Here’s a classy dessert for a holiday dinner: “Pears in Puff Pastry with Chocolate Praline Liqueur Sauce.” This dessert is elegant, not too sweet and has a pleasant fruit flavor mixed with a chocolate praline liqueur sauce. It’s not a rich or heavy dessert — a perfect ending to a holiday meal. And it sends a message to your guests about how much you love to cook and how creative you are.Ripening Pears
Pears are one of my favorite autumn fruits. They are succulent, fruity with an aromatic flavor that adds an elegant touch to a dessert. An interesting fact about pears is that 84% of the pears sold in the US are grown in Oregon and Washington. Pears mature in the fall and winter. Pears best ripen off the tree after they are hand-picked, which is why pears sold in grocery stores are very hard.
To ripen pears, leave them on a kitchen counter at room air. Once refrigerated, pears won’t ripen further, so don’t put them in your refrigerator until they soften. Check the stem end and when it softens, the pears are ripe. Then refrigerate. The ethylene gas released by bananas and apples are a trigger for ripening, so to speed up the pear ripening process–put them in a paper bag with an apple or banana.
The Pear Bureau Northwest says that, while there are over 3000 varieties of pears worldwide, 10 varieties are the most common ones grown in the US: Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Green Anjou, Red Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concord, Forelle, Seckel and Starkrimson. Bartlett pears are the ones I’ve always known. They are juicy and great for eating. Bosc pears hold their shape and are good for cooking. Above are Bosc pears. They are large pears and probably will need to be cut off at the end for this recipe. Here are Seckel pears. These are tiny pears, they hold their shape and are great for this dessert if you can find them. Anjou or Comice pears can be used, too.
Making the Recipe Successfully
Here’s a word of caution when making the recipe. This recipe is slightly more tricky and challenging to make than other desserts. The recipe has several steps; but the praline and chocolate sauces can be made a day ahead as well as poaching the pears. Then assemble the day of the meal. To simplify the process, I used prepared puff pastry dough sheets rather than homemade dough. Thaw for an hour at room temperature or a day or too early and refrigerate.
And I made several versions: fancy, easier and easiest. Pick the one you wish to use depending on time and skill.
Pears are critical
The pears are critical. It is important to use firm cooking pears — ones have ripened a few days but are still solid. Pears that are too ripe are soft and will fall apart after poaching when they are sliced. So purchase the pears 4 or 5 days ahead of time, let them ripen and then refrigerate until ready to use. Try to find small pears. Larger pears will need to be cut down to the size of the puff pastry shells.
The Recipe from Bon Appetit
The inspiration for this dessert comes from a recipe in an old Bon Appetit magazine article dating to 1985. (Pear Tarelettes with Chocolate Caramel Sauce in Chocolate Desserts, Bon Appetit, pgs 94, 96, 1985.) I served it at a catered diner back when I was doing catering and it was a hit. Last year, when I inquired about reprinting the recipe for this post, the contact person for Bon Appetit said they no longer had the rights to the old recipe. But Bon Appetit’s recipe, while delicious, is complicated with an involved caramel sauce and homemade puff pastry dough. So I have changed, shortened and adapted the recipe making it much easier to prepare.
Making the Recipe: Poach pears in Praline Liqueur Sauce
The Bon Appetit recipe used a caramel sauce for poaching the pears. Delicious but time consuming and difficult to make. I substituted a Praline Liqueur Sauce. Just heat and dissolve the dark brown sugar in water on a stove, add the margarine and praline liqueur. You are done. Ready to poach the pears.
Peel the pears and poach for about 10 minutes in the praline sauce as it simmers on the stove. I made several trials of this recipe, here some of the pears were too ripe.Then remove the pears from the sauce, and save the poaching sauce. Cut the pears in half, leave the stem on one half of the pear. Remove the seeds, a sharp knife or cantaloupe corer can be used for this step. I also cut some off the end of the Bosc pears, as they were too large for my puff pastry shells.
Score the pears in a fan-like shape and carefully place in the center of the dough shapes. Drain the pears well first. The poaching liquid will burn when baking.
For a very easy version, I skipped the poaching step entirely. Just peel, core and slice the pears and fit them into the puff pastry squares and bake. My husband really liked this version as well as the poached pears.
Puff Pastry Gadget
I used prepared puff pastry dough sheets for this dessert. This is much easier than making homemade puff pastry. The sheets are found the frozen section of the grocery store. I sent my husband to purchase some–he looked all over the store before finding a few packages in an obscure section of frozen desserts.
Unfold one sheet and score the shapes. You need an outer circle or square and an inner one which is not cut entirely through the dough. I used a cutter specifically designed for cutting puff pastry shells. This results in a shape with a “puffed” edge once baked.If you don’t have a fancy puff pastry cutter, the 9″ puff pastry sheet into four squares and score each square.
