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Spiced Poached Pears With Warm Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Poire Belle Helene

If you read this from France or are an expat anywhere in the world, you’re probably looking at this picture and thinking "Oh! Helene made Poire Belle Helene!" and move on to the rest of the post. If you had never had such a dessert and read a title like this, you’d think I’d blown a fuse by naming a dessert after myself. And as if that weren’t enough, adding the adjective "belle" to describe it all. Hmmmm….No.

I did not come up with name, heck I did not even liked the dessert this much until in my late twenties! Auguste Escoffier created the Poire Belle Helene in 1870, naming it after one of Offenbach’s operette, La Belle Helene. Yes. 1870. Makes me wish Escoffier had had a blog in 1870. Or a twitter account. I bet his updates would be of the most delectable kind. Seriously.

Forelle Pears

This is probably one of the core desserts of French cuisine. At least of bistros and restaurants when I was growing up. Funny thing is that I never did make much of it though because it bears only half my name. Indeed, I was born and baptized Marie-Helene like some are named Marie-Louise or Jean-Luc. However computers here in the States don’t seem to recognize hyphens and cut my first name in half. If I was going to be halved somehow, at least I’d get to pick which one, darn it. So I’m Helene. Except when I am in trouble, ehehe!

So, there is part of the little story. Or at least part of the reason why I never really appreciated Poires Belle Helene until well into my twenties. Why this late? I have an aversion for fruits and chocolate combined. There, I said it! I love nuts and chocolate. I love lemon and chocolate. I used to hate all fruits with chocolate. My most least favorite pairing was orange and chocolate. My less least favorite (!) was pear and chocolate.

Poire Belle Helene

There is something about the soft fragrance of pears that plays well with chocolate and either brings it forth and mellows it just so. Poached pears and hot chocolate sauce especially. They like each other, it’s obvious. They’re not sure on who should lead though and artfully play that up. And much like two people attracted to each other, poached pears and hot chocolate sauce are kind of the ultimate in sexy when it comes to dessert.

It’s the only fruit – chocolate pairing that enthused me this much. Add a good scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and the combination hot chocolate, cold vanilla, soft fruit just has me weak in the knees. There are indeed moments of bliss to be experienced with the simplicity of certain flavors, textures and temperatures. Poire Belle Helene is just that. Hot and cold, creamy, crunchy, soft. We did a few "hmmmm" and "aaaahhhs" with the first spoonfuls. I even caught one of my friends sashaying her hips around the living room the night we shared these for dinner.

Poire Belle Helene

Poire Belle Helene won’t bring on World Peace but I guarantee it’ll make everyone at your dinner table a tad bit happier inside…It won’t cure whatever ails you but it won’t give you a brain freeze. It will just super activate all your senses…

Tiny Forelle pears make it remarkably easy to plate and portion out but you can use any of your favorite pear variety. As I have three major deadlines all coming to a clash for November 1st, this dessert has been the easiest thing to fix myself for a little midnight reward. That’s my sly way of saying "I know I suck big time at posting right now and wait, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It might get worse!…"

Please send chocolate…

Poire Belle Helene

Poires Belle Helene – Spiced Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

Serves 6

For the poached pears:
6 Forelle pears (or other small-ish pears)
2 tablespoon mulling cider spice mix
juice of one lemon

For the chocolate sauce:
4 oz semisweet best quality chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon honey

For the ice cream:
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 cup (200gr) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

Prepare the pears:
Place the pears, spice mix, lemon juice and enough water to cover them in a tall saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat and let them simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the pears are just soft (poke with a toothpick to check).
Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and allow to cool on paper towel or baking rack.

Prepare the sauce:
Place the chocolate in a non reactive bowl and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan set over medium high heat, bring the cream and honey to a strong simmer. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes then slowly stir until the mixture comes together.

Prepare the ice cream:
In a large saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, and sugar. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the inside with the tip of a knife. Add that pulp (the seeds) to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let steep as it cools to room temperature. Refrigerate, preferably overnight. Strain if desired.
Process the mixture into your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s intructions.

To plate: ice cream + poached pear + warm chocolate sauce.

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Stephanie October 23, 2010 um 10:30 pm

10 seconds after getting your tweet I am online salivating over your post!! Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

Rosa's Yummy Yums October 23, 2010 um 11:59 pm

Those shots are stunning! What a delicious dessert.



Jessica @ How Sweet October 24, 2010 um 1:47 am

You had me at chocolate sauce. Beautiful.

Chelsea October 24, 2010 um 3:02 am

What an interesting combination! I never would have thought chocolate and pears. I can't wait to try them myself!

