When it comes to entertaining, anything that can be made ahead of time is a big bonus. If the ingredients are flexible, even better. And by that I mean, if it can be made gluten free or dairy free or vegan then I can keep the same menu no matter who is coming and adjust on the fly depending on allergies and preferences.
Poached pears happen to be relatively inexpensive to make and they can be fancied up or dressed down for more casual affairs. This is a kid friendly version but if you’re only entertaining adults, than it can be made with red wine. Yum.
The hazelnut shortbread is entirely optional. If you have someone who is following a grain free diet, they can still enjoy this beautiful dessert without the cookie and still not feel deprived. Even better!
There’s 3 parts to this recipe, (so though it seems like a lot, the whole thing comes together in less than 30 minutes) the pears (of course), the cookie (optional, dairy free and gluten free version to be provided) and the Sweetened Honey Cream (dairy free options to be provided), but all of it can be made in advance. In fact, the pears taste better after sitting in their poaching liquid for a few days (and they will keep for up to 5 days), so make them ahead of time and enjoy a little less stress on the day your guests arrive.
So all this goodness in one recipe and I’m not finished yet. The reason I love this recipe so much is that not only can I reduce the syrup further and have it on hand to make fancy cocktails, I can also triple the recipe for the cookies and have cookies on hand too! They freeze great and so you can pull them out in a pinch for a festive treat with hot chocolate or chai tea.
Heck, you could even make ice cream sandwiches out of the extra cookies. Try it with dulce de leche ice cream (hello deliciousness). Or make extra pears and make a tart out of the extras so you can have 2 desserts in one. Take individual sized cooked tart shells, put a tablespoon of creamy goodness in the shell and a sliced poached pear on top. So easy! Ohhhh I could just go on and on but I hope this has spurred your imagination about the possibilities of this beautiful, yet simple dessert, and it’s many variations.
- 6 tiny Sequel pears (or try it with Bosc, Conference or Winter Nellies. They all work well. Bartletts not so much)
- Poaching Liquid:
- 4 cups water (adult version: 3 cups red or white wine and 1 cup water)
- 1/2 cup each honey and sucanat or turbinado (or 1 cup of your sweetener of choice)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anis (optional)
- 3 cloves(optional)
- 8 peppercorns (optional)
Peel the pears. Leave whole or quartered and core. Mix all the ingredients for the poaching liquid together and place it in a medium sized pot. Add the peeled pears. Take a piece of parchment paper and cut it into a circle to fit the inside of the pot (this will ensure that the pears stay submerged or covered with steam so they don’t turn brown. Cut a 1 inch circular whole in the middle to allow the steam to escape and some of the water to evaporate. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 to 25 minutes. Test with the tip of a sharp knife for doneness. Once the knife is met with no resistance, the pears are done. Remove from heat, allow to cool and place the pears in their poaching liquid in the fridge until ready to use. You can gently warm up the pear in their liquid, to serve warm, but that is optional.
makes 6 large cookies (or 12 small cookies) or triple the recipe for a full batch
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts
- 1/3 cup butter (dairy free or vegan: use coconut oil)
- 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
- 2 Tbsp Honey (vegan:use 3 Tbsp maple syrup, agave or sweetener of choice)
- 1/2 tsp real vanilla
- 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (use a gluten free ones if necessary or quinoa flakes)
- 1/3 cup of whole wheat pastry flour (sprouted whole wheat is best for ease of digestion if you have it. For gluten free: use a gluten free flour mix)
Using a food processor (I actually used a hand emulsion blender) and process the hazelnuts until finely ground. Set aside. Beat the butter, maple syrup, honey and vanilla until fluffy (it won’t get as fluffy as it would when using sugar). Add the oats and flour until combined. Put the cookie dough in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm (I only chilled for the 10 minutes it took to heat the oven and it worked out fine).
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scoop 2 Tbsp (1 Tbsp for small cookies) of cookie dough, roll in a ball or use a cookie scoop. Roll the dough in the ground hazelnuts and flatten to make a 2 1/2 inch wide cookie and place on the parchment paper. Bake for 11-12 minutes (10 minutes for the smaller ones). Allow the cookies to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Sweetened Honey Cream
It really is the best thing since sliced bread, so I so hope you’ll try it. If you’ve read The Secrets To Making Any Meal Taste Amazing (which is part of our program The Whole Food Jump Start), you know that sourness and sweetness are good friends and compliment each other. Which is why sour cream works so well here. But I also love this recipe because no real measurements are required. It’s essentially sour cream with honey, maple or sweetener of choice to taste. You can then add a little brandy or vanilla, cinnamon or anything you like to compliment the dessert you are serving it with. No beaters, cold bowls, measuring cups or fussing. Just mix, taste, adjust (if need be) and serve.
- 1 cup sour cream (vegans: Coconut Whipped Cream or 1 1/2 cups soaked cashews with 2Tbsp water, blended until smooth)
- 1/4 cup raw honey or maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp of Orange Brandy (optional)