Wednesday January 23, 2008
poached pears in chocolate hazelnut sauce
2 1/4 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups dry white wine such as Orvietto or Muscadet
4 1/2 cups of water
2 lemons, for peel and juice
2 tsp vanilla
6 large, firm, ripe pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett
Slices of pound cake or Madeleine cookies
Preparing the poaching syrup. In a large saucepan or stockpot, about 6 quarts, pour the sugar, wine and water and stir well. With a sharp vegetable peeler, shave 10 - 12 long strips of lemon peel (lemon zest only). Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out the juice, removing pits. Add the peel, juice and vanilla to the pot. Bring to a boil, cook for about 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar, and turn off the heat
Meanwhile prepare the pears. Slice the bottom of each pear flat so it will stand upright. Peel the pears leaving the stems and a small amount of skin on the top (decorative touch). With a melon baller or a knife, scoop out the inside of the pear through the flat bottom, removing entire core and seeds. You will have to scoop 3 or 4 times to get out all the seeds.
Cooking and cooling the pears. Set the pears in the hot syrup, which must cover them completely. Add more syrup if necessasry. Lay a double thickness of paper towels over the pears, then weight them down by placing a small plate (a salad plate) or lid, to keep them submerged and prevent discoloring.
Return the syrup to a boil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil and poach for about 30 minutes, just until the pear can be pierced through with the tip of a sharp knife. Remember, the poaching time for pears will always vary, so test them frequently. Remove the cooked pears from the heat and let them cool in the syrup for at least 3 hours or overnight, leaving towels and the plate or lid in place.
1 cup of half-and-half or cream
6 oz best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped in small pieces
1/4 cup strong espresso (or 1/4 cup strong black coffee mixed with 1 tsp instant espresso powder)
Vanilla extract, rum, cognac, or bourbon (optional flavorings) - I added a dash of rum
handful (2 tbsp) finely chopped hazelnuts.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream to a bare simmer. Whisk the chocolate pieces and the espresso or coffee into the hot cream, until completely smooth. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tbsp rum, cognac, or bourbon and the hazelnuts. Mix well. Cool before using.
Serving the pears. You can serve the poached pears as they are, moistened with their syrup, or in any variations found in the Julia and Jacques cookbook. I choose to serve this with the chocolate sauce, using a "fluted" pear.
Fluting the pear. Slice through the side of the pear with diagonal cuts at 1/2 inch intervals all around, starting from the top and moving diagonally towards the bottom. (See photo). Press down gently on the top to separate and display the fluted slices.
Plating the dish. If using pound cake, cut 1/2 inch slices of the cake and cut out a 3" or 4" circle or disk from each, using a round pastry cutter or a paring knife. Pour a pool of chocolate sauce onto a dessert plate, set a cake round in the center, and stand a pear, fluted or not, on the cake. I used Madeleine cookies instead and added a few small pieces of pecans in the chocolate sauce. Garnish with a sprig of mint.