This is such a happy looking dessert and it promises to be as delicious as it looks.

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 I do like poach pears. Quite evident isn’t it? This is my third recipe for them. They are easy to eat and light on the tummy especially after a heavy meal. Truly, who can think of eating a cake or a pie after a meal of indulgence? I like to save those rich desserts for tea or as a diet killer after a paltry meal of poached chicken salad.

If you are thinking of substituting water for the alcohol, don’t bother. I tested that out for you.  It simply lacks the oomph of pears poached in alcohol and if you have had any kind of fruit poached in some kind of alcohol before, you can definitely taste the difference here and will be disappointed. Additions of cardamons, lemon peel, etcetera to make up for the alcohol won’t be the same. Stick to alcohol in this recipe. If you must, try instead a mix of alcohol and water.

The Yellowest Saffron Poached Pears

Prep: 15 minutes 
Cook: 20 minutes to 1 hour depending on how ripe pears are.
Inactive: Soak the saffron threads overnight for the best intensity of flavour and colour.
Level: Easy
Makes: 10 halved pears
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Pears can be poached up to 5 days ahead. Cream can be mixed a day ahead.

Ingredients

Pears and poaching liquid
5 ripe but still firm pears*
1 bottle (750ml) dry/sweet white wine
OR
a mix of water and wine to your preference
3/4 cup sugar**
1 generous pinch (~1/4 teaspoon) saffron threads
1/4 cup of water
1 tiny pinch of tumeric powder***
3 – 4 segments of a star anise*
The cream
1 Tablespoon caster/icing sugar
Few drops of vanilla extract
To be mixed with any of these options:
(1) 1/2 cup Mascarpone and 1/2 cup heavy cream
(2) Use either all mascarpone or all heavy cream
OR replace cream with
Vanilla ice cream
Other toppings
zest of 1 large lemon (optional)
Edible flowers/leaves for decorations (optional)**
* Bosch, Anjou or Comice keeps its shape better but other varieties will also work.
** You might need more/less depending on how dry your choice of wine is.
*** Helps to intensify the yellow colour without the taste of tumeric (that is, if you don’t add more). Add less than more, colour will deepen with poaching and storing. Omit if you don’t have it.
* Gives it a subtle earthly flavour. Using too much tips the balance of flavours.
** I used basil flowers as I had them in my garden. Substitute with a sliver of fresh herb like basil (nothing too overpowering) or just leave them out. Once I rummaged through my vegetable drawer and found some watercress. I picked off the leaves and used that. You never know what you have if you don’t look.

Ingredients for poaching pears.

Method

Preparing saffron, pears, poaching liquid and making a cartouche
1. To get the best flavour and intensity of colour, soak the saffron threads in 1/4 cup of water the night before.
2. Peel, half and core the pears as I have done (refer to the process in the image above).
3. Set the pears, flat side down. The cooking vessel should fit all the pears in one layer. Add all the poaching liquid ingredients and if the pears are not submerged, add water to cover.

4. To keep pears under poaching liquid, make a cartouche. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit your cooking vessel. Cut a few small holes to allow steam to vent through. Place over the pears.

Poaching
1. Bring to boil. Once liquid comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer pears. It could take 20 – 60 minutes, depending on the choice and ripeness of pear.
6. To test if they are ready, slide in a cake skewer, if it slides in like it was going through soft butter, it’s done. Turn off the stove and let it cool there completely before transferring into the refrigerator with the poaching liquid to chill completely (keep parchment paper over pears).
7. Keeps well up to 5 days. The flavours will become more intense and the pears will get sweeter.
8. There is no need to boil the poaching liquid into a syrup. It is good as it is and reducing it to a syrup will make it too saccharine sweet.

The cream
1. Mix the mascarpone and heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla. Don’t over mix or it will get lumpy. Anyway, even if it did turn lumpy, it’s no big deal, it will still taste good. If not using straight away, cover and refrigerate. Can be made a day ahead.
2. If only using heavy cream, add the sugar and vanilla and whip to soft peaks. Don’t over whip or it will turn into knobs of butter. This too can be made a day ahead.
3. If only using mascarpone, add sugar and vanilla and mix in. May be put together a day ahead.

To serve
1. Transfer pears (drain off poaching liquid) to serving vessel(s).
2. Strain the poaching liquid.
3. Drizzle poaching liquid over pears.
4. Dollop prepared cream over or to the side of pears.
5. Wedge the edible flower/leaf on cream.
6. Grate lemon zest directly over pears.
7. Transfer remaining poaching liquid into a pretty pouring jug for diners to help themselves. Similarly, any extra cream should be put out at the dining table. Serve quickly.

Tips

Take with you to a potluck
This is a good dish to take to a potluck. Not only can it be made 5 days ahead, your fellow diners will be quite pleased that it won’t be yet another cake that they would be having for dessert. Quite simply, transfer pears to portable serving vessel, strain poaching liquid over them and cover the vessel. Cream can be whipped in advanced and transferred into a heavy duty plastic bag. Take to host’s place and refrigerate. Before serving, snip corner off the bag and pipe cream onto pears.

Besides these Saffron Poached Pears, I also like:
Coffee Poached Pears Scented With Orange, Cinnamon and Cloves

Moscato d’Asti Served With Yuzu Mascarpone

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

Seriously, this is the simplest, simplest dessert and very wonderful to eat. Dried prunes marinated and plump up in alcohol a night before or weeks ahead! Serve with store bought vanilla ice cream. No one would believe that there was practically no effort involved.

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