Special equipment: 10 twigs or wooden dowels
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place almonds on an ungreased baking sheet, and toast in oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cool. Coarsely chop almonds, and set aside. Carefully wash and dry twigs, if using them. Insert a 5-inch twig or wooden dowel into the top of each pear. Set the pears on an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet lined with a silpat (a French nonstick baking mat). Set aside. Fill a medium bowl with ice and water, and set aside. Place sugar, corn syrup, cream, and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until the temperature registers 245 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and immediately plunge the saucepan into ice water to stop the cooking. Dip 1 pear into the caramel, to coat, using a spoon if necessary. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pears. In a double boiler over low heat, melt chocolate and shortening. Remove from heat. Dip caramel-coated pears into chocolate, and immediately roll in chopped almonds. Return coated pear to the silpat-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pears. Chill until the chocolate is set, about 15 minutes.
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