Poire belle Hélène is a dessert made from pears poached in sugar syrup and served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. It was created around 1864 by Auguste Escoffier and named after the operetta La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach. Simpler versions replace poached pears with canned pears and sliced almonds.
- Small Saucepan
- Medium-sized Saucepan
- Ice-cream scoop
- Dessert Bowls
- 4 cups water
- 400 g sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, split
- 3 strips orange rind, about 5 cm long
- 4 beurre Bosc pears, (See notes)
- 30 ml cream
- 50 ml milk
- 100 g dark cooking chocolate, 50-70 % cocoa solids, chopped
- ½ litre vanilla ice-cream
- 80 g flaked almonds, toasted
- Place water, sugar, vanilla bean and orange rind in a medium-sized saucepan just large enough to fit the pears standing upright. Bring to the boil over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel the pears, leaving the stalk intact. Once the syrup has been simmering for 10 minutes, add the peeled pears, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the pears to cool in the liquid.
- Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over low-medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, add the chocolate and stir gently until smooth. Remove from the heat.
- Drain the pears and place in 4 dessert bowls with 1-2 scoops of ice-cream. Spoon a little of the chocolate sauce over the top of each pear, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve immediately.
- The success of the dish relies on perfectly poached pears, which in turn depend on selecting the perfect pears for poaching - ripe, yet firm, with no tinge of green in the skin, nor any bumps or bruises. The choice is yours when it comes to variety, but the gloriously golden beurre Bosc has an appropriately elegant shape and a beautiful texture when poached. Poach the pears gently, only just simmering them, for best results, and turn off the heat just before the pears reach the perfect degree of doneness, because they'll continue to cook slightly as they cool in the syrup.
- Williams or Packham pears can be used in this dessert also if beurre Bosc pears are unavailable.