Pears and chocolate were meant to go together and this favorite childhood dessert fills me with nostalgic longing. It’s also really easy to make.
Pears have always been one of my favorite fall-winter fruits, probably because the pear tree in our garden had a shorter fruiting season than the Bramley apple tree which provided an abundance of fruit every year, causing us kids to complain “Oh, not apple crumble again?”
With our pears it was always about timing; we’d try and gather the juicy golden fruit before the wasps got to them. As a result, I learned how to deal with wasps without getting stung which comes in handy from time to time.
Mum usually made a thick chocolate custard to pour over the poached pears – a comforting treat for a small child. I’ve upped the sophistication level here and this simple chocolate sauce recipe is not only elegant and intensely chocolatey, it’s also versatile and can be eaten hot or cold.
I used a ginger liqueur in this version because pears go particularly well with ginger and chocolate – but you could use Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, etc., depending on what you intend to pour the sauce over (cake, ice cream and so-on).
A scattering of chopped up crystallized ginger or stem ginger in syrup over the pears just before serving would also be lovely.
This sauce will keep, covered in the fridge for about a week and it solidifies when chilled. Just heat it gently to return it to a runny state – a brief spurt in the microwave works. It has a thicker pouring consistency when served at room temperature.
You can also poach the pears the day before. Just leave them to cool in their poaching liquid then cover and transfer them to the fridge.
This makes a lovely dinner party dessert, especially when served in pretty individual dishes and I promise it will generate lots of ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs’.
POACHED PEARS with a CHOCOLATE GINGER SAUCE
1 pint (600ml) of water
3 oz (75g) of fine sugar
The pared rind & juice of 1 lemon
6 ripe but firm pears (Bartlett or William)
For the chocolate sauce:
3.5 oz (100g) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 oz (25g) of unsalted butter
5 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of ginger liqueur such as Domaine de Canton (or Cognac, Amaretto, etc)
Start with the pears –
Carefully remove the zest from the lemon and put it in a saucepan (big enough to hold the pears) along with the water, lemon juice and sugar – bring it to a boil and reduce to a simmer once the sugar has dissolved. Save half a lemon, see below.
Leaving the stalks intact, peel the whole pears, rub them with the lemon half and place them in the pan with the syrup. Simmer, covered for about 10 minutes, turning them around once. As soon as the pears are tender, take the pan off the heat and allow them to cool in the syrup.
Once they’re cool, carefully scoop out the core from the base using a small spoon. You can discard the syrup and transfer the pears to a bowl, keeping them upright if possible. Cover and chill them in the fridge for 1-2 hrs or overnight.
To make the chocolate sauce, put the chocolate, butter and water in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t come into contact with the water. Stir until the chocolate melts and everything combines to make a glossy sauce, then stir in the liqueur. Transfer the sauce to a small sauce-boat/jug and serve it warm or at room temperature.
To serve, create a small puddle of chocolate sauce in the bottom of each individual serving dish then stand a poached pear in the middle. Carefully pour a couple of spoonfuls of sauce over the pear.