Gastronomy  Easy dessert: poached pears in coffee and vanilla
06/10/201700:00 Mad About Macarons

It’s pear season! Let’s prepare one of France’s most popular fruits for a perfectly elegant yet dead easy no-bake dessert: poached pears in coffee and vanilla!

Slice of History
Although the pear first appeared in central Asia, it wasn’t until the 16th Century that the pear arrived in France. Louis XIV spread its fame by challenging his gardener, La Quintinie, to grow several varieties of them in his vegetable and fruit garden, the Potager du Roi in Versailles. Today, the most popular varieties are Comice, Conference, Williams, Guyot, Bosc, Anjou, and Beurré Hardy. In Versailles you’ll also see Bon Chrétien, Crassane, Robine, Rousselet. Other varities often come with more intruiging names, such as the Fondante de Brest, and – oh-la la – Cuisse-Madame, whose shape is named after the shape of a woman’s thigh.

French Pear Expressions
The voluptuous pear even makes its way into French expressions, such as “Couper la poire en deux”, meaning to split the difference or come to a compromise by meeting someone half way. With two teenagers, I’ve occasionally caught myself uttering a more familiar expression while pointing to the forehead admitting, "je suis une bonne poire. I say this when I’ve been a bit naïve, too generous and basically a mug for being taken for granted.

These last couple of weeks, pears have been blushing as the latest stars at our local French market, located just outside Paris. Many of them are ripe and juicy, excellent for eating with a lump of cheese, in savoury-sweet salads, or simply sliced for dessert leaving their juices running down every chin.


However, the majority of pears on sale are rather firm to brick-like. Leaving them to ripen in the fruit bowl, there’s many a time I lose patience and cook them just before they’ve reached that succulent stage – the perfect time to poach pears.

A Perfectly Light, Quick & Versatile Dessert
Poached pears can look rather daunting to make but they’re simple and quick to prepare. I’ve replaced the French classic recipe of poached pears in red wine and spices with a completely different combination of coffee with vanilla. Stronger flavours are great for poaching pears, as you don’t want them tasting or looking like something straight out of a tin!


As it’s light and healthy, serve this dessert as plain or gourmande as you like: either with a scoop of ice cream; top with an express crumble of Speculoos (Biscoff) biscuits or chopped nuts; serve them Poire Belle Hélène style topped with hot chocolate sauce; or simply serve with your favourite macarons for a touch of Parisian chic.

The Recipe: Poached Pears in Coffee & Vanilla
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20+20 minutes

Ingredients needed
150g (5oz) sugar
1 litre (34 fl oz) water
1 vanilla pod/bean, cut lengthways
2 tbsp ground coffee granules
4 large firm, slightly under-ripe pears (e.g. Conference, Comice, Williams)

The how-to
1. Boil the sugar with the water, vanilla and coffee in a heavy based casserole dish or saucepan with a lid. Once boiling, turn down the heat.
2. Peel the pears and cut them in half horizontally. I left the cores in for the photos, but it’s best to scoop them out from the bottom and leave the stalk on for presentation.
3. Place them in the syrup, ensuring that they’re completely covered, and poach them over a gentle heat with the lid on for 20 minutes.
4. Take out the pears using a slotted spoon, and set them aside in a large bowl. Boil up the coffee syrup for about 20 minutes until slightly thickened and reduced by half. Pour over the pears, leave to cool then chill in the fridge for two hours.

When ready to serve, remove from fridge 30 minutes beforehand to serve at room temperature.

Speculoos, hot chocolate sauce and coffee: these can be used as your ingredients or as garnish in the recipe!

Tip: I usually place any leftover coffee syrup in a jam jar, sealed in the fridge for up to 5 days. Gently re-heat it and pour over ice cream.

Variation: Add the seeds of 4 Cardamom pods, a couple of cloves, or a cinnamon stick to the coffee poaching liquid for something more festive and spicy.

This recipe can be prepared in advance, as they store well in the fridge for 3-4 days in their poaching liquid.

This article was originally published in, written and curated by Jill Colonna. Jill is the author of two recipe books, Mad About Macarons and Teatime in Paris, both of which focus on French patisserie and have been reprinted several times.
Bonjour! I’m Jill Colonna, a Scot whisked to Paris in 1993 by my French (Corsican) husband and for the past 25 years have become smitten with the French life. Other than my blog, I’m author of two patisserie recipe books, "Teatime in Paris" and "Mad About Macarons". Join me in my Parisian kitchen to make easy, healthy recipes with my own twists from family meals to simple entertaining à la Française - and come travel with me on delicious discoveries of gourmet treats from Paris and around France!

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