Champagne Poached Pears with Salted Caramel Sauce and Cinnamon Puff Pastry
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Cook time: 
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Serves: 6 Servings
Today we have an added bonus: this is actually three separate recipes in one. You can poach pears all by themselves and be happy as a clam. They are delicious on salads or, what the heck, drizzle them with melted chocolate! You can make caramel sauce to use on any number of things, from ice cream to apple pie, and puff pastry squares brushed with butter and dusted with cinnamon sugar is a happy accompaniment to any fruit or ice cream related dishes you can imagine. But put them all together in one spot and they sing the Halleluiah Chorus. The salted caramel sauce is spiked with just a hint of brandy and slides down those pears poached in sweetened champagne or any other favorite liquid, landing on a pillow of puff pastry that is crisp on the outside and flaky on the inside. See what I’m talking about??? Swooning and eyes rolling to the back of your head are to be expected.
  • 6 pears, ripe but still firm (preferably with stems still attached)
  • 1 bottle of champagne (or white or red wine, or apple juice, or white grape juice, or cranberry juice, etc. What we’re going for here is flavor, and in the event you choose a red wine or red juice, color. Choosing a red liquid will turn your pears either dark burgundy or light pink or red, depending on the liquid you choose). It’s all about what you like, so go crazy and get creative if you aren’t in the mood to use up a bottle of wine or champagne.
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon PLUS and additional 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice for soaking the pears before poaching
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Plus, enough water to cover the pears once they go into the poaching liquid
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons Dark Rum, Brandy, Bourbon (optional)
  • Caramel Sauce Adapted from The New Ark Cookbook
  • I sheet of frozen puff pastry
  • Approximately 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • Approximately 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (to make your own cinnamon sugar, mix ½ cup granulated sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon. If you are a big cinnamon lover, just add a little more until it looks right to you – I’ve seen some recipes that use a ratio of 1:4, but you’d need to be a cinnamon fanatic for a mix that strong.
  2. To prepare the pears:
  3. First, fill a large bowl with cold water and add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  4. Using a sharp paring knife, peel each pear, starting at the top of the pear and peeling down to the bottom. Don’t worry about it if you leave a little pear peel around the stem – we aren’t getting that fancy here.
  5. Place each pear in the lemon water after peeling.
  6. When that part is done, it’s time to core the pears: One by one, pull each pear out and slice off the bottom ¼ inch or so of the pear. Using a melon baller or a sharp spoon, scoop out the seeds STARTING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PEAR. Go slow and you’ll be fine – you’ll probably have to scoop up about 2 inches or so before you get all those seeds out. The aim here is to remove the minimum amount of pear and the maximum amount of seeds, so patience is key. Once that’s done, pop the pears back into the lemon water until it’s time to poach. This will prevent the pears from turning dark while they’re waiting.
  7. To prepare the poaching liquid:
  8. In a 6-quart Dutch oven (or some other pot close to that size), pour the champagne or whichever poaching liquid you’ve chosen, then add the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla. Bring the mixture to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes or so, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  9. To poach the pears:
  10. One by one, lower each pear into the poaching liquid. When all the pears are in, add enough water to nearly submerge the pears. Sometimes the pears will remain upright in the liquid, and other times they will topple over, which is what usually happens to me. Don’t sweat it – the goal here is to make sure the pears are evenly cooked on each side. This can be accomplished by gently turning them over in the water once or twice while they are poaching.
  11. Get those pears poaching at a simmer – this means small bubbles on the side of the pan. You can put a lid on the pan as long as you keep it offset a little so you can keep peeking in there. We don’t want to boil these guys because we don’t want to overcook the fruit or get it all mushy, so keep your eyes peeled to make sure the heat doesn’t get away from you.
  12. Pears will probably be done poaching in about 10-15 minutes. To make sure they’re done, slide a sharp paring knife into the thickest part of a pear. It should slide right in as easy as you please. When the pears are done, remove the Dutch oven from the heat, and GENTLY place the pears in a separate dish (I use a pie pan which seems to be just about right). Here’s a trick to getting those guys out of the poaching liquid without yanking out the stems: Grab a slotted spoon and slide it under the pear, then gently grab the stem with your other hand and lift the pear out of the liquid, using the spoon as the main muscle in this endeavor. You are just holding on to the stem at this point so the pear is balanced and doesn’t go flying off onto the floor.
  13. Allow the pears to cool, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you’re ready to use them.
  14. Congratulations!! You did it!!
  16. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.
  17. Whisk in the flour and dark brown sugar and stir together until the mixture is hot and has blended well with the butter.
  18. Slowly stir in the whipping cream and cook over medium heat until the mixture boils. Allow to boil for one minute to cook off any raw flour taste.
  19. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and alcohol.
  20. Trust me – you are going to eat this the minute it comes off the stove. It will look and smell amazing, but if you value your taste buds, please wait a few minutes or you will burn them off….but it might be worth it.
  22. Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions.
  23. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  24. Pull out 1 sheet and pop the rest back into the fridge for another use.
  25. Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry sheet into thirds along the fold line, then cut each of these three pieces into three equal pieces. You will have three pieces left over for snacking when all is said and done.
  26. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place each square of pastry on the sheet. Give them some room to expand. They won’t get much wider, but they will get a lot taller.
  27. Using a fork, prick each puff pastry piece several times. This tactic will prevent lopsided expansion once they get into the oven.
  28. Lightly brush each piece of pastry with melted butter, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  29. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown on top – this takes between 10-15 minutes depending on your oven.
  30. Remove from the oven and set onto a cooling rack to cool.
  31. TO SERVE
  32. Per serving: Carefully split a piece of puff pastry in half.
  33. Place a poached pear on top of one of the halves of pastry. Place the other half of the piece of pastry on the plate – you can lean it against the pear if you want to get fancy.
  34. Drizzle the pear with as much of the warm caramel sauce as you want. Dive in!!! you can use the other half piece of pastry to scoop up more sauce, place a bite of pear on it, or whatever you want. This is called interactive dining!!
Recipe by Bird's Nest Bites at