Poached Pears Infused with Saffron Vanilla Bean Syrup

by Bri on November 21, 2007

Poached Pears

Over the last week, I’ve posted vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes for cranberry sauce with a twist, colorful mashed potatoes, aromatic stuffed delicata squash, an apple crisp made with ground almonds, a bright carrot soup with leeks and thyme, and a silly po-turkey.

For my final recipe in this pre-Thanksgiving (predominantly local food) extravaganza, I would like to share a very special dessert we made this week. My mother in law returned from a visit to Whole Foods raving about poached pears she’d seen. Waxing poetic about the saffron infused, golden pears, we had to make some of our own. With her suggestion of creme fraiche, I was definitely sold.

The next day Marc and I took a jaunt down to the market and discovered some gorgeous colossal bosc pears. That night a delicious meal came together of roasted cauliflower and garlic, and baked sweet dumpling squash. For a little more color, we threw together our vegetarian Caesar salad (not complete without fresh garlic croutons made from a local bakery’s chewy sour baguette).

Marc spent a good half hour researching poached pear recipes on the web. Our usual modus operandi is to research a particular dish, and then hybridize a bunch of recipes to fit it to our tastes. That night Marc found several from epicurious.com that looked promising, but all the recipes included way too much wine, in my opinion. One called for an entire bottle. So, we tinkered and played with quantities, and decreased the sugar, coming up with this tasty treat.

The pears take a bit of time to make, but it’s so incredibly easy, it will look like you slaved over them for hours. It’s a sophisticated, even romantic dessert. The saffron turns the pears a brilliant golden hue, and the vanilla seeds speckle the syrup with color and flavor. Because of that, this is one of the very few occasions where I would recommend peeling fruits or veggies.

The flavors are exotic and layered, yet familiar, and the creme fraiche garnish adds a creamy tang to this sweet aromatic delicacy. When my mother in law tasted the syrup, her eyes widened and she exclaimed, “How unusual!” One of the wonderful benefits of this confection is how easily you could scale it up or down…an intimate evening for two…or a raucous holiday celebration for 20. This is the kind of dessert that looks like you worked a lot harder than you did. Easy yet superb for the most refined palate.

Poached Pears Infused with Saffron Vanilla Bean Syrup

INGREDIENTS:
4 whole firm Pears
, peeled but left with stems intact (best if you can find some local ones)
1-1/2 cups
Organic Cane Sugar (it’s unbleached granulated sugar with its natural blond color and still has all the minerals and enzymes from the sugar cane. Great stuff! If you haven’t tried it yet…tastes delicious.)
1 C. freshly squeezed orange juice (I had tangerines from the farmers market, so I used 4 of them)
1 lemon, zest and juice 
4-1/2 cups filtered water
(or you could use some pear or apple juice and some water)
1-1/2 cups white wine
1 fresh vanilla bean
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch saffron

Creme fraiche
to garnish

INGREDIENTS:
With a knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape all the tiny seeds into a heavy large saucepan. Add in the vanilla bean halves and everything but the pears and creme fraiche. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a simmer.

Add the pears and bring the temperature back up. Reduce heat and simmer slowly until pears are tender when pierced, about 25 minutes. Carefully transfer pears to a plate. Throw out the cinnamon stick and now-flaccid vanilla bean halves and boil the liquid in the saucepan until reduced to a thin, but quite sweet syrup, about 30 minutes. (You can let it do it’s thing for about 20 minutes, and then come back and stir it for the last 10 or so.)

If you make this a day ahead, you can put the pears back into the liquid and let them cool and soak overnight. The golden saffron color will deepen in the pears with time. Either way, serve the pears warm, garnished with the creme fraiche and a drizzle of the syrup.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Anh November 21, 2007 at 4:34 pm

Bri. What a great recipe and photo. You make me want to go back to those autumn days!

