This is one of those dishes that: sounds complex, tastes like heaven, appears difficult to the untrained eye, but in reality is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make. I made this recipe several times to make sure i’d perfected it, and in the end I decided on simple but flavorful ingredients, most of which you likely have in your pantry if you’re even the most amateur budding baker. The ONLY caveat in making this is the time it takes to poach. Most of the time spend making it- doesn’t involve you really needing to DO anything at all.
That being said I wouldn’t leave the house and run to the post office - but in reality you can be doing whatever you want around the house while making these. It doesn’t disrupt your day much at all, just check the pears after about 15 minutes of poaching to make sure they’re holding up well and that’s it. Set an alarm on your phone and go about your business. The spice of the chai tea really lends itself to the sweetness of the pears. The honey accentuates the tea and the vanilla bean adds a depth and a warmth that’s perfect for this time of the year. I tried taking something that’s already naturally delicious- and amping up the flavors on every level. This was one of those dishes that I kept going back for more and more. Some of my favorite recipes are the simplest ones like these, because they let the star ingredient speak for itself!
In terms of the logistics of this one, you want as close to a perfectly ripe pear as you can get- firm skin, medium sized with sturdy skin and slightly resistant to pressure. Pears that are overly ripe won’t hold up well to poaching. They could disintegrate in the liquid or break apart during transit to the plate. As for the type of pear, I used Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears, which are and always will be my favorite pears. They’re so sweet and delicious! Bosc pears are a wonderful option though, and they hold their shape very well when baked or poached. They’re usually my go-to if I’m out of the Royal Riviera. Anjou and Bartlet pears would be my next choice. They’re not as sturdy as Bosc but they generally do fine with cooking applications. Just keep an eye on them after about 15 minutes of poaching- they might not need as much time. I’d avoid Asian Pears for this application, though. Their smaller size and thinner skin don’t make them ideal candidates for this recipe- Asian Pears are better eaten out-of-hand or into a salad for some brightness and texture!
Chai Poached Pears with Ginger Whipped Cream
2 C. Water, plus more to cover pears later
3 tbsp Chai Tea (I used loose Chai Mate from Teavana, but if using tea bags use about 4)
½ C. Honey
1 tsp Vanilla bean paste (I like Nielsen-Massey brand)
¾ C. Heavy Cream
1 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
Place the water in a 4 qt saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and then place the tea (with a strainer if loose, or just the bags) in the boiling water for 3-5 minutes to steep.
Remove the tea bags and pour in the honey and vanilla bean paste, whisking until it’s dissolved.
Place the pears standing straight up into the liquid. I cut mine down the center to serve, but if you’d prefer to serve them standing up you can cut the bottom a bit so that they stay up, if you’d like to present them like that!
Add enough water to just barely cover the pears, and bring to a simmer. Poach the pears like this for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your pears. You want them to retain their shape but be soft enough to easily eat.
Gently remove the pears from the liquid. I used a flat spatula to slide them on and move them. Don’t do what I did the first time and grab them by the stems. I had a decapitated pear situation in my kitchen when I tried this! Just place them on a plate lined with a few paper towels to catch any excess poaching liquid that drains off.
Turn the burner on high to boil the remaining poaching liquid and let it cook and reduce down until it’s a syrupy that’s about half the volume as it started out. This took about 45 minutes for me.
For the Ginger Whipped Cream: In the bowl of a kitchenaid mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the cold heavy cream, the white granulated sugar and the ground ginger. Whisk on med/high until soft peaks form.
To serve, pour some of the poaching syrup on the bottom of a small rimmed plate. Cut in half lengthwise and place in the center of the plate. Top with a dollop of the ginger whipped cream, and garnish with a light dusting of cinnamon. Serve immediately.