Being an aspiring cook in a perpetually dieting household is a daunting task. Particularly calorific dishes will inevitably be vetoed, griped about, and, in some cases, even looked upon with apprehension.
The people I cook for aren’t the only ones, though; most of us are, in some way or another, looking to cut away calories where we can. So after planning a full course dinner that was already perhaps heavier than necessary (I subbed half and half for heavy cream wherever I could, though, I promise!), I decided I needed to go light on the dessert. Instead of my usual pastries, I came up with something a little bit more sophisticated: poached pear with a spiced caramel sauce.
It’s an easy dish that can be for the most part kept on the back burner (literally!), and is a refreshing way to clear the palate after a wide variety of meals.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.
Time: Active: 10-15 minutes
Inactive: 30-40 minutes
- For Poached Pears
- 4 oranges or 1.5 – 2 cups orange juice
- 1 lemon, halved
- 8 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 6 firm-ripe pears (Anjou are recommended)
- For Caramel Topping
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 whole clove
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 3 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts
1. Zest the oranges unless you’re using juice only; a zester is preferable (for obvious reasons) but a vegetable peeler can be used if necessary. Juice the oranges and the lemon halves into a pot, and add the lemon halves, zest, water, and 2 cups sugar.
2. Peel the pears with stems attached and add them to the pot. Simmer 25 to 35 minutes (here’s that back burner part I mentioned!), or until just tender, and cool in liquid.
3. Put 1/2 cup white sugar in a small pot and sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Melt them over medium heat without mixing until the white sugar is nearly melted, then begin to stir occasionally until the mixture is a deep golden color.
4. Pour in the cream (which will result in some crazy fizzing, bubbling, and then hardening), then stir in the clove, cardamom pods, fennel, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks.
5. Simmer, stirring, until the caramel dissolves completely and the sauce has reduced to about a cup; about 10 minutes.
6. Pour the sauce through a strainer and let it cool until warm.
7. Drain pears and pat dry, then transfer to plates. I found that slicing them first resulted in a more even coating of the caramel and nuts. Serve drizzled with sauce and sprinkled with chopped nuts.
And now that you’ve made it to the end, I have a little secret for you: not only is this sauce amazing on its own, but it has the potential to go with a lot of other desserts. I’ve tried it on apple and raspberry tarts, and even found that it could spice up an old sopapilla!
So have fun with your light dessert, and let me know if you come up with any caramelly creations of your own!
Thanks for reading,