pour caramel on top. Drain pears (discard liquid), then gently push a pear into the centre of each ramekin (the batter should reach just below the rim). Dust with raw caster sugar and bake until puddings have a golden crust and an inserted skewer withdraws clean (30 minutes). Serve puddings warm dusted with icing sugar with ginger ice-cream to the side.