It’s arts-and-crafts time when you wrap fragrant poached pears in dough. It's fun fashioning stems and leaves, and you will create an elegant dessert that is nutritious, low in fat, and celebratory. Create a healthy new holiday tradition this year. Even little ones can get involved with cutting out shapes and brushing on glaze.
The pears are poached in dessert wine and spices. The unfussy dough mixes up quickly. Sweetened with chestnut and mesquite flours, the dough is scented with nutmeg and vanilla, and tenderized with steaming hot sweet potato.
After baking, decorate the plate with reduced poaching syrup, garnish with a dollop of homemade soy crème fraiche, and you are in for a treat!
Plant-based, whole grain, gluten-oil-sugar-salt free.
Prep time 50 minutes Bake time 40 minutes Makes 12-14 pear halves
Very fine strainer
Natural bristle brush to apply glaze
4-4 ½” circular cookie cutter, pot lid, or empty can
Foil-lined parchment paper
For Crème Fraîche
12” by 12” square of muslin
6-7 ripe pears, any variety, washed, cut in half lengthwise, cores and stem removed
Hint! Pears, notoriously, are often rock hard in the shops. They ripen over 3-4 days and then begin to overripen, so plan ahead. Select fruit that are of a similar size and ripeness.
1 ½ cups sweet dessert wine like a tokaji, sherry, madeira, port, or for less sweetness use half sweet vermouth
½ cup water
3 allspice berries
1 stick Ceylon cinnamon
1 vanilla bean
Zest from ½ organic orange
Hint! Most of the alcohol will burn off in the oven, but if you wish to avoid it, substitute with frozen fruit juice concentrate (e.g. apple, pomegranate, grape).
½ cup Italian chestnut flour, plus a bit for dusting the board
½ cup mesquite flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
3 Tablespoons arrowroot
3 Tablespoons golden flaxseed, freshly ground
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup date paste from 1/3 cup pitted dates, any variety
1 cup hot sweet potato pulp, microwaved or baked until very soft
Hint! You can purchase mesquite and chestnut flours online and in specialty shops. Italian chestnuts are harvested and milled in early autumn and hit the market soon thereafter. Buy your chestnut flour in October or November from this year’s harvest. Keep them both fresh and sweet by storing the flours in a zip-lock bag in the freezer.
Hint! This recipe will likely make more dough than you need to encase the pears. If so, you can use it to make my Blueberry Spice Thumbprint Cookies.
½ carton frozen apple juice concentrate, reduced
Poaching liquid, strained and reduced (optional)
2 cups soy yogurt will produce 1 cup of crème fraiche.
Make the Crème Fraîche
Spoon the yogurt into a square of muslin. Gather up the sides and tie with string, Hang the bag over a bowl or over the sink and allow to strain for two hours to thicken. Transfer to a storage container and set aside in the fridge.
Make the Poaching Liquid
Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C
Add the wine(s), and juice (if using instead), and water to a medium pot. Add the cinnamon and allspice.
Split the bean lengthwise with a sharp knife. Using the back of the knife, scrape the bean and add the tiny vanilla seed paste to the poaching liquid. Then toss in the pod casing as well.
Using a paring knife to cut strips of orange zest, thin enough to avoid the bitter pith. Add to the pot.
Bring to a boil and cook for a minute.
Place the pear halves, face side down, in a pyrex or stainless roasting or baking pan. Pour the poaching liquid over the pears, covering the fruit halfway up their sides. Cover tightly with parchment-lined foil. Poach in the oven for 30 minutes. Test for doneness. A knife should pierce the pears easily. Set aside and allow the pears to cool in the liquid. Remove the pears and set aside, covering them to prevent them from drying out.
Using a fine strainer, strain the poaching liquid and return it to the pot. Reduce the liquid about 50%, until it thickens to a light syrup.
Make the Glaze
Empty the apple juice concentrate into a saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes or until it reduces sufficiently to lightly coat the back of a teaspoon. The glaze will continue to thicken as it cools. Make it sufficiently thin to easily brush on. If need be, thin with water. Apple glaze will keep in the fridge for several weeks or can be frozen.
Combine the poaching reduction with the apple juice glaze. Use the apple reduction alone if you prefer an alcohol-free glaze.
Make Date Paste
In a nonmetallic bowl cover dates with water and microwave for 2 minutes or simmer on a stovetop for 5 minutes. Cool. Blend both the fruit and soaking water in a high-speed blender until very smooth.
Make the Dough
Combine all dry dough ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the vanilla, date paste, and sweet potato, piping hot from the oven or microwave. Run for 1-2 minutes or until the dough gathers into a soft, pliant, moist ball. If it fails to gather because the mix is too dry, add a bit more sweet potato pulp and try again. If the mix is too wet, add a bit more flour.
Wrap and Bake the Pears
Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C
Very lightly dust the board with chestnut or mesquite flour. Start with half the dough, keeping the other half wrapped in plastic and covered with a cloth to keep moist and warm.
Roll the dough out 1/8” thick. Cut out circles with your cutter. Roll the edges of each dough disk a bit thinner.
On a baking tray, lined with parchment paper, place the poached pears with their cut sides down.
Place a disk of dough over each half, using your hands and/or a teaspoon to press and fit the dough tightly around the pear’s form.
Make stems with a small piece of dough. Using an actual leaf or working freehand, use a paring knife to cut out small dough leaves. Use the back of a butter knife to indent the leaf dough to suggest leaf veins. Bend the leaves decoratively. Brush them with a little glaze on top and bottom, affix the stem and leaves onto each dough-clad pear.
Brush the pears with a coat of glaze.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove. Reapply glaze. If the leaves and stems are becoming too dark, relative to the rest of the pears, cover them with parchment-lined foil, and return them to the oven.
Baked for another 20 minutes or so, checking every 10 minutes for doneness. The pears are done when they are uniformly lightly toasted on their edges. Don’t overbake or the crust may begin to crack.
Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a cooking rack. Apply a final coat of glaze.
Serve warm or reheat for a few minutes in a warm oven for 10 minutes.
To plate, spoon a little glaze on the plate or transfer to a squeeze bottle and apply a glaze zigzag to the plate. Top with one or two pear halves. Garnish with a dollop of soy crème fraiche.