Sauteed Pears with a luscious chocolate ganache sauce - this is a dessert to impress, stunning in its simplicity. Only 5 ingredients are needed to make this fantastic fruit dessert. You can even use the grill, instead of sautéing! (Skip to recipe.)
Thanks to California Pears for sponsoring this post so I could share this lovely pear recipe with you and tell you about one of my favourite summer fruits.
Biting into a juicy pear, the sweet nectar dripping down my chin and onto my wrists; that's one of my happiest childhood memories. The sun is beating down, filtering the world into a hazy silver hologram. My toes are filthy in my flip-flops, and my grass-stained bare knees are stinging. In the distance, grasshoppers chirp their never-ending song and a cow moos lazily.
Oh, to be seven again, when the summer stretched ahead of us forever and my sisters and I lived outdoors from dawn til dusk. We'd climb trees, roll in the tall grass, and run through the meadows. Whenever pangs of hunger threatened to interrupt our grand adventures, we'd stop playing long enough to grab a piece of fruit that mom handed out as we ran by. In addition to apples, our small farm near Chilliwack, B.C. had a couple plum trees, a walnut tree, and a pear tree. That pear tree was my favourite - producing those luscious, juicy, golden fruits. In late summer my mother would dry bushels of them, laying rows of aromatic pear halves out on screens set on sawhorses to dry in the sun. Within days they'd go from ivory-coloured juicy ovals to golden-brown leathery ears of sun-kissed fruit; the sweetness of a tree-ripened pear distilled into a few chewy bites.
Here in northern Alberta, we can only grow a few prairie-hardy varieties of pears, which sporadically produce fruits that are more like rocks than real fruit. They make a good juice if you simmer them for hours, but as for biting into a beautiful ripe pear with that honeyed nectar dripping down our chins - we have to look southward.
Luckily for us, the sweet, buttery Bartlett pears from California are just coming in to season. They're only available for several weeks in July and August (before the Canadian pear season, which comes in late August and September). California pears help extend our North American pear season so we can enjoy the fruits earlier and for longer. I love that California pears are grown on about 60 small family farms which are leaders in pest control, fertilizer reduction, and sustainability. You know you are getting a superior fruit grown as naturally as possible.
Look for the California Bartletts in your local supermarkets. I found these luscious beauties in the organics section in my grocery store. Pears are one of the few fruits that don't actually ripen on the tree, but need time for the sugars to develop after picking. Pears are hand-picked when immature and the fruit ripens over subsequent weeks. So buy them green, and ripen them in a bowl on the counter for four to six days until they are golden. They should be relatively firm, but give a little when pressed gently. Once Bartlett pears are golden and ripe they should be refrigerated to preserve their ripeness, and eaten within 3 to 5 days.
I love that California pears contain antioxidants and are a good source of fibre, and a source of vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid. Pears are in the top 10 fruits for fibre content, containing a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibre, with a total of 6 grams of fibre in a single pear. Maybe we should change the old saying to, 'A pear a day keeps the doctor away'. Plus, one pear is only about 100 calories! Pears are the ideal healthy summer snack.
Or the ideal decadent dessert.
I've loved cooking since I was a kid and had tons of fun experimenting for my family. My mom owned only one cookbook - an old edition of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook - and I often prepared the 'Pears Hélène' recipe from it. It was for sauteed pears with a chocolate sauce made from cocoa powder. I made the recipe with mom's canned pears and felt so sophisticated and elegant cooking this fancy schmancy dessert (the nuts and whipped cream weren't even part of that early version). The original recipe, created by August Escoffier in honour of the opera La Belle Hélène in 1864, uses poached pears, but I love the rich flavour of pears browned in butter - and it's so much simpler and quicker than poaching them.
Sauteed pears with chocolate sauce are always a hit, never failing to elicit drooling oohs and ahhs from guests. Warm, aromatic, buttery pears are the perfect foil for a rich dark chocolate sauce. The crunch from toasted nuts finishes off this trio of textures and delectable flavours.