Unknown October 24, 2010 um 3:16 am

I totally understand about what should not be paired with chocolate. I would never think of putting pears and chocolate together.

SweetSavoryPlanet October 24, 2010 um 4:25 am

Those pears look so lovely and delicious. I have a bag of small pears on my counter as we speak. And this recipe is so easy.

Lovely photos.

Jane Bonacci October 24, 2010 um 6:29 am

I typically think of red wine-poached pears, but this is an unexpected treat. Thank you!

Sasa October 24, 2010 um 6:33 am

Oh Helene, tell me your secret! I'm a total heathen and don't enjoy fruit and chocolate together, nor cheese and fruit and I try and try but cannot enjoy wine…Is there hope for me yet? ;P

Paula October 24, 2010 um 7:55 am

what a great combination! I love pears with chocolate sauce

have a nice time,

Anonymous October 24, 2010 um 8:30 am

Love pear and chocolate together!

Jessie October 24, 2010 um 8:51 am

oh i love the pictures! especially the one with chocolate being poured onto the pear! totally salivating over this entry! looks so delish 😛

shaz October 24, 2010 um 10:35 am

Ah, what a beautiful name Marie-Helene! I apologise for the countless times I've anglicized your name further to Helen, oops. This is one of my favourite desserts(even though I'm not the least bit French). Then again, I like fruit and chocolate, especially chocolate dipped strawberries 🙂

Anonymous October 24, 2010 um 11:00 am

i read you from France! and thanks for this beautiful post on one of the most successful desserts from our delicious country! thanks also for this great explanantion of the origins i didn't know! love your blog, love the photos, you're a star!

bunkycooks October 24, 2010 um 1:15 pm

I have enjoyed this dessert many times in the past and forgot about it will all of the baked pear desserts and pear tarts. Thank you for reminding me just how wonderful it is and simple to prepare.

Deeba PAB October 24, 2010 um 2:26 pm

Gorgeous pairing, and gorgeous pictures. Just beautiful!

quintessence October 24, 2010 um 2:32 pm

This is a dream dessert for me. I used to live in Switzerland and this was a very popular dessert that I remember fondly! Yum!!!

Fran October 24, 2010 um 2:36 pm

Oh my goodness. The shots of the chocolate sauce being poured over those delicate-looking pears make me want to dive head-long into my computer.

What a fabulous combination and beautiful contrast.

Sally – My Custard Pie October 24, 2010 um 3:02 pm

How do you make everything look so breathtakingly delicious, elegant and beautiful. It cheers me up looking at these pics – Recipe bookmarked – a must.

mouni October 24, 2010 um 4:59 pm

tout simplement superbe!

Gen October 24, 2010 um 5:28 pm

Elle est très belle cette Poire Belle Helene! Un vrai dessert gourmand et toujours aussi savoureux!

Anonymous October 24, 2010 um 5:54 pm

Oh these look so lovely! And they make me think of Christmas. I for the longest time thought poires belle helene was a Norwegian dessert because we had them for dessert after our traditional Norwegian Christmas supper. We called them paere bell helen, though :).

La Tartine Gourmande October 24, 2010 um 5:58 pm

Plein de souvenirs goûteux, même si comme toi, pendant longtemps, le dessert ne m'attirait pas autant que d'autres.

Kelly-Jane October 24, 2010 um 6:54 pm

A classic, yum. Good luck with your deadlines!

Luisa Morón October 24, 2010 um 7:08 pm

Esto se ve delicioso. Bss.

Sally Pasley Vargas October 24, 2010 um 7:23 pm

Helene, There is something about the old-fashioned French classical desserts that moves me–they are steeped in a comforting tradition. I am not French, but formed my connection to France as a French major in college and then later through a dear friend and mentor who taught me to cook. Profiteroles, cafe Liegeois, even a really good creme brulee send me into sighs of happiness. Thanks for the reminder of yet another memory-stirring dessert and lovely photos.

Stephanie October 24, 2010 um 8:19 pm

I am reading you from Paris! Bonjour!
Lovely post and photos. I will make this for my next dinner party.
Thank you for the inspiration.

erica October 24, 2010 um 8:59 pm

What a delicious combination of flavors and what beautiful presentation! I couldn't wait to make this, so I was glad I had vanilla ice cream, some homemade pear compote, chocolate sauce, and chopped toasted almonds already on hand in the house 🙂 I'd love to try the "real thing" out sometime though, it would be a great dinner party dessert!

Alexandra October 24, 2010 um 9:42 pm

decadence at it's best!
The last photo with the chocolate sauce is soo screen lick worthy! Magnifique!

Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] October 24, 2010 um 10:16 pm

I live in France and have never tried this – Quelle horreur! Must change this immediately…

Emily October 24, 2010 um 10:45 pm

Yes is right. Wow! I'm going to have to break away from my pear pie fixation and give this a go. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Your photography is my favorite in the blog world – absolutely stunning!

Heidi – Apples Under My Bed October 24, 2010 um 11:10 pm

I loved reading this – lovely, playful words 🙂
They "pear" (read:pair) so well together! Poires Belle Helene – lovely name, too.
Heidi xo

Chocolate Freckles October 25, 2010 um 1:14 am

This treat is not only gorgeous but I can just imagine how amazing it tastes!! Thanks for posting this great recipe so we can all try it!

gfs October 25, 2010 um 2:27 am

oh my, love the shot of the pears, so rustic, but gorgeous! My man was salivating when I read out the title and has instructed me that this is what I have to make with the pears sitting in our fruit bowl!

maryeats October 25, 2010 um 2:43 am

i also have a hyphenated name, mary-elizabeth, but most computers and auto fill forms rename me maryelizab. My mother and teachers were the only people to use my full name (i was always in trouble!). your photos look beautiful! can't wait to try!!

Soma October 25, 2010 um 3:05 am

We LOVE wine poached pears and so far I have been poaching them with spices in red wine, just for the hue. But now as I see the chocolate sauce, it surpasses all beauty. This one is for the next time I do the wine poached pears.

barbaraT October 25, 2010 um 8:35 am

Hi! I LOVE the small bowl and plate in the last pic. where did you get it?

Anonymous October 25, 2010 um 10:16 am

Haven't eaten this in a very long time, and as a few others have said, pears poached in red wine have become a staple for me…but hmmm going to have to try this one again soon. Thanks 🙂

The InTolerant Chef ™ October 25, 2010 um 11:30 am

Thw tiny size of these pears make the desssert look extra sweet, Yumm…

The Teacher Cooks October 25, 2010 um 1:30 pm

This is absolutely beautiful! I want to be your neighbor please!

Helene October 25, 2010 um 2:28 pm

Barbara: they are from Heath Ceramics.

Susan October 25, 2010 um 2:40 pm

I adapted this recipe by drying my pears and then dipping half of it into decadent chocolate.

Rocky Mountain Woman October 25, 2010 um 3:48 pm

Breathtaking photos!

I'll save this for the dozens of fruit baskets with lovely pears I always get around Christmas…

Julia October 25, 2010 um 6:09 pm

Wow. I love pears. Some cardamom or ginger in the poaching liquid would pair nicely with the chocolate. Even saffron might be lovely. Yum.

Julia October 25, 2010 um 6:14 pm

P.S. I can't send any because I'm not in Portland (OR) myself, but some of my favorite chocolates ever are from Sahagun. The salted cardamom caramels from LA Burdick aren't half bad either. Hope you find some delicious ones to pull you through that deadline of yours!

emily October 25, 2010 um 6:46 pm

These photographs alone are stunning!

matt October 25, 2010 um 6:47 pm

absolutely stunning. your composition and lighting just flaw me every time. And the food? WOW.

Denise Michaels – Adventurous Foodie October 25, 2010 um 6:47 pm

One dessert that's quintessentially Parisian I've had in the City of Lights and made at home is a Pear Tart with an almond flavored custard nestled around the neatly arranged pear slices. No chocolate in that one. But if you hum a few bars… *wink* Just pear, silky almond custard and the flaky crust. It has such an amazingly mellow, easy taste – I could just keep on eating. The chocolate here really kicks it up a notch.

Helene October 25, 2010 um 7:02 pm

Denise: yes, it is a very typical dessert on its own and called a tarte "Bourdaloue".

Amy October 25, 2010 um 11:02 pm

Yum…yes, they're easy and I bet super delish! I know what to reward myself tonight after working long hours! 🙂 Good luck on your deadlines!

Julie October 25, 2010 um 11:39 pm

The photo of the pears in the bowl, on the burlap, is breathtakingly beautiful. I thought "how could a pear look more lovely" and then I saw it in its cloak of chocolate…

Aldy October 26, 2010 um 3:03 am

Hi Helene, What a Delicious Dessert! I love Poached Fruit especially Pears. Great combination of flavors.

Lovely Pics,

Have a nice day, Aldy.

Aldy October 26, 2010 um 3:04 am

Hi Helene, What a Delicious Dessert! I love Poached Fruit especially Pears. Great combination of flavors.

Lovely Pics,

Have a nice day, Aldy.

spicyicecream October 26, 2010 um 5:50 am

This is stunning! Absolutely gorgeous photos, as always. I can't wait until next autumn in Australia so I can make this 🙂

tori October 26, 2010 um 7:54 am

I almost reached out a finger to try and swipe a lick from the screen. They look just achingly beautiful

Lan October 26, 2010 um 5:14 pm

One of your pictures just took me back to my childhood! There was TV commercial in France where chocolate was slowly being poured over a poached pear…I can almost smell the chocolate from here.
Beautiful pictures, Helen!

dining room table October 27, 2010 um 12:52 am

Oh my! This is lovely! The photos made me crave for some pears right now.

Teresa October 27, 2010 um 1:37 am

Pears and Chocolate…Simple and Beautiful!!

TannyP October 27, 2010 um 3:52 pm

This looks divine! My only question – how much water should the pears be poached in? I think I missed that somewhere and it's not in the recipe.
Thanks for another yummy recipe.

Patricia Scarpin October 27, 2010 um 5:09 pm

Helen, I have tried lemon with chocolate, but only white – I have got to try it with dark, too!
I love the idea of this dessert – pears and chocolate, double yum! Beautiful,sweetie!

Notes from Holly St. October 27, 2010 um 9:07 pm

this dessert looks like perfection!

Ana Sofia October 28, 2010 um 2:35 am

I have to try these right away! And the pictures are beautiful as always.

amanda@seegirlcook October 28, 2010 um 4:00 am

these look absolutely decadent. lovely blog and gorgeous photos!:)

Lisa Ho October 28, 2010 um 5:31 am

Lovely dessert… and always look forward to your post and lovely photos… Thank you 🙂

rahel October 28, 2010 um 11:13 am

Dear Helene- I like this desert a lot- but like you it took me some time. We had this (or versions of it) a lot on winter-sundays. Your pictures are fabulous!
The "kids-friendly" version we liked: halfs of pears, poached and spiked with almond-sticks, so that they look like hedghogs and served with vanillia ice-cream…. mmmhhh.

pinky black October 28, 2010 um 2:04 pm

chocolate and pear? pears and chocolate? perfect combination! plus the soothing vanilla ice cream? real heaven! can't wait to try this and let my taste buds be tickled.

Alexandra October 28, 2010 um 5:38 pm

Oh my God!!!
It looks amazing, I don't even want to think about the taste!!!
5 star desert:)

The Short (dis)Order Cook October 28, 2010 um 6:36 pm

Poached pears are one of those desserts that I find can be boring or delicious depending on how they're done. These look like they're definitely on the delicious side. I don't know if I've ever seen them with chocolate. I like the idea though.

Oddly enough I was in Paris for the first time two weeks ago and trying to remember poached pears on menus. I probably never thought to order it, always thinking profiteroles and creme brulee and chocolate mousse. Now I realized I should have branched out!

Unknown October 28, 2010 um 7:51 pm

Love this, H. But then again, I am a fan of fruit simply prepared. 😉

Bakingdom October 30, 2010 um 1:44 am

Your food is always absolutely mouthwatering. But it's your photos that just blow me away! And this particular recipe and its photos are, by far, my favorites ever!

You are my idol! I hope that I can eventually be even half as good at photographing my recipes as you are!! I also hope very, very much that there will be another Food & Light Photography Workshop (hint, hint)!!! I'll definitely be there!

Thank you for the inspiration!

Anonymous October 31, 2010 um 4:47 pm

I stopped eating chocolate half a decade ago, but this post definitely makes me want to start again . . . Mmm… looks absolutely delectable!

Sara November 1, 2010 um 12:26 am

I am SO JEALOUS of all your pretty dishes, Helen! Not to mention that the recipe looks wonderfu!

Myriam @ Detours November 2, 2010 um 8:31 am

Oh my God, these Poire Belle Helen look utterly delicious!! I want some!

Soma November 9, 2010 um 12:53 am

I made these almost right after you posted it. could not resist myself. Posted mine today. Thank you for a wonderful recipe.

Aga May 31, 2012 um 12:41 pm

I saw this dessert in your book (wich I won in food-photography competition). I'm getting married and our parents will meet soon for the first time – I'm gonna do the Poire Belle Helene for them!

Margherita December 16, 2012 um 6:30 pm

Just made these for lunch: amazing!
It's one of the best thing I had in months for dessert.
Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe.

Margherita December 16, 2012 um 6:30 pm

Just made these for lunch: amazing!
It's one of the best thing I had in months for dessert.
Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe.

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