I’m on a whole-fruit-as-dessert kick. There’s just something so elegant and simple about serving a piece of fruit in its whole and natural state, lightly sweetened and topped with nothing but a bit of ice cream or creme chantilly. After those Baked Apples with Lemony Brown Butter syrup a few weeks ago, I was dying to do something with pears.
Flipping through Donna Hay’s Flavors (yes, again) I found my source of inspiration: Pears poached in sugar syrup with a pinch of saffron. The saffron not only adds a lovely flavor but also an orange tint to the syrup that stains the pears ever so slightly, giving them a deep, golden glow.
I invited some friends over for dessert after we ate dinner at our favorite restaurant last week and served these pears topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with a spoonful of the poaching syrup. Divine!
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 whole vanilla bean
4 bartlett pears, ripe but still firm
Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, and saffron in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the liquid, then add the scraped bean to the liquid, too. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Meanwhile, peel the pears carefully leaving them whole with the stems intact. Carefully lower the pears into the simmering liquid and simmer, turning occasionally, until the pears are soft and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pears from the liquid and set aside. Remove the vanilla bean. Bring the remaining liquid to a boil and boil until reduced by about half to a thick syrup. Serve the pears warm with the syrup, with a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream if desired.