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Saffron And Vanilla Poached Pears

Saffron & Vanilla Poached Pears

It has been really hot and muggy in the last week or so, nothing unusual in our area but we all took it as the usual sign of upcoming rain and thunderstorms. I don’t mind hot and I don’t mind rain, I actually don’t mind hot rain…I dislike the few hours before the sky falls open. The dogs seem to pair up and want out every thirty minutes although they just stand there noses up to the air.

Three days a week I work almost completely from home so they "know" that they will be taken out, played with, petted and loved all this in between cracking a few many eggs and rolling out pastry dough. I get up early and start baking or writing depending on what has not been done the day before and they lie around, right outside the kitchen. When the smell of the coffee brewing reaches their snouts, they suddenly jolt up and want out. Out of the five households in our little custer around the curve, 3 of us work from home while looking over kids or animals. It is not unusual for us to be in our yards, still in our jammies sipping coffee and making sleepy small talk.

Except this morning. This morning was one of those morning you want your entire body to feel, your entire soul to take in. You want mornings like this to enter your pores and breathe inside you for as long as you can take it. This morning, I felt the dew under my bare feet. Not the one you want to capture when you know the day is going to be blistering hot, no, it was harsh and delightfully unsettling. This morning, I felt goosebumps along my arms and legs, and a whiff of cold air brought the feeling of a season trying to change. The dogs started bumping around the yard, excited by all these new scents and sensations. I started taping my feet in the dewy grass, knowing full well it would be another couple of months before we’d get another morning like this, all chilly and wet, all grassy and autumnal. If only I could be a painter of scents….

We all went back upstairs and resumed our activities, baking for me, and you guessed it, sleeping for them. While I was going down my baking to do list, I could not shake away that feeling I had earlier in the yard. It was inspiring and humbling at the same time. Nature does its thing and we just happen to be in the middle of it. So after I was done with half the "to-dos", I tried to recapture the flavors I sensed earlier.

Vanilla Bean Pods & Saffron

Pears seemed perfect by in their femininity and yet firm and assertive natural scent. Vanilla, the smell of a lazy embrace. Saffron, the dewy grass under my feet. Poached….well because we were about to get soaked!! This is a most easy dessert yet rich in flavors, leaving you with nothing with goosebumps. I realize that vanilla beans and saffron are not cheap ingredients. I was very lucky that my mom sent a care package with a bag of vanilla beans and that Veronica shared some of her saffron with me for my birthday back in May. Like most people, we are on a budget but I like to save a little and invest in the "real" thing once in a while. It might seem trivial during our strange economic times to spend extras on more expensive food items, but that is really between you and….you! I am bumm….people send me care package… 🙂 On a serious note, if you want to try this without the vanilla beans and saffron, use 2 Tb pure vanilla extract and the juice of one orange (blood orange if you can) in the poaching liquid and you will still have an excellent dessert.

Saffron And Vanilla Poached Pears:

Serves 4

4 cups water
1 vanilla bean
1 to 2 teaspoons saffron
3/4 cup (170 gr) sugar
juice of one lemon
4 pears

– Peel the pears and sprinkle them with the lemon juice and set them aside while you prepare the poaching liquid.
Note: I don’t core the pears in this dessert, I would do it if they were filled, I like eating around the core but feel free to do so.
– In a large pot or deep saucepan, combine the water, saffron and sugar. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out of the pod with a paring knife. Add the seeds and pods to the water and sugar mixture. Bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring a couple of times to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Bring down to a simmer and add the pears with the lemon juice.
– Cover the pot and cook the pears 10-12 minutes, turning them halfway through to make sure they cook evenly and all the way through (insert a toothpick to check).
– Remove the pears from the liquid and set them aside in deep serving plates or small ramequins.
– Simmer the poaching liquid until it reduces by half, about 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and pour the syrup over the pears and serve either hot or room temperature.
I like mine plain but fee free to add some ice cream or whipped cream.

Saffron & Vanilla Poached Pears

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Anonymous September 18, 2008 um 7:29 am

Mariage intéressant que celui de la poire et du safran … et toujours des photos à couper le souffle, c’est un bonheur de vous lire !

pecete September 18, 2008 um 7:37 am

It looks fantastic.

Botacook September 18, 2008 um 7:37 am

Magnifique! Un dessert aux accents automnaux mais qui semble malgré tout parfumé et léger, exactement ce que j’aime! 🙂

Suzana September 18, 2008 um 8:38 am

Lovely post, Helen! It’s indeed the perfect dessert to illustrate your feelings and sensations. Funny thing is I have a batch of pear and saffron cupcakes in the oven right now!!

