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NOVEMBER 1998
RECIPES



Laid-Back Fudge

Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

German Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Baklava

Souffle au Chocolat (Chocolate Souffle)



SweetSpot

 


Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

Tips:
Poaching fruit is done to render it more tender and flavorful without overcooking it. To test the pears, you'll need to pierce a couple of the halves in their thickest parts with a cake tester or toothpick; either tester should meet almost no resistance. The pears are cooled in their poaching syrup, then chilled until needed. They can be made a day ahead, as can the sauce. Good pears to poach include the Bosc and the Anjou (red or regular). You'll need ripe, unblemished fruit; many supermarket pears are hard and green when purchased, so they may require a few days of ripening at home.

Chocolate Sauce:

  • 8 ozs. good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Few grains salt
  • 1 c. heavy cream

Pears:

  • 2-3 ripe, unblemished Bosc, Anjou, or Red Anjou pears (use only one type of pear per recipe, as different pears may cook at different rates)
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 strips lemon peel, each about 3" long by 1" wide (no white pith; I peel these directly from whole, washed and dried lemons with a vegetable peeler)
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise OR 1 cinnamon stick, 3" in length

Variation:
Poached Pears in Port Make a poaching syrup as directed above, except omit the vanilla bean/cinnamon stick and substitute 6 whole cloves and 6 whole black peppercorns. When pear halves are tender, remove from skillet as above. Return skillet with poaching syrup to high heat and bring to boil. Boil rapidly 3-4 minutes, until slightly reduced and thickened. Remove from heat; add 1/2 to 3/4 cup ruby port to syrup and stir in. Pour over pears. Cool slightly, then chill until needed, basting pears with syrup occasionally. This syrup tastes wonderful, and it's a natural with vanilla ice cream.

For Sauce:
In medium heatproof bowl, combine chopped chocolate and salt. Heat cream over low heat, stirring occasionally, until very hot. Remove from heat; add about 2/3 of hot cream to chocolate and let stand 2 minutes. Stir or whisk gently until smooth. (If necessary, place mixture over simmering water on low heat--water should not touch bottom of bowl--and stir frequently until smooth.) In three additions, add remaining cream to chocolate mixture. Cool briefly, then chill until needed.

About 1-1/2 cups sauce

For Pears:
Wash and dry fruit; set aside. In 10" diameter heavy-bottomed skillet, combine water, sugar, and lemon peel. Over high heat, stir often until sugar is completely dissolved. Add vanilla bean or cinnamon stick; bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover skillet; simmer this poaching syrup for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Peel pears. Cut in half vertically. Remove core, stem, and any blemishes. Place pear halves in skillet, cut side down, with narrow end facing away from center. Pear halves should touch as little as possible. Return skillet to medium-high heat. When syrup begins to simmer, reduce heat and cover skillet. Simmer pears, adjusting heat as necessary, just until tender (this will depend upon type, size, and ripeness; I have had poaching times range from 10 to 20 minutes). Begin testing pears after 5-8 minutes of simmering by piercing in thickest part with toothpick or cake tester. When pears are done, tester will go all the way through them, meeting little resistance. Try not to test more than necessary, as testing leaves holes. Do not overcook, or pears will be mushy. When pears test done, remove skillet from heat. With slotted turner, carefully remove pear halves from skillet; place in heatproof, nonreactive casserole or container just large enough to hold them in a single layer (I use a porcelain souffle dish). Pour hot syrup over pears. Cool until warm, basting tops of pear halves with syrup occasionally. Chill until needed.

For Serving:
Lightly sweetened whipped cream or good vanilla ice cream

To Serve:
For a classic "Poires Belle Helene", warm the chocolate sauce in a small heatproof bowl over hot water on low heat, stirring often just until pourable and at room temperature. Make a small pool of chocolate sauce on the bottom of a medium dessert plate with a slight rim. Place one or two pear halves on the sauce, then add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Drizzle a little more sauce over the pears. You can substitute lightly sweetened whipped cream for the ice cream, if you wish. To get fancier, slice pear halves vertically into thin strips, then place strips in a sunburst pattern on the chocolate sauce, and place the scoop of ice cream in the middle of the design. 2-6 servings, depending on number of pears and number of halves used per serving


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