This is the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving dinner. It can be made days ahead, doesn’t require any oven space and is decadent with flavor, but light enough to follow your Thanksgiving feast. The poaching liquid is homemade chai; a blend of sweet spices and black tea. A drizzle of chocolate ganache gussies up the dessert and makes it look like something you fussed over, even though this is one of the easiest desserts to create. No one needs to know that!
Be sure to pick firm, unripe pears for poaching. The harder the pear, the longer it will take to poach, which means it has more time to soak up the flavors of the chai. Slow poaching is key to great flavor.
10 cups water
1/4 cup black tea
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods, lightly cracked
3 whole star anise
1-inch fresh ginger, sliced into 1/8-inch coins
2 cups sugar
8 to 10 small, firm pears
For the Ganache:
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
In a large pot, combine the water, tea, and spices, bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. Cover the pot, turn off the heat and let the chai steep for at least 30 minutes, or you can leave it overnight. The longer you leave the tea to steep, the stronger the flavor will be. Strain the liquid and discard the tea and spices. Add the sugar and bring to a simmer.
Peel and core the pears.
Add them to the poaching liquid and bring to a gentle simmer.
Slowly poach the pears, turning them on occasion to make sure all sides are equally cooked. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how low the heat and how firm your pears.
To check for doneness, stick a skewer in the bottom of the pear, through the thickest part of the fruit. It should go into the flesh easily. If the pears are not the same size, you may need to take the smaller ones out before the larger ones.
Set them to drain and cool on a piece of parchment or wax paper. If you are not serving right away, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Once the pears are removed continue simmering the liquid until it is the consistency of thin maple syrup. This can be drizzled on the plate when you serve the pears, or poured over pancakes.
To make the ganache:
When you are ready to serve the pears, heat the heavy cream in a small pot, until simmering. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and butter. Let them sit for 2 minutes then gently whisk them together. Let the mixture sit until it is cool enough to cling to the pears. Spoon the ganche over the pears.
Zoë François, author of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day, studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She now calls Minneapolis her home, where she has worked with some of the top talent in the culinary world — Steven Brown, Andrew Zimmern and many chefs at the D’Amico company. In addition to writing, Zoë teaches baking classes and consults at restaurants. You can find her writing and recipe creations on Devour, on her baking blog, zoebakes.com and on the site, www.breadin5.com.