If you like warming desserts on a cold winter night, these gently poached pears in an aromatic red wine spice reduction, served with a simple mascarpone-vanilla mousse and garnished with a wafer thin baked macadamia caramel crisp, is an elegant dessert recipe for any family get together or when entertaining guests!
This dessert may sound or look intimidating but it's actually really easy to make! Just follow our step by step recipe and in no time you will realise how simple it is to make an elegant and eye catching dessert like Spice poached pears with mascarpone in your own kitchen!!
Poaching pears is something every Chef learns in culinary school but it might not be a dessert that makes it to their restaurant menus as some consider it too simple a technique. But when you garnish the poached pears with different flavours and textures, it makes a dessert I would happily serve in my restaurant.
This dish definitely looks a million bucks so make it ahead for your next dinner party! No one needs to know just how easy it is to make😉
How to poach pears
Poaching pears means gently simmering pears submerged in a flavoured liquid (mostly red or white wine) . This will take a bit of time so plan ahead. Once the pears have been peeled, cover in red wine, spices and sugar and simmer for about 25 minutes.
I find, you get the best flavour and color of the poached pears, when they are left to cool down in the cooking liquid itself. As we are poaching pears in red wine for this recipe, we are looking for a dark red vibrant colour on the surface whilst the centre is white.
Make a few extra pears to keep in the fridge! They are delicious to eat with granola and yoghurt for breakfast.
Which pears to use
Spice poached pears in red wine is an autumn/winter recipe. In this season, pears are in their best shape so when choosing pears for this dish, shop for firm but ripe pears.
My choice in Australia are bosc pears as these are easily available during the season, are naturally sweet and firm. But if you cannot find bosc pears where you live, then Anjou pears will work well too.
And If you opt for a more sour variety, then just add more sugar to the poaching liquid.
Choosing the spices
The spices are the flavour bomb in this recipe! They play an important part in the final dessert and make the dish stand out. The whole spices are added to the cooking wine so that they release their flavours while poaching.
Below is a list of spices I used:
- 2 cloves
- 2 star anis
- 8 cardamom
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 3 lemon peels
AS A NOTE: you can add more spices and change the flavours. Ginger, vanilla, orange peel or rosemary are some great options but try not to add too many flavours as they can overpower the pears.
Which red wine is best for cooking?
Firstly, don't bother buying an expensive red wine as the spices and sugar will ruin the wine! Look for a red wine with lower tannins and less acidity. I chose a shiraz (syrah) as it has a peppery flavour profile and blends well with the spices.
Merlot or cabernet merlot are good choices too.
AS A NOTE: If you use a red wine for poaching pears that you also like drinking, then that's a win-win!! You don't want to use a wine that you otherwise don't enjoy drinking!
How to make a cartouche
What is a cartouche?
A cartouche is a French term used in cooking which consists of a parchment paper, folded in a certain way to cover food while cooking.
Why is a cartouche important?
Well, if you cook ingredients that normally discolour if they are not emerged in a liquid you should use a cartouche to prevent that.
How to make a cartouche?
Time for some art and craft! To make a cartouche you need:
- Parchment paper
Take a square piece of parchment paper, the size of the pot you are using to cook the pears in. Next, fold the parchment paper a few times until it resembles a cone (refer to images below). Now, snip the pointy part of the cone with scissors and shape the other side into a moon shape.
When you open the parchment paper, you will be left with a round disc with a hole in the centre. Place that paper on top of your pears and leave it on while cooking. The hole will let the steam release and the paper will prevent the pears from discolouring.
Poaching the pears
When your pot is ready with the pears, poaching liquid and spices, cover it with the cartouche and bring to a boil on high heat. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Check the doneness of the pears, with a skewer or small kitchen knife. If they are soft, remove the pot from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the cooking liquid.
Once the pears have cooled down, strain the cooking liquid into a small pot. We will reduce this liquid on medium heat to a syrup like consistency as we will use it to dress the dessert.
AS A NOTE: To check the consistency of the syrup, do a test by swirling the hot syrup with a spoon on a flat plate (That's how we Chefs do it in the kitchen). Keep in mind, a syrup gets thicker when it cools down so during the test when the syrup falls on the cool plate, it will give you an accurate consistency.
But if you find that the syrup is too runny, then reduce it further until it is thick though make sure not to over reduce it otherwise it may become too thick and sticky.
How to make macadamia brittle tuiles
Tuile is the French word for tile and means a thin wafer or biscuit used to decorate desserts. To make this macadamia brittle tuile you need to follow our recipe for macadamia brittle first.
Now mix the macadamia brittle in a food processor. Pass the brittle through a fine sieve over a bowl, we will use that powder falling through to make the tuile.
