Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More than just a pear

Dessert is one of those things we often reserve for special occasions. It's not really an every day thing, and if it is it usually involves milk and cookies or a bowl of ice cream. It's not that those two things aren't delicious, and they definitely function well as weekday dessert, but sometimes you need something a little different. Something more seasonal. Something with fruit. Maybe something poached.

This week in my produce box I received some gorgeous Bosc pears. My first instinct on beholding really firm pears is to poach them. Bosc pears hold their shape beautifully as the poaching liquid sweetens and softens them, spices them up a bit with whatever ingredients you choose. And I'd forgotten how simple they are to make.

I used David Lebovitz's comprehensive instructions for poaching pears, but I'll let you know which additions I used in the poaching syrup because they turned out perfectly. They even had my dad devouring them with enthusiasm and he's not usually one for dessert.

Along with the water and sugar I added a cinnamon stick, two anise stars, a teaspoon of cloves, three slices of fresh ginger, and about six allspice berries. The star anise rounds out the flavour by adding an element counter to the typical autumn spices, while the ginger added a gentle heat that just hovered on the edge of noticeable.

Once the pears were done I scooped them out with a slotted spoon and removed the spices so I could reduce the liquid to a syrup. It was all the pears needed, though they'd also pair well with spice cake or vanilla ice cream. I'm thinking a cardamom creme anglaise would also work. 

You can make these pears ahead of time and store them in the fridge in the poaching liquid. When you're ready to serve them you can reheat them in the liquid and then reduce the syrup. The pears will stay warm while the syrup reduces.

The best thing about these pears is how satisfying they are. They're sweet enough to indulge your dessert craving, but light enough to follow a large meal. And they're so easy. They offer maximum flavour with minimal effort. They're simple enough to serve after a weekday meal, but impressive enough to serve guests at a dinner party. And they are the perfect end to a crisp autumn day.

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