A welcome light dessert that’s ideal after all the rich holiday menus: Poached Vanilla Pears are served in a puddle of coffee sauce. If feeling extra decadent, serve with mocha, coffee or chocolate macarons.
Light Pear Desserts
When entertaining the French, it took me a few years to work out that menus need to be planned carefully; if I’m serving a large main course after an amuse-bouche (something small to tickle the tastebuds before the meal) then starter/hors-d’oeuvres – and then it’s followed with an ambitious taste-of-the-regions cheese board – it can be difficult keeping up when a heavy finale to the meal is served. I used to love doing that and soon learned quickly.
The French could have a crise cardiaque (heart attack) if they see a large pudding arrive, piled high on their plate and since they’re polite, they wade through it and suffer in silence. I’m now the same. Have you ever had that feeling of just being so stuffed that you’re kicking-yourself-for-being-so-greedy uncomfortable?
French Chef Inspiration
For light dessert inspiration, I pounced straight away on Anne-Sophie Pic’s French cookbook, Recettes Pour Recevoir. The Michelin-starred chef has put together her cooking lessons for ideal recipes aimed at entertaining. What I loved about her poached pears in blackcurrant and vanilla was that she uses a lot of poaching liquid, which makes it so much easier to make this recipe a success, as the pears should be poached completely in the liquid without any little bit sticking out.
Moreover, it’s a perfectly light and chic end to a meal. It can also be beautifully peared (sorry!) with macarons.
Developing the Recipe
That would definitely keep my French friends happy. But I can’t just copy a recipe from a cookbook. I had to make my own version that’s easy to make at home with less of the steps. So, I inversed the flavours: her side-dish of a fondant au café and vanilla tuile was replaced by a tutti-frutti blackcurrant macaron (see p.83 of Mad About Macarons!) and the blackcurrant poaching sauce was replaced by a coffee sauce. My first try. The result was a dessert totally gluten-free (however, if you do love gluten like me, then make the tuiles from my 2nd book, Teatime in Paris!)
Macarons are great for accompanying desserts, since they can be made a few days in advance (or even frozen and taken out the freezer 1 hour before serving at room temperature) so you can stay zen while preparing the rest of the meal.
Serve with chocolate-coffee macarons (simply add 2 tbps of granulated coffee to the heating cream while making your classic chocolate ganache. Recipe on page 47 of Mad About Macarons!)
Add Cardamom to Coffee – Great with Pears!
This recipe can easily be adapted to suit different flavours. For example, with coffee, we love some spice.
So add the bruised seeds from 4 cardamom pods to the coffee poaching liquid, remove, and serve with chocolate, cardamom & ginger macarons (see page 56 of Mad About Macarons!)
Poached Coffee Vanilla Pears
- 150 g / 5oz sugar
- 1 litre 34 fl oz water
- 1 vanilla pod/bean cut lengthways
- 2 tbsps coffee granules
- 4 large firm pears Conference, Williams, Comice
- Boil the sugar with the water, vanilla and coffee in a heavy based casserole dish or saucepan with a lid. Once boiling, turn down the heat.
- Peel the pears and cut them in half horizontally. Place them completely in the syrup and poach them gently with lid on for 20 minutes.
- Drain the pears using a slotted spoon, set aside and chill.
- Boil up the coffee syrup for about 20 minutes until concentrated and thickened.
- I usually place the leftover coffee syrup in a jam jar, sealed in the fridge. Over the next few days, just heat it gently and pour over ice cream.