Use a ring or make your own ring (like me) by cutting out the centre of a yoghurt lid (its all about improvising lol). Place the ring on a baking mat or a parchment paper if you don't have one. Sprinkle the macadamia brittle into the hole forming a tuile.
Bake the tuiles in a pre heated oven at 180 degrees for 5-10 minutes and leave to cool on a cold kitchen surface for a few minutes. Remove the tuile with a knife or thin metal spatula to transfer to a plate.
AS A NOTE: if you make the tuiles in advance, store them in a airtight container at room temperature.
Cut the pears in half and remove the core with a melon baller. Remove the bottom part of the pear with a knife. In a bowl mix the mascarpone with vanilla essence and grated lemon zest.
Serve in a dessert plate
Place a bit of the mascarpone on a dessert plate. Now place one half of the pear with the inside facing up on top of the mascarpone. We do this to keep the pear from sliding in the plate. Now add a spoon full of mascarpone on top of the pear.
Place the other half of the pear against the pear on the plate, with the skin side facing up. Forming something like an open oyster shell. Pour the poaching reduction over the pear and swirl some around the plate with a spoon. Finish the dessert with the macadamia brittle tuile, elegantly resting on the mascarpone.
Serve in a dessert bowl
The wine syrup is absolutely delicious!! I can drink the syrup just by itself so don't be surprised if your guests want to do the same😂 Serve the spice poached pears with mascarpone in a bowl with a generous helping of the syrup as you anyways might have plenty left. This will be a great way of using it all up😉
Other ways to use poached pears
- In a salad: Slice up these poached pears to add to a simple salad made with rocket leaves in a mustard dressing or a vinaigrette. Add some chopped walnuts and garnish with blue cheese.
- On a cheese platter: Make gourmet looking canapes with these sliced poached pears. Top with blue cheese and add a drop of the wine syrup (if you have any left!)
- As a winter pavlova: Serve poached pears with whipped cream on a meringue. Garnish with chopped nuts of your choice and decorate with a swirl of the beautiful wine syrup
As elegant as they are delicious, Spice poached pears with Mascarpone are a great finish to any dinners, dressy or plain.
You can make the poached pears ahead of your dinner, just cover and refrigerate them in their cooking syrup. You can serve them chilled or at room temperature.
If you enjoyed making this recipe and you want to try some more gourmet style desserts, try our Pina Colada Panna Cotta with Lime and Pineapple and Caramel Pots with Poached Pears These desserts are sure to wow your guests!!
Spice poached pears with mascarpone
- 4 pears bosc or anjou pear
- 1 lemon
- 2 clove
- 2 star anis
- 10 cardamom
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 500 ml red wine shiraz or merlot
- 300 ml water
- 100 g caster sugar
- 300 g mascarpone
- 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
- 120 g macadamia brittle
for the poached pears
- Prepare a bowl with cold water. With a peeler remove about three stripes of lemon peel from the lemon. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl of water.
- Peel the pears and submerge them in the lemon water to avoid them from discolouring.
- In a small pot combine the pears, red wine, 300ml of the lemon water, whole spices and sugar.
- Cover with parchment paper (cartouche) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the pears are cooked.
- Check with a skewer or small knife the softness of the pear. The skewer should go through easily but the pears should not fall apart. Remove the pears from the stove and allow to cool down at room temperature.
for the wine syrup
- Strain the cooking liquid into another pot. Place on high heat and reduce the liquid to ⅓rd or until it turns into a syrup like consistency.
- Test the consistency by swirling onto a plate. If it seems runny, reduce further until desired consistency is reached. Be sure not to over reduce otherwise the syrup will be too think and sticky
for the mascarpone
- Grate the zest of the other half of the lemon into the mascarpone. Add vanilla essence and combine well. Keep in the fridge until its time to plate up.
for the macadamia brittle tuile
- In a food processor mix the macadamia brittle turning it into a fine crumble consistency. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl and keep the remaining crumbs for garnish.
- Use a 60mm pastry ring or cut a ring from a yoghurt lid. Place the ring on a baking mat (or parchment paper) and create a thin layer of the macadamia crumble in the ring.
- Remove the ring before placing the baking mat in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees. Bake for 5-10 minutes until the tuile starts browning lightly. Place on a cold kitchen surface and let it cool down for a few minutes. Keep aside or store in an airtight container if made in advance. These are delicate so handle with care
for plating up the dessert
- Cut the pears in half and scoop out the core with a melon baller. Slice one half of the pear with a knife lengthwise to make resemble a hand fan.
- Put a small amount of mascarpone in the centre of a plate. Place a pear on top with the inside facing up. Add a spoon of mascarpone on top of the pear and sprinkle some macadamia brittle on top. Add the other half of the pear with the fan cut and place against the mascarpone (resembling an open oyster shell).
- Pour the reduce cooking liquid over the pear and around and garnish with the macadamia tuile.