Poached pears

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice,
And all that’s nice;
That’s what little girls are made of.

If little girls are made of sugar and spice, do they grow up to be poached pears? I think they do! Close your eyes and imagine… an elegant young lady, quietly standing, tall and shapely, glowing with sweetness, a swirl of pale yellow flowing over her svelte shape and pooling around her feet, (ever thought about custard that way?) or are you thinking of the slightly naughty french Poire belle Hélène ? … with a rich chocolate coat draped over her shoulders? A poached pear makes a beautiful dinner companion, providing warmth and softness to offset the rich, dark and handsome nutmeg cake sitting beside her….getting carried away? you bet!!! but that said pears are a wonderful desert and soooo easy what could be better? The famous Poire belle Hélène was created around1870 by Auguste Escoffier and is a real classic.

Usually I try to use Beurre Bosc pears for this recipe, they have good shape, the stems stay intact, and they hold their shape after long slow cooking. Beurre Bosc pears are available during the cooler months from April to October.


  1. Make up your poaching liquid (see below)
  2. Peel each pear from stem down. Work quickly placing the peeled pears into the liquid immediately you have finished, or sprinkle each pear with lemon juice to avoid browning while peeling the remaining pears.
  3. Allow the pears to simmer, covered with a square of baking paper, in the liquid for 15-20 minutes or until tender (longer time is required for different varieties and ripeness) Turn occasionally to ensure even cooking.
  4. Carefully remove each pair from the liquid and leave to drain.
  5. Serve pear warm or cooled with a little poaching liquid.

My poaching liquid began as a simple light sugar syrup from The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander  . The original syrup is now a combination of several batches with
different flavours added. I have found that the syrup can be successfully stored in the freezer for several months and reused. (warning) Although it has a high sugar content, which makes it resistant to spoilage, it doesn’t last forever! You can try some of the suggestions below or make your own specialty….so long as your share the recipes with me 🙂

Poaching Liquid: Place 2 cups sugar and 4 cups water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved.

  • The simplest addition is vanilla bean or a teaspoon of Queen Vanilla Bean Paste, which they claim is vanilla extract with real vanilla bean seeds in natural syrup.
  • For cinnamon poached pears, add two cinnamon sticks.
  • For red wine poached pears, omit vanilla bean and replace 1 cup of water with 1 cup red wine. Increase sugar to 2 1/2 cups.
  • For dessert wine (Sauternes) poached pears, replace vanilla bean with four thinly sliced pieces of orange rind. Replace 1 cup water with 1 cup dessert wine.

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