Poached pears make for an elegant, subtly sweet and simple dessert.
The gentle flavor of the aromatic tree fruit combines with the spices and poaching solution for a light and uncomplicated – yet sophisticated – indulgence.
Recipes for poaching liquids vary, calling for ginger, jasmine, lemon, green, chai or spiced tea. Others ask for merlot, muscat or mead, brandy or bourbon, port or pinot noir, riesling or Champagne, orange juice or cider.
Lemon and orange zest or slices, two- or three-star anise, or freshly grated ginger root enhance the poaching liquid, adding light layers to the delicate flavor of the fruit. Sweeten the solution with sugar, honey or agave nectar.
Whatever combination you choose, the entire process – from peeling to serving – takes about 30 minutes.
When you peel and core the pears, leave on the stems for a more dramatic and refined presentation. And don’t worry if the fruit isn’t perfectly ripened. Pears can be poached at any stage of ripeness. Simmering with sugars leaves the fruit tender and juicy.
Before reducing the poaching liquid, consider letting raisins, or dried cranberries, cherries or currants plump in it. Serve the poached pears flecked with the fattened fruit, drizzled with the reduction.
Other serving ideas include crystallized ginger, gingerbread, pistachio brittle, mascarpone, whipped cream, crème anglaise, créme fraîche, almond cream, lemon sorbet or ice cream.
For a more savory complement, try brie and bacon, or bleu cheese and toasted walnuts.
Of course, there’s always chocolate. Spice things up with a cinnamon chocolate drizzle or a habanero or chipotle cinnamon chocolate sauce.
Then, daintily, dig in.
Chamomile- poached Cinnamon Pears
From Adriana Janovich
6 cups water
12 bags of chamomile tea
4 Bosc pears with stems, peeled and cored from bottom
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or one cinnamon stick, broken in half)1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Zest of 1 lemon, cut into thin strips
In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add tea bags, turn off heat, cover pan and let steep, about 10 minutes. Meantime, peel pears, scooping core and seeds from the bottom of each with a melon baller. Remove tea bags from saucepan, squeezing excess liquid into pan. Add sugar, spices and lemon zest, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then add pears and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove pears with a slotted spoon. Strain poaching liquid, discarding solids, then return poaching liquid to saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until thick, syrupy and reduced to about 1 cup. Serve pears warm or cool, drizzled with the reduction. (See story for other serving ideas.)
Note: For a more rustic, mottled look – and increased cinnamon flavor – keep the spices in the poaching liquid as you reduce it and skip the straining. Before serving, scoop out the cinnamon stick, if you used one.
Hint: Use a round of parchment paper cut to fit the diameter of your saucepan – with a small hole in the center to let steam escape – to help keep the pears submerged during cooking.
Pears Poached in Tequila with Prickly Pear-Raspberry Sauce
From Bon Appétit (November 1997) via epicurious.com
Popular in Mexico and Central and South America, prickly pear jelly gives a Southwestern twist to this light dessert.
14 Anjou pears, peeled
1 quart tequila
1/2 cup sugar
12-ounce package frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed
18-ounce jar prickly pear jelly or apple jelly
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
Using melon baller, remove core from bottom end of pears. Bring tequila and sugar to boil in heavy large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add 7 pears. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; cook until tip of small knife pierces pears easily, turning occasionally, about 40 minutes. Transfer pears to large bowl. Repeat with remaining pears and poaching liquid. Return all pears to liquid; cool. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill.)
For the sauce: Purée berries, jelly and liqueur in processor. Strain into medium bowl. Cover; chill until cold. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Spoon 2 tablespoons sauce onto each plate. Stand 1 pear in center of each.
Yield: 14 servings
Champagne- Poached Pears
From Cookie (February 2008) via epicurious.com
1 bottle champagne, preferably pink (about 3 1/2 cups)
1 cup sugar
Zest of 1/4 lemon
1 teaspoon rose water (optional)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
2 large pears (such as Bosc) or 4 small pears (such as Seckel), peeled (firm, slightly underripe pears work best)
Combine all the ingredients except the pears in a pot and bring to a simmer. Carefully lower the pears into the liquid (adding up to 1 cup water to make sure the fruit is fully submerged). Simmer until the pears are tender, 15 to 17 minutes for small pears, 25 to 30 minutes for large ones. Cool the pears in the cooking liquid for 30 minutes before serving, or store them in the refrigerator (still in the liquid) for up to a week.
Yield: 2 servings
Pears Poached in Red Wine, Cardamom and Orange
From Bon Appétit (March 1997) via epicurious.com
1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
4 firm but ripe pears, peeled, stems left intact
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 plain or almond biscotti, crumbled
Orange peel strips (optional)
Combine first 7 ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to simmer. Add pears and return mixture to simmer. Reduce heat and simmer slowly until pears are tender when pierced with knife, about 25 minutes. Transfer pears to plate. Boil liquid in saucepan until reduced to 3 cups, about 20 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill pears in poaching liquid. Before serving, rewarm over medium-low heat until pears are heated through.)
Arrange 1 warm pear and 1 scoop of ice cream on each of 4 plates. Drizzle some poaching liquid over. Sprinkle with biscotti crumbs. Garnish with orange peel strips, if desired, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
1/2 cup toasted almonds
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
2 tablespoons brandy
Place almonds in a food processor and process to a fine meal. Combine eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy. Fold in cream, brandy, then almonds. Serve immediately.
Cinnamon Chocolate Sauce
From Betty Crocker
½ cup whipping (heavy) cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat whipping cream, sugar and chocolate to boiling in 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir about 30 seconds or until chocolate is melted; remove from heat. Stir in cinnamon. Serve warm or cool.