I still love making this easy dessert now. With a two-ingredient chocolate ganache sauce you can have it on the table in no time at all. You can make it all ahead, or zip into the kitchen and sauté up the pears quickly while your guests are enjoying coffee after dinner. You can even grill the pears on the barbecue if you've already got it heated up for grilling your meal!
This is simple elegance on a plate.
For more information and recipes, visit www.calpear.com or try using delicious California pears in the recipe links at the end of this post.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: California Bartlett pears work beautifully for this recipe - they are sweet and juicy - but I've also made it with Bosc pears, Anjou pears, and Red pears (all grown in California), and any of them are fantastic.
This recipe makes more chocolate sauce than you'll need, but it's hard to make a small enough amount without burning it (unless you use the microwave - then you can halve the amounts for the sauce ingredients). The sauce will make enough for up to 8 servings. However, I'm sure you'll have no problems using up extra sauce; refrigerate it for up to two weeks. Use it as a spread for toast, or warm it slightly and serve over ice cream or cake, drizzle it over porridge or pancakes, or stir some into warm milk to make hot chocolate or into a latte to turn it into a café mocha. The chocolate ganache sauce also freezes well.
To make ahead: Toast the pecans ahead. Make the sauce ahead and just rewarm it slightly before serving. Sauté the pears just before serving, while you are clearing away the main course dishes.
A squirt of whipped real cream from a can is a quick cheat if you don't want to whip up a small amount. (I won't tell.)
gluten-free, for a dairy-free option see below
- ¼ cup (30gms) pecans (or hazelnuts)
- ½ cup (120ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
- ½ cup (80gms) semi-sweet chocolate chips or your favourite dark chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 large pears, firm but just ripe (California Bartlett pears work beautifully here)
- whipped cream for serving, optional
Toast the pecans in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until they become fragrant and golden. Allow them to cool, and chop them coarsely. Set them aside. (This can be done ahead.)
Make the chocolate ganache sauce: Pour the cream into a small saucepan, and heat it over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir constantly until the chips are melted, then keep stirring occasionally until the chocolate ganache sauce is cool. It will look slightly grainy at first, but become thick and smooth as it cools. Allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving, until it becomes thickened. If it rests too long, it may become too thick to pour; just reheat it for a few seconds and stir, and it will become thinner again.
*Or, you can melt the cream and chocolate together in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat it in 20 second intervals, stirring after each one, until the cream is hot. Remove from the microwave and continue stirring until smooth.
Sauté the pears: Peel the pears and cut them in half. Remove the cores and ends with a melon baller or paring knife; leave the stems on. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. When it is bubbling, add the pears, cut side down. Cook for 5 minutes, until the bottoms are golden and caramelized. Turn the pears over, turn the heat to low, and cover the skillet with a lid or overturned plate. Cook for 5 minutes more, until the other sides are caramelized, too, and the pears are soft.
*Grilling option: Peel and cut the pears. Dab the halves dry with a paper towel if they are particularly juicy. Brush all sides of each pear half with melted butter. Grill, cut sides down, over medium heat on a barbecue with the lid open for 5 minutes, until you have nice grill marks. Then turn the pears over, reduce the heat to low, close the lid of the barbecue, and grill the pears for 5 minutes more, until they are tender.
To assemble: Put one sautéed pear half, cut side down, on each plate. Drizzle with about one tablespoon of chocolate ganache sauce, leaving some of the pear showing. Add a dollop of whipped cream if you wish, and sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans. Serve warm.
*Dairy-free option: Sauté the pears in a bit of coconut oil or olive oil. Use full-fat canned coconut milk instead of the whipping cream. (Shake or stir the coconut milk before using, to incorporate all the cream from the top.)
Serves 4, but this recipe makes enough sauce and nuts to serve up to 8 - just increase the amount of pears you use. Use ½ of a large pear per serving, or serve 2 halves per person if the pears are small. Leftover chocolate sauce and nuts are great to use for other purposes (see notes above.)
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