La cuisine des 3 soeurs September 18, 2008 um 8:38 am

Pour un premier essai à déguster nature, sans crème ni glace.

Peabody September 18, 2008 um 9:09 am

I love those kind of mornings, I love those pears too!

anadelicias September 18, 2008 um 9:11 am

I would like to eat one of them, NOW!!!

Cannelle Et Vanille September 18, 2008 um 10:25 am

helen, this post was like poetry. i wanted to feel that morning breeze with you. i am feeling this! and of course, pears… all about pears too!

Anonymous September 18, 2008 um 10:27 am

How lovely and elegant, thanks for this.


Stella September 18, 2008 um 10:34 am

oh wow wow wow!
that’s one awesome dish you’ve whipped up here Helene!
Love it!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) September 18, 2008 um 11:40 am

I just made some vanilla poached pears, but without saffron. Oh, the color — irresistible! Next time I will try this.

Anonymous September 18, 2008 um 11:40 am

Wow, two of my favourites together in one dish. I have to admit that the amount of saffron does surprise me a little. Here in Italy it is sold in 3 packet packages that contain less than 1/8 of a teaspoon per individual packet. I also have to admit that I am a regular user of saffron and love it. I guess I’ll just have to open a lot of packets!

LizNoVeggieGirl September 18, 2008 um 11:44 am

You should come visit me – IT’S FREEZING HERE!!! :0)

I’m awestruck by that dessert; and your description of your day is so captivating!!

Sweet Treats by Dani September 18, 2008 um 12:57 pm

they look so elegant… almost too pretty to eat HaHa

Eileen September 18, 2008 um 1:27 pm

Looks delicious, Helen. I’m so glad it’s pear season again! I also like your suggestion for the addition of the juice of a blood orange. Lovely photo…

Anonymous September 18, 2008 um 1:36 pm

Oooh…love your description of your morning and the coming change of the season…I just love the transitional weather. And I’m glad you used the saffron – this dessert is golden and I just don’t mean the color.

Maria September 18, 2008 um 2:04 pm

What an elegant dessert! Glad it was a good morning!

Y September 18, 2008 um 2:06 pm

I love good mornings and days like that, which hold so much promise and are full of inspiration. Saffron is such a precious thing isn’t it? Especially since it’s hand-picked. 'Pearing' it with vanilla certainly does it great justice 😀

Jeanine – The Baking Beauties September 18, 2008 um 2:09 pm

Those are the most beautiful pears I’ve ever seen. Wow!

Dewi September 18, 2008 um 2:20 pm

I am a morning person and if the weather permit, I love walking around my garden with my 2 dogs. Pear is my husband favorite, I never poach pear with saffron before. Looks luscious!

Finla September 18, 2008 um 2:28 pm

Oh yes I am gonna make this realy soon. Just came back from India and have brought with me 75 sticks of vanilla bean and few boxes of saffron.
Only thhing is i don’t have cute bowls will have to sreve them in normal plates.

The Italian Dish September 18, 2008 um 2:30 pm

There’s nothing like the real thing – real vanilla beans are one of my favorite things. This dessert looks so beautiful. I loved your writing about the dogs, the dew…so nice.

Patricia Scarpin September 18, 2008 um 2:45 pm

I brought some wonderful saffron from my vacation last year and haven’t used it much – same thing with the vanilla beans. Great idea, Helen!

Amber September 18, 2008 um 2:47 pm

You take the absolute most stunning photographs. I do love pears and make them with cream, butter and sugar. Don’t dogs just love it when you are home with them? Sophia is such a wimp, when she steps on wet grass she is shocked and lifts her paws and stares at me, it is pretty funny.

Anonymous September 18, 2008 um 3:02 pm

Nice flavor combo – poached pears can be so trite!

I also like how you darkened your colour palate for fall. Your photos are always nice but the two of the vanilla and saffron are particular stand outs!

Susan @ SGCC September 18, 2008 um 3:02 pm

I love morning like that. When you live in a southern climate, it’s those subtle, barely perceptible changes that tell you Autumn is on the way.

The pears look amazing! Perfect for Fall! I’m with you in that I’d rather make less using really wonderful quality ingredients than tons of merely average stuff. Luckily, Jaden gave me a bunch of beautiful vanilla beans and the lady at my spice store gave me some organic saffron to try! 🙂

Anonymous September 18, 2008 um 3:10 pm

The colors!!! beautiful helen and it sounds perfect!