Brie November 21, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Can I use say these make me sooooooooooooo hungry! Stunning.

manggy November 21, 2007 at 8:33 pm

How unusual indeed! I wonder what subtle flavor the saffron infused into the pears (you can never quite tell exactly what it brings to the melange of flavors in paella, until of course you taste paella without saffron). This is also the first recipe I’ve seen using white instead of red wine. This is a perfect healthier alternative to most of the other Thanksgiving desserts I’ve seen :)

Bri November 21, 2007 at 8:35 pm

Anh – Thanks! Great to see you. Silly Australians…it’s almost like your seasons are backwards or something. ;)

Brie – Thanks so much! Marc never ceases to amaze me. So glad you stopped by. For days I’ve been intending to check out what fun furry critters you’ve been working on lately. I promise I’ll stop in.

Bri November 21, 2007 at 8:48 pm

Manggy – The saffron just sounded like such a wonderful addition, especially since I too, had only seen recipes with red wine. I prefer, generally to use white in my cooking, so I always have it on hand. There is an exotic note from the saffron, but the sweetness and vanilla are the more predominant flavors. Definitely not the heart-attack on a plate that appear on most American Thanksgiving tables. Thanks so much for dropping by. :)

Nags November 21, 2007 at 9:16 pm

these look so lovely. wil it taste sweet or tangy?

bee November 21, 2007 at 10:03 pm

what a stunner. bri, have you tried adding a dash of cognac along with the wine? it enhances the pear flavour.

Bri November 21, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Nags – Thank you! The syrup is sweet, but not as intensely as say, gulab jamun syrup. The creme fraiche or sour cream, or yogurt would bring in a little tangy accent.

Bee – Thanks! I wish Tastespotting thought so. I don’t know what their criteria are. Anyway, I haven’t tried it with cognac yet. What a great suggestion. I’ll have to get my hands on some for the next time we make it.

Patricia Scarpin November 22, 2007 at 6:37 am

This looks absolutely fantastic, Bri – next time I want to impress my guests with dessert, I know where to go!

Happy Cook November 22, 2007 at 6:50 am

Wow i wouldlove to have them.

gigi November 22, 2007 at 12:53 pm

dang — why didn’t I see this before I decided on pies for dessert today?!?!?

I am SO making this for the next dinner guests… thanks for the post and happy thanksgiving! :)

Sylvia November 22, 2007 at 8:28 pm

I am impress,this desserts looks absolutely gorgeous. I must to try this. Lovely photo too.

Bri November 23, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Patricia – Thanks! I think you really will impress your friends with the pears. I think they’d be delicious served with some angel food or bunt cake as well.

Happy Cook – Thank you!

Gigi – Sorry, it took me a while to get the recipe up, before T-Day. But, I’m sure there will many opportunity to entertain during all the holiday celebrations of the next month or two. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

Sylvia – Thank you! I was really pleased with Marc’s photo as well. We just never know if it’s really going to come together, until it does. Thankfully, the picture does the flavor justice. :)

anita November 23, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Wow, gorgeous photo. I seem to have editor privileges on Tastespotting; I’ll add it for you if you like.

Bri November 23, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Anita – Oh my god, Yes! I mean…why yes, that would be lovely, if isn’t too much trouble. :)

Terra November 26, 2008 at 12:14 pm

This is looking close to what I’d like to do, thank you. As for the creme fraiche, I like to add a tad of sugar, vanilla, and balsamic vinegar to it and whip it together mildly with a fork. Tastes amazing.

monique duval December 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm

i’m making this recipe tonight and my house smells amazing:) thanks for the wonderful ideas with one of my favorite ingredients:)

Cynthe December 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Oh, good! Monique ~ Glad you stopped by to let us know. I need to give this a try as well. Remember suggesting an idea for this to Bri & Marc, but haven’t actually cooked the pears myself. Share a photo of your creation if you have a chance. Will be fun to see. Bon Appétit!

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