There is nothing quite like a pear. They have less acidity and tartness than apples, though not quite the heady bouquet of quince (although, pears are at least edible raw), but still a floral enough perfume that their kinship to roses comes as no surprise. They take incredibly well to spices like vanilla, be it poached or roasted with sugar and butter, or cinnamon similarly. Ground ginger and cardamom do a fine job with this fruit, too—my Ginger & Cardamom Asian Pear Hand Pies prove it. Alas, of all the pairings (get it?), my favorite is a richer, darker, more sinister one—something with some guts to it. I’m talking about chocolate.
I have been obsessed with the combination of chocolate and pears since my first encounter with it. It might sound like a strange pairing but it’s a classic one, going back to the divine Poire belle Hélène where pears are poached in sugar syrup and served warm with vanilla ice cream before being adorned with luscious chocolate sauce. The roasted, slightly bitter, slightly winey tastes of chocolate highlight the sweetness of pears, making every divine bite of the fruit taste as ethereal as it truly is. If a classic belle Hélène doesn’t appeal to you—bite your tongue—there are countless cakes, tarts, pies, loafs, scones, and, yes, even jams that celebrate this combination.
But what is there for those of us that, let’s say, have nights where they’d rather throw open the freezer door, pull out a carton ice cream, and just dig in—no poaching necessary. Sure, there’s always canned or jarred pears, but I’m talking about grabbing the carton and heading straight to the coach or bed… adding a touch more class to this haute cuisine. I thought about streaming a pear puree into vanilla ice cream, swirling in chocolate sauce of course, or even adding chunks of the fruit to a chocolate ice cream but, after all, the important part of the belle Hélène is the poire. Enter sorbet.
It’s incredibly simple to make and the taste you get first and foremost is pear. The pears get poached in barely simmering water until totally and completely soft before they’re peeled and cored. I use some of the poaching liquid, having been infused with the essence of pear, to make the sugar syrup. All there is to do is chuck it all in the blender and puree it until totally smooth, obviously adding in a bit of chocolate at this stage. Chill it and churn it, and you’ve got an incredible sorbet that screams pair and whispers chocolate.
Best of all, it’s as good eating with company at the dining table as it is after a long day in bed. Just FYI.
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|1 Quarts (Approx.)||10 minutes|
|Cook Time||Passive Time|
|25 - 30 minutes||8+ hours|
- 2-1/2 pounds anjou pears (about 4 - 5 pears, depending on size)
- 5 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 cup sugar
- Small pinch instant espresso powder
- About 2 quarts water
- 1/2 t-spoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons pear liqueur or pear-infused vodka
- Small pinch kosher salt
- Place the unpeeled pears in a pot, about 5 quarts in size, and pour over just enough water to cover the pears. Place it over medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer and let it stay there for about 25 – 30 minutes, until the pears are incredibly tender.
- Once the pears are soft, remove them from the pan and plunge them into a bowl of ice water. Peel and core them, then set aside.
- Either discard all but 1 cup of the poaching water, or reduce down to a cup—this will take some time, though—before stirring in the sugar and simmering to dissolve it. Let it come to a slight bubble, then set aside for a minute while you carry on.
- Roughly chop the pears and add them to a blender. Pour in the warm sugar syrup, salt, liqueur, vanilla, and espresso. Sift in the cocoa (yes, sift) and then blend. Start at a low speed and work your way up, letting it run for a few minutes at the end to make sure it’s totally smooth.
- Transfer to a storage container and stash in the fridge for 4 – 6 hours, until completely chilled. Churn in an ice cream maker per manufacturer instructions—mine takes about 20 – 25 minutes—after which time transfer it back into a storage container and retire to the freezer for a final chill—about 2 hours.
- Let the sorbet soften for about 5 – 10 minutes on the counter before serving.
- If your ice cream maker uses a vessel that needs to be frozen, be sure to put it in the freezer several days in advance. If it's not COMPLETELY frozen the sorbet will never set and churn, and just go slushy.
- Anjou pears work best for this because they soften beautifully but still give you some of that mealy texture that make pears so great. Bartlett pears would work equally well, but don't use boscs—they're far too firm and won't yield a smooth sorbet.