Lizzie September 18, 2008 um 3:20 pm

Wow you do such a beautiful job describing the sensation and mood of your morning. And I’m right there with you on wanting it to be cool and chilly already! Enough of this heat! Anyways, of course the dessert looks fabulous and I really want to give it a try. Thanks again for a great recipe!

NOT SO VANILLA September 18, 2008 um 4:28 pm

Being that fall is in the air up here in Canada, I loved your post. The cool crispness of the morning. I just posted on pear as well. I took my pics outside and it was only about 10 degrees Celsius..brrr. Hopefully this wonderful weather will last. It’s my favourite time of year!
Oh…beautiful recipe, vanilla and saffron, I have got to try it.

Manggy September 18, 2008 um 4:43 pm

Aack! It’s been both HOT *and* rainy here today! (Okay, maybe I’m feeling hot ’cause I’ve been cooking 😉 I hope you don’t mind if I have one of your delicious pears with ice cream, or maybe a sorbet (to cut on calories, heh heh)!

A long, fat vanilla bean here costs a little less than $3– totally worth it for the decadence, I think!

PheMom September 18, 2008 um 4:46 pm

So beautiful – your dessert of course, but the way you described the feeling of being out in the day with the feeling of the seasons changing was pure poetry and so perfect! Now I just wish you were sending this in for my little Art You Eat event. 🙂

Irene September 18, 2008 um 5:15 pm

"If only I could be a painter of scents…"

That is a beautiful thought. If Kandinsky can paint music, surely you can paint scents, although I think you already do.

Clumbsy Cookie September 18, 2008 um 5:50 pm

You’re so cute explaining how you come up with desserts! I adore safforn anything, I could take a bath in that syrup!

Nate @ House of Annie September 18, 2008 um 6:28 pm

Great post and writing.

Interesting use of saffron, for dessert. but I love what it did to the color of the pears. I think I can smell it from here.

MyKitchenInHalfCups September 18, 2008 um 7:27 pm

My feet are damp and tamping in the grassy dew – at least your perfect words transport me there. My biggest problem is I bought plums not pears at the market. Next time.
I feel absolutely human this week – we can walk at 4 in the afternoon in the sun even and the morning air is cool and crisp around the edges – I love that.
Gorgeous pears.

montague September 18, 2008 um 7:41 pm

saffron is a very prominent spice in both northern italian and persian cooking – so i grew up in homes filled with that smell. i love it!

Anonymous September 18, 2008 um 8:05 pm

I feel what your saying. Don’t seel yourself short. You painted the picture. Beautiful Pear.

Shari September 18, 2008 um 8:09 pm

I love your descriptions of the morning you had. Lovely. It matches with your dessert so well. Nicely done, as usual!

Meeta K. Wolff September 18, 2008 um 8:19 pm

a lovely dessert to match a lovely morning. perfect!

Leonor de Sousa Bastos September 18, 2008 um 9:43 pm

As always your presentations are delicious!!

I love the saffron on the pear…
lovely! perfect! amazing! beautiful!


Anonymous September 19, 2008 um 12:15 am

What a beautiful blog! Thank you for sharing such delights. I made pears just this morning too, using wine, but the saffron looks amazing.

Lori September 19, 2008 um 12:38 am

Such gorgeous colors in this picture! The yellow is so vibrant! Beautiful!

Brilynn September 19, 2008 um 1:20 am

Fall is definitely going to be arriving here much sooner than that. I’ve been biking to work in the moonlight and it’s definitely been chilly, (but pretty!). Monday morning it was only 39F…

Those pears look great. I need to start experimenting more with saffron.

Lisa magicsprinkles September 19, 2008 um 1:58 am

I’m speechless. Simply stunning.

giz September 19, 2008 um 3:12 am

This could very easily make my top 3. I love the simplicity and especially love what the saffron does to change the whole complection of a very simple fruit.

Manger La Ville September 19, 2008 um 4:13 am

This sounds just so lovely and sophisticated. I can’t wait to make it for my next dinner party.

That Girl September 19, 2008 um 5:13 am

I’ve never used saffron for something sweet – but I do have saffron in the cupboard.

Cakebrain September 19, 2008 um 5:23 am

What a lovely poetic post! The simplicity of the recipe is sublime. The vibrant yellow colour in the pears is gorgeous.

Anonymous September 19, 2008 um 5:57 am

Oooh I like poaching pears, too, but with Chinese spices. Love how the slivers of saffron look like they
re climbing to the top.

steph- whisk/spoon September 19, 2008 um 7:50 am

oh those photos–saffron sure has some gorgeous color, doesn’t it? i’m with you…i like to set aside some funds for nice ingredients every now and then. as long as i don’t let a speck go to waste, then i can look at it as not so frivolous.