Carefully add poached pears with a stem to center of circles. Bake in a hot oven. As you can see, these are too large for the circles.
Here are the Seckel pears in puff pastry squares ready for baking. These are perhaps to small. Hum, need something in-between.
I don’t like to waste anything; so I re-rolled the leftover dough from the circle shells, cut them into rectangle shells and added chunks of pears from the left-over pear halves. A person could also slice these pear halves and lay them into the pastry rectangles.
Here are two of these small scraps ready for baking.
And for a really easy and shortened version, skip poaching the pears. Peel, core and place slices of pear onto the puff pastry squares and bake. See bottom right square.
Make the chocolate sauce which consists of some of the poaching liquid, cocoa and sugar and vanilla extract. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid to pour over the finished pears.
Pour some of the chocolate praline liqueur sauce on each individual plate. Add a pear in puff pastry. Here are some of the small rectangular shapes. Not too bad, still just as tasty as the pear halves.
And a pear half in a fancy puff pastry shell.
And the puff pastry squares.
Pear in Puff Pastry with Chocolate Praline Liqueur Sauce by MayleesKitchen
- 2 frozen 9″ x 9″ sheets Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (1-17.3 oz package)
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 3 Tbsp butter or margarine
- 1/4 cup praline liqueur
- 8 ripe but firm Seckel pears (may substitute small Bosc, Anjou or Comice pears)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Method and Steps:
- Thaw 2 sheets of puff pastry dough at room temperature for an hour. May thaw a day or two ahead and keep in refrigerator.
- Remove 1 sheet from parchment wrapper, lay out on lightly floured cutting board.
- Cut sheet into 4 squares. With sharp knife, score an inner edge marking, 1/2 inch to the inside, but not the entire depth of the puff pastry dough. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet and set aside. Cut second sheet of puff pastry into four squares in same manner and transfer to ungreased baking sheet. Alternately, use a large round puff pastry cutter to make circles. Gather scraps of puff pastry together, roll out with rolling pin, cut into rectangles with inner scored marking.
- Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
- Make praline liqueur poaching sauce. In large sauce pan, add brown sugar and 3/4 cup water. Heat to boiling, stir to dissolve sugar.
- After boiling one minute, reduce heat to low. Add butter or margarine and praline liqueur.
- Carefully peel pears leaving stem attached. Add peeled pears to praline liqueur sauce on stove. Simmer for 10 minutes to poach pears, gently turning pears over after five minutes. (As an easy alternate, this step can be skipped entirely.)
- Remove pears from poaching liquid with slotted spoon to drain pears and transfer to another bowl. Reserve praline liqueur poaching sauce.
- Cut pears in halve lengthwise keeping stem attached to one half. (For small pears cut a larger and smaller half, keeping stem attached to large half). If using large pears, cut off large end of pear so it fits in the puff pastry shell.
- Use a sharp knife, or cantaloupe corer, to carefully remove seeds from half with stem. If desired, dice or slice smaller halves to use with puff pastry scraps. (If poaching pears is skipped, core and slice the pear halves.)
- Lay pears halves with stems with cut sides down, cut in slices lengthwise to create a fan shape. Do not cut entire length to stem. Use a spatula to carefully move pear to center of pastry shell and gently pull pear sections apart to create a fan.
- On halves without stem, dice or slices halves and arrange on rectangle shells. Or just use these halves for a snack.
- Bake pears in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes or until puff pastry edges have “puffed” and are brown. Remove from oven, use spatula to loosen shells from bottom of pan while the shells are still hot, set aside.
- Meanwhile, make chocolate praline liqueur sauce. In medium saucepan add 1 cup water, cocoa and sugar. Heat on medium high to boiling, stirring constantly until cocoa and sugar dissolve. Add 1-1/2 cup of reserved praline poaching liquid and vanilla extract. Stir and simmer for one minute. Remove from heat. (There should be about 1/2 cup poaching liquid remaining. Save this to pour over each baked pear half.)
- When ready to serve, pour 1/4 cup chocolate praline liqueur sauce in circle on each individual serving plate and swirl to coat plate. Add baked pear in puff pastry to each plate. Pour 2 Tbsp reserved praline liqueur poaching liquid over each pear. Transfer any remaining chocolate praline liqueur sauce to serving bowl and pass for guests to add more chocolate sauce.
Elegant and tasty. Impress your guests with your cooking ingenuity.
U.S. Pear Varieties. //usapears.org/pear-varieties/ © 2015 Pear Bureau Northwest. All Rights Reserved.
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