Poached and Caramelized Pear Desserts

Poached and Caramelized Pear Desserts

A note of praise for the unsung divas of autumn

It’s fall. Already. Each time we leave the dock, we know this may be the last cruise of the season. Each clear, sunny day is a treasure to be squandered gleefully and recklessly. We lucky denizens of the Salish Sea are blessed with nature’s beauty on every side and so many sheltered, enchanting harbours that it’s impossible to visit them all.

Over the years, we’ve often returned to Tod Inlet. We dinghy to the Butchart Gardens dock and wander the trails, admiring autumn foliage and blossoms. After dinner in the mansion, we motor slowly back in inky darkness. The steep, tree-lined hills surrounding the water exclude all ambient light, so that even with the anchor light on, it’s hard to pick out our boat. We feel how small we are in the vast universe.


Another favourite place to drop our hook at this time of year is Montague Harbour. A number of times, we’ve ridden our bicycles to the north end of Galiano Island. The road takes us over many tall hills. We pause to rest high above Trincomali Channel. Here and there, the surface of the sapphire water peels back into long white furrows, the wake of boats speeding by, a farewell salute to summer. Today, the wind carries an icy bite straight out of the Gulf of Alaska, but in Roche Harbor, it’s still pleasant. We walk up the dock and step ashore. In the late 1800s, this was the site of the largest lime works on the West Coast. Super hot fires burned all day in tall brick kilns built against the hillside at the head of the bay. Some of the kilns remain, and astonish me with their size. Limestone rock, quar- ried nearby, was dumped into the tops of these giant ovens, and hours later, at the bottom, men with long handled poles dragged out pure lime, ready to be used in mortar and cement.

I can almost hear the squeal of the wheels against the rails as raw limestone arrived at the top. I visualize the huge clouds of black smoke that billowed out, to be swept away by the wind and deposited as gritty black soot on the trees and land. I wonder what the workers would think of the same scene today. The little white church is still there, and the venerable Hotel de Haro, once the residence of the owner of the lime works, still dominates the waterfront. But the few remaining kilns stand empty. Instead, a crowded parking lot occupies the space where they worked, pleasure boats fill the slips in the marina, and chic, expensive houses perch on the hillside.

At the hotel restaurant, I enjoy a lunch of pan-seared scallops, and instead of ordering the chocolate decadence, I promise myself an old-fashioned fruit dessert, the kind my grandmothers served when I was a kid.


This afternoon, I’m going to caramelize some pears from our trees, both Bartletts and Anjous, and we will have tarts for dinner. Last night, I poached some of each variety. They were delicious, and even yummier this morning with vanilla yogurt spooned over them.

Recipes for desserts with poached and caramelized pears follow. They may make you wonder what’s so great about chocolate and why apples overshadow pears in the fall fruit lineup.


Poached Pears


  • 4 ripe firm pears
  • 2 2/3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of two small lemons—cut small, thin scallops with a vegetable peeler
  • Juice of two small lemons
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla


  1. Put water and sugar in a saucepan large enough to hold the pears in a single layer.
  2. Bring to a simmer and dissolve the sugar.
  3. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.
  4. Peel, quarter, and core the pears and slip them into the liquid. It should cover them by at least one centimetre. If you need more liquid, dissolve and add six tablespoons sugar per cup of water until you have enough.
  5. Return to the heat and bring to almost simmering. BE CAREFUL. They will fall apart in a full simmer. Cook until just tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Cool in the liquid.

Caramelized Pears

Note: A large, heavy, non-stick frying pan is best for this recipe.



  • 2 ripe, firm pears
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt if butter is unsalted