Pille September 19, 2008 um 8:40 am

What an amazing colour!!!

Deeba PAB September 19, 2008 um 10:28 am

Absolutely precious Helen…I’m getting goosebumps reading your poetic post! Gorgeous, every bit of this!!

Anonymous September 19, 2008 um 12:12 pm

Exquisite poetic prose this morning! The pears are a scrumtous looking dessert, a perfect match with your writing.

Kajal@aapplemint September 19, 2008 um 12:19 pm

Helen, girl you described that morning dew experience so well, i felt i was right there with sharing the same moment. And what beautiful way to interpret that into a gorgeous looking dessert. Honestly i love my saffron too, buy nothing but the best and use it so carefully, as it were the most precious thing on this planet :). I’m loving the look of these pears girl !

Rob September 19, 2008 um 12:44 pm

Ah! Those pears look so delicious! It seems like such a sophisticated dessert. Mm, now I wish I was at home so I could try it out!

Mike of Mike's Table September 19, 2008 um 3:11 pm

I love poached pears and saffron and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors. Plus, it looks great!

Bonbon Oiseau September 19, 2008 um 3:22 pm

such a romantic dish in description and photos and hmmm..maybe a little going away dessert for my last night here with my honey…thank you…

Anita September 19, 2008 um 3:34 pm

I love reading about your changing seasons over there – here it’s more like, foggy or not foggy! Love the pears and all the coming-of-fall inspiration!

Jen September 19, 2008 um 3:41 pm

These are just so beautiful.

Anonymous September 19, 2008 um 3:45 pm

le sigh.

i mean, sometimes, there’s just not anything more to say.

Anonymous September 19, 2008 um 3:48 pm

That color is beautiful! I would love those flavors on my poached pears too.

Sylvia September 19, 2008 um 6:19 pm

I love saffron,it´s sound a delicate and fragrant combination of flavors.It must be delicious.

Mrs.French September 19, 2008 um 10:29 pm

the photographs+the post= perfection…I just love your blog…

Anonymous September 19, 2008 um 11:22 pm

Those pears are so noble and beautiful, and of course look delicious! The description of the wonderful morning you had made me want to be there!

Ivy September 20, 2008 um 12:56 am

OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH! I love poached pears! I made them last year with a raspberry coulis and some homemade whipped cream. So super good!
Yours look way better than mine and I love the saffron idea.
Thanks for reminding me of a fall favorite. 🙂

Christy September 20, 2008 um 1:07 am

Sorry it took me so long to comment on this post helen. I’m still here. just been up to my nostrils with work and studies. I’m also going on vacation next week, so that adds to the stress!

Anyway, I love your story about the scent in the air. I smell things too, usually in those rare occasions that I would wake up very early in the morning after it rained hard all night. The air would have been washed off of the dust, grime and pollution it was forced to endure during the day; and traffic was sufficiently light to have yet impose its damaging effects.

Your dessert is beautiful. And a perfect way to welcome Fall.

Anonymous September 20, 2008 um 3:53 am

very nice color with the saffron added! i now falls in love with fruits infused/poached in vanilla syrup, the aroma is simply irresistible.

Anonymous September 20, 2008 um 11:57 am

these look fantastic. we’re having a dinner party soon + which gives me a good excuse to try this. thank you!

Anonymous September 20, 2008 um 7:13 pm

Hi Helen (Helene?)

Yes, the season is changing in Virginia too, the nights in the 50s, even 40's – although the days are still warm; the crispness of the air; the mellowing of the light… and the apples, quince & pears arriving at fruit stands in all their glorious diversity.

I love fruit desserts, especially those with a little twist, like yours. DO you know what kind of pears you used?


Helene September 20, 2008 um 8:36 pm

Joanne: 1 tsp is not that much for 4 cups of water. I pushed the amount to 2 tsp. to increase the color a bit. I rarely use saffron in anything else, just never think of it except in paella so I went for it this time.

Maggie September 20, 2008 um 10:18 pm

These look delicious—I loved poached pears. My mom always makes them with dark chocolate sauce…

L Vanel September 20, 2008 um 10:18 pm

Yes, they look DELICIOUS. Miam.

Helene September 20, 2008 um 10:34 pm

Sylvie: I used Bartlett pears here. I like using them for poaching because they retain a nice consistency and they are small enough to fit small dishes!!

