These absolutely candy-like spiced poached pears will warm your stomach and heart this season with subtle notes of ginger, and incredibly tender. These pears pair beautifully with vanilla ice cream, a glass of Sauv Blanc, and honestly they are a star on their own.
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What are Poached Pears?
Poached pears (poire à la beaujolaise) are a dish native to the cuisine of the Burgundy and Lyon regions of France. Traditionally, pears are poached in red wine, which the regions famously produce.
Simply, poached pears are made by simmering peeled pears in a sugary-spiced liquid that turns into a delectable syrup as it reduces down. Thus, the syrup is absorbed into the pears, which soften beautifully, resulting in a candy-sweet, warming spiced dessert.
This recipe retains the core concept of poached pears. However, one main difference between these poached pears and the original, traditional kind is the lack of red wine as a poaching liquid. Here, we’ve instead used a concoction of molasses-powered brown syrup combined with a variety of spices to produce a comforting, festive dessert.
Though there may be no wine IN the pears, you are certainly welcome to enjoy yours with a glass on the side!
Poached Pear Spices
This simple recipe focuses on combining three spices for a flavorful punch — nutmeg, cinnamon and fresh ginger. These spices warm and awaken the palate with flavors synonymous with wintry days, long nights and gatherings of family and friends.
Nutmeg is commonly used in holiday baking recipes, and is a staple component of the ever-popular pumpkin pie spice (PSL, anyone?). Ground nutmeg is easy to find in any supermarket. Therefore, its a pantry staple for anyone who cooks.
The outer shell of whole nutmeg produces a different spice, known as mace. While not as common as it once was, you may still find references to “mace” in older recipes.
A quintessential “winter” spice, cinnamon is included in many baked goods, from cinnamon rolls, to cookies, to pies. Simply, it’s a must-have spice.
But which type of cinnamon should you buy? You may see the two common varieties of cinnamon and think they are equal. They’re not.
Cassia cinnamon is the more affordable, widely produced version of cinnamon. The cheap bag of cinnamon sticks you find at the supermarket are of this variety. Cassia, also known as Chinese cinnamon, has a rougher texture – more “bark” like – than the higher quality Ceylon cinnamon. It can also have a stronger spicy flavor, due to the high amounts of oils.
Ceylon cinnamon, also known as sweet cinnamon, has a more complex flavor than its more affordable counterpart.
Ginger – in both fresh root form and dried ground form – provides a palate warming sensation and burst of flavor. This spice is most commonly enjoyed at the holidays in recipes like gingerbread and gingersnaps.
Fresh ginger provides the best flavor, and the most versatility. In this recipe, you’ll only use a small portion of ginger. To keep ginger root fresh and readily available in your kitchen, keep the entire root in a plastic bag in your freezer. That way whenever you need some ginger, simply take it out of the freezer and grate the desired amount.
If however, you are unable to find fresh ginger you can easily substitute ground ginger in this recipe.
What pears are best for poaching?
The short answer: Bosc pears.
There are many varieties of pears available in the market. When they are in season, you can find at least four different types of pears in your local market, more in specialty markets. So what makes Bosc the best?
Poaching perfection: Bosc pears
Bosc pears tend to be firmer than other varieties, allowing them to hold their shape when cooked. Additionally, Bosc pears possess natural sweetness along with tart undertones, making them a perfectly balanced canvas to add spices and other flavors.
This type of pear is typically a light brown color with a long neck. They will not turn green when ripe, as brown is their desired color.
If you can’t find Bosc pears, there are two alternatives that would work for this poached pear recipe, but the end result may be softer.
D’Anjou and Bartlett pears: suitable alternatives
D’Anjou pears are often a bright shade of green, and can be firm even when ripe similar to Bosc pears. Therefore, they can hold their shape while cooked, though not as nicely as Bosc. This variety tends to be sweeter, making them a bit less favorable in a recipe that adds more sugar. However, if you have a sweet tooth, you are sure to enjoy poached D’Anjou pears as well.
Bartlett pears come in a yellow-green hue, and are typically softer than both D’Anjou and Bosc. This variety is more commonly used in compotes and chutneys, as they break down when cooked. Bartlett’s should be your third choice when shopping for poached pears.
How to Serve Poached Pears
While these poached pears make a great treat anytime of year, they are a particularly special delight around the holidays. Full of comforting seasonal flavors, the syrup-soaked pears make for an easy party dessert. Here are some ideas for how to serve your poached pears.
You can serve your poached pears as we prefer to – with coconut ginger ice cream and a sesame crumble. The crumble provides a satisfyingly crunchy, savory-adjacent addition to the dessert, while the ice cream mimics the sweet/spicy dichotomy of the pears themselves.
Really, what’s better than ice cream? With the spiced flavor profile of these pairs, you can choose many varieties of ice cream to serve alongside.
- Coconut ginger – the sweet creaminess of coconut complements the sharp spices, and the ginger ties in well with the ginger of the pears
- Vanilla with caramel swirl – a simple twist on classic vanilla, the caramel adds richness and plays on the sweetness of the pear’s syrup
- Cranberry – keeping it festive, cranberry plays nice with strong spices like ginger and complements the strong sweetness of brown sugar
A sweet thin custard, crème anglaise serves as a decadent, silky counterpart to the poached pears. Making your own crème anglaise, while time-consuming is definitely worth it.
For those who aren’t keen on making another component of this simple dessert from scratch, consider mascarpone instead. The Italian cheese maintains a cream cheese-like consistency, with a much more subtle flavor profile. It’s a creamy counterpart to poached pears.
Incorporate other elements to the mascarpone for extra flair, like a touch of powdered sugar for sweetness, or bits of candied ginger for texture and a sweet-spicy punch.
How to make Spiced Poached Pears
Making these spiced poached pears is simple! They require about 30 minutes of simmering, then another 30 of resting. You can make these pears up to a day ahead. Store in the syrup to ensure they don’t dry out.
- First, carefully peel the skin off the pears, and remove the bottom core with a teaspoon, rotating slowly in a circular motion.
- Add the pears to a medium sauce pot and add enough water to cover the pears.
- Next, add the cup of brown sugar, peeled lemon and spices (nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon).
- Bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Allow the pears to simmer until fork tender, about 30 – 40 minutes.
- Once the pears are tender, take the pot off the heat. Let the pears sit in the syrup for an additional 30 minutes. This ensures all the liquid is absorbed and the pears are as flavorful as possible.
- Drain the pears and enjoy.
- 1 Medium Sauce Pot
- 1 Vegetable Peeler
- 1 Measuring Spoons
- Carefully peel the skin off of all the pears, and remove bottom core with help from a teaspoon, rotating in a circular motion (as if balling).
- Place pears in medium sauce pot and cover with enough water to cover the pears.
- Add brown sugar, lemon and all spices. Bring to a simmer.
- Let simmer until pears are fork tender, about 30 -40 minutes.
- Take pot off the heat, and let the pears sit in the syrup for another 30 minutes.
- Drain, and enjoy. If desired, save the pear syrup to drizzle over pears before serving.