One of the joys of making poached pears is the fragrant, spicy aroma that fills the house. Another is seeing the pale flesh of the pears gradually transform to pure crimson. And then there is the ultimate joy of eating them!
Poached pears make an elegant, grown-up, yet stunningly simple dessert. They are deliciously comforting and warming, but not as heavy as winter puddings often can be. This is an excellent option if you are looking for a gluten-free dessert. It’s also nice to know that it makes for one of your five-a-day and if you skip the marscapone cream it’s fat-free too (personally I wouldn’t – the cream adds a lovely richness to the pears).
This is such a simple recipe to make. The only trick is getting the cooking time right which depends very much on the variety of pear you have and how ripe it is. If you have the time to leave the pears to soak in the poaching liquid overnight, the deep red colour seeps all the way through to the centre of the pears, as does the spicy wine flavour. It does cause the pears to soften more though, so if you plan to do this I recommend reducing the cooking time by a few minutes.
For the pears:
4 firm but ripe pears, medium sized
750ml red wine
125ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 piece of orange zest
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla pod
For the vanilla marscapone cream:
250g marscapone cheese, softened
3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1/2 vanilla pod
- Start by making the marscapone cream. Whisk the marscapone cheese until smooth. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds of one half. Add to the marscapone with the cream and icing sugar. Whisk together well. Refrigerate while you make the pears.
- Add the wine, sugar, orange juice, orange zest, remaining half of the vanilla pod and the cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile peel the pears carefully, leaving the stalks intact. Handle them gently so as not to blemish the flesh. Slice a thin bit off the bottom of the pears so that they have a flat base and are able to stand upright.
- Place the pears into the poaching liquid on their sides, and simmer (with the lid on) very gently for 20-35 minutes. Turn the pears every 5 minutes so that they colour evenly. The cooking time will depend on the size of the pears and how ripe/firm they are. Use a toothpick to check whether the pears are done – they should be cooked but still firm. (If planning to soak them overnight, then remove the pears a few minutes earlier).
- Once cooked, remove from heat and allow the pears to cool slightly in the poaching liquid.
- If serving immediately, remove the pears and place on serving plates.
- Remove half of the poaching liquid, leaving about 2 cups of liquid in the saucepan. Simmer on high heat until the liquid has reduced to about half its original volume and becomes syrupy.
- Serve the sauce and marscapone cream alongside the warm pears.
- OR If you can resist eating the pears immediately, once they have cooled to room temperature place them in the fridge overnight, covered in the poaching liquid. Make sure they are completely covered by the liquid so that the colour remains even. (Refrigerate for up to 2 days).
- When ready to serve, reduce half of the poaching liquid and gently reheat the pears in the liquid before serving with the sauce and marscapone cream.
- Don’t forget to provide a spoon AND a fork when serving the pears!