I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to learn to poach fruit, but better late than never!
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have ever deliberately set out to poach fruit, but I needed a good dessert partner to the Spiced Maple Chocolate Custard recipe I’d found recently in the Donna Hay magazine (Issue 74, Apr/May 2014). The custard was so rich and decadent in its own right, I felt whatever I paired it with had to be much more subtle in flavour. So I went with poached pears.
I looked through various recipes, trying to find a recipe that perfectly complemented the flavourings in the custard and found one made to measure from, of all places, Thermador.com! And I have to say I was really delighted with the result – the spices were the same ones I’d used in the custard so I knew the match would be good, and the addition of orange juice, zest and liqueur provided just the extra kick I was after. I didn’t actually use the process as laid out in this recipe though, as the pears were cooked in the oven. Instead I went with the process David Lebovitz uses in his very informative post ‘How to Poach Pears‘. If you’re a newbie to poaching fruit, as I was, you’ll find his instructions extremely useful.
Of course you don’t need to pair your poached pears with the custard – it’s simply a suggestion. The syrup you make from the liquid the pears are poached in is gorgeous enough, believe me! If you do decide to make the custard, it can be made the day before which makes everything that much easier. You can serve the pears and custard warm (just give them a quick reheat in the microwave) or cold – it’s great either way. Enjoy!
POACHED PEARS WITH SPICED MAPLE CHOCOLATE CUSTARD
For the Spiced Maple Chocolate Custard: (Makes 3 cups)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup single, pouring cream
- 75 g dark chocolate, chopped
- 2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup caster (superfine) sugar
For the Spiced Pears:
- 2 cups orange juice
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup of orange liqueur
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- zest of 1 orange (grated)
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise
- 6 ripe but firm pears, peeled and left whole (or you may prefer to cut them in half or even quarter them – this will reduce cooking time)
- Extra orange zest to serve
For the Spiced Maple Chocolate Custard:
- Place the milk, cream, chocolate, vanilla bean and seeds, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally to dissolve the chocolate, until the mixture just comes to the boil.
- Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until just combined. Carefully pour the hot chocolate mixture over the egg mixture, a little at a time, and whisk well to combine. Return to the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spatula (170-175 degrees F or 77-80 degrees C, if you’re using a thermometer).Watch it carefully; if the mixture gets too hot it will curdle. Strain the custard into a bowl, set on top of a bowl filled partially with iced water and whisk until cool. Once cool, cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge until needed.
For the Spiced Pears:
- In a large saucepan combine the orange juice, orange liqueur, water, sugar, orange zest, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Place the pears in the pan (you can core them from the bottom if you prefer, or leave them as is). Over top of the pears place a cartouche (a cut to size piece of baking paper – see instructions here) – this will ensure the tops of the pears that aren’t covered by liquid cook properly and don’t discolour.
- Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 15-25 minutes, or until pears are tender but not mushy (a sharp paring knife should easily slide into the flesh).
- Lift off the cartouche and gently remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Bring the heat up to moderate/high and cook the liquid until it is reduced by half (watch that it doesn’t boil over). Take off heat and put aside to cool.
- Bring the custard to room temperature. Pour or spoon some of the custard into six serving dishes (don’t over-fill; the custard should act as a shallow moat for the pear). Place a pear on each plate on top of the custard. Pour a little of the syrup directly over top of each pear and serve with extra orange zest.