Susan from Food Blogga September 20, 2008 um 10:53 pm

"Vanilla, the smell of a lazy embrace. Saffron, the dewy grass under my feet." That is such elegant prose, Helen.

Mallory Elise September 21, 2008 um 2:56 am

those are so pretty, but they look like thanksgiving!

raining sheep September 21, 2008 um 4:31 am

I really, REALLY need to eat some of those pears…I have had the most awful week at work and only your gorgeous pears will make me happy! Sigh! and those photos are simply stunning.

Cakespy September 21, 2008 um 4:56 am

Perfection–I am in awe of this simple yet different recipe, it sounds so delicious!

Garrett September 21, 2008 um 5:04 am

I’ve always loved those fall mornings. Too bad in southern California they don’t come around that often unless you drive up to the mountains. Poached pears are always fabulous, and yours look picture perfect to boot.

La Tartine Gourmande September 21, 2008 um 11:03 am

Miam, makes me crave the fall even more. The colors, the fruit picking, the temperatures.. just lovely recipe.

Annies September 21, 2008 um 11:19 am

Hi Helen! This is my first comment on your beautiful blog, I take often inspiration from your recipes and beautiful photos! the couple safran-pear is very interesting,very autumnal colors! what about banana-safran?

Anonymous September 21, 2008 um 1:25 pm

Hi Helen,

I made this today for after lunch and it was a hit. I cooked the sauce though for longer and had a nice thick golden-y syrup. delicious. Thanks very much for the recipe.
:- )


Breadpitt September 21, 2008 um 1:53 pm

nv try saffaron with pear before…but this looks lovely, simple and nice

Anonymous September 21, 2008 um 3:31 pm

this is so sexy… oh my gosh. i’m *delicous*ing this recipe…

Helene September 21, 2008 um 3:38 pm

Shy: happy to hear you liked it. Cooking the syrup longer works good if not refrigerated. Once cold, it gets too thick to pour over the pears and must be heated again.

Annies: the flavors of bananas and saffron do work well together, however the bananas won’t retain their shape while cooking. I’d like to try it with plantains though.

Alexa September 21, 2008 um 3:59 pm

I get so happy this time of the year when I see the beautiful pears and apples appearing… This dessert highlights their natural assets with such elegance and taste.

My Castle in Spain September 21, 2008 um 4:08 pm

Oh la la ! Je trouve que c’est un dessert très sensuel …! vanille et le safran sont chers mais le résultat est a l’air si somptueux…
Merci !

La Cuisine d'Helene September 21, 2008 um 4:57 pm

What a beautiful way to wake up and look at these gorgeous pictures. I love pears and there’s a recipe with my name: Poires Belle Hélène.

Aim September 21, 2008 um 7:12 pm

I love your blog! It is so inspiring to me. I am giving you a blog award…check my blog later today!

thanks for such inspiration!

Anonymous September 21, 2008 um 9:26 pm

Nice use of saffron. These pears are gorgeous. Not the the dull gray color they usually end up when poached. Does the color soak all the way through the pear?

Helene September 22, 2008 um 12:14 am

Helene: same here with my name!

Marc: yep, it was a nice surprise to see that the saffron color had soaked all the way through!

Brilynn September 22, 2008 um 1:34 am

Poached pears are such an elegant dessert, they look so pretty!

Nina Timm September 22, 2008 um 3:30 am

Helen, this is awesome. I love poached pears and I can justify using saffron, because I do not use it so often…….
At the moment everyone has had enough of winter here in SA. but I love it…it’s like everything is new after a rainy day!!!!

Anonymous September 23, 2008 um 11:45 am

ahh.. the last time i poached anything was a peach. it’s time i get back to the poaching business (well not the hunting variety) and with saffron! this looks great.

Anonymous September 23, 2008 um 12:45 pm


I’ve got everything at home to make this wonderful recıpe. I am going to try this evening…

Anrosh September 29, 2008 um 10:41 pm

i wonder should i make to eat or should i make to look at.
i came over from "hidden in france"

Anrosh September 29, 2008 um 10:41 pm

i wonder should i make to eat or should i make to look at.
i came over from "hidden in france"

Anonymous October 6, 2008 um 1:36 am

First, thank you for this nice twist on poached pears. It was not only elegantly beautiful, but a pleasure to eat. Used left over reduced poaching liquid as a soak for a dense pear bread. Fab.

chililime October 9, 2008 um 8:58 pm

My photos aren’t nearly as cool as yours. Awesome.

Finla October 15, 2008 um 2:08 pm

Hi Helene I made this dessert and they were super delicious.
My whole family loved it.
It is a keeper.
Have posted in my place

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