Poached pear is one of those desserts that looks elegant and sophisticated but is incredibly easy to make. The key is to select the correct pear – I prefer Conference. Texture is important too; it needs to be firm but with slight give when you squeeze it. If the pear is too soft it will turn to mush, whereas if it’s too hard it will take forever to cook and will never develop that subtle sweet flavour we’re looking for.
I’ve played around with the poaching liquid in the past. Classic recipes tend to use wine; either red wine which takes on a mulled quality which is a perfect winter dessert, or white wine perhaps infused with citrus or even strands of saffron to give it a gorgeous gold hue. A while ago I came across a recipe which used cider; as I’m based in France a good Breton Cidre seemed to be the perfect poaching liquid. I bought a sweet cider or cidre doux as it’s called here. As it was already a sweet cider I didn’t add much more sugar but I did add a cinnamon stick, vanilla bean paste, cloves, a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme. Thyme might seem like a strange addition but I’m now completely hooked on adding herbs to desserts; get the combination right and it elevates your dish to different level. I poached the pears until they were soft but still firm enough to have bite. I removed the pears but carried on cooking the liquid to reduce it to a syrup consistency.
Cider Poached Pears
- 4 pears peeled with the stalk left intact
- 750 ml cider
- 250 ml water
- 50 g sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh Thyme
- 3 cloves
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Start by placing all the ingredients except the pears into a pan and gently bring to the boil.
- After peeling the pears cut each at the base so that it is completely flat. This ensures that the pear will stand upright when you serve it.
- Once the liquid is boiling add the pears and simmer very gently. You need to ensure that the pears cook are completely submerged so that they cook evenly which can be tricky. A hack I use is to cut out a circle of grease proof paper the same size as the pan which I place on top of the pears and weigh down with a spoon.
- Cook the pears for 40 minutes (or until they are tender).
- Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and leave to cool.
- Reduce the cooking liquid for a further 15 minutes or until it reaches a syrup consistency.
- Serve each pear standing up and drizzle with the cider syrup. It's easier to get the pears to stand up if you cut a small amount off the base.