Poached pears are both simple and elegant at any time of the year. This dessert would be a great way to finish a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. The poaching liquid is very fragrant due to the combination of orange zest and spices. The pears can be poached and filled in advance as they keep well in the refrigerator. Try to find pears that are close to ripe and that still have a stem on them which will make for a prettier presentation.
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Prepare poaching liquid by combining all ingredients (except pears) in a medium saucepan.
Peel pears, leaving stem on. Using an apple corer or a paring knife, carefully remove core and seeds from the bottom end of the pear. Place pears in poaching liquid and place on stove over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the ripeness of the pears). The liquid will not totally cover the pears so gently spoon liquid over the pears and turn once to ensure they cook evenly.
After 15 minutes check for doneness by gently inserting a sharp knife into the bottom of the pear. If it goes in very easily, the pears are done. Turn off heat and gently remove pears from liquid. Allow to cool before placing in refrigerator.
Strain poaching liquid through a fine sieve. Return to stove and allow to simmer gently on medium to low heat until the liquid is reduced by half and thickened slightly. At this point, turn off heat completely and allow sauce to cool.
Chop dried cranberries. Place in a small bowl and pour over just enough orange juice to cover. This will slightly flavour the cranberries and allow them to plump.
1/2 Cup Mascarpone cheese (or softened cream cheese)
2 Tbsp Dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/2 Tsp Finely grated orange zest
2 Tbsp Icing sugar
1/4 Tsp Vanilla
1 Tsp Grand Marnier
Using an electric mixer, cream the mascarpone cheese in a mixing bowl. Beat until cheese is smooth and free of lumps. Beat in icing sugar, orange zest, vanilla and Grand Marnier. Strain cranberries. Reserve 2 tsp of orange juice. Add cranberries and orange juice to cheese mixture and mix until just combined.
Once pears have cooled they may be filled. Using a piping bag (if you don’t have a piping bag, use a plastic sandwich bag and cut a small hole in the bottom corner), fill the bag with the cheese filling. Gently pipe into the bottom of the pear until full. Repeat this step with all the pears. At this point, the pears can be placed in the refrigerator until serving. They may also be kept overnight.
To serve, place one pear in the centre of a dessert plate. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on the side. Spoon the reduced poaching liquid over the pear. Garnish with a mint leaf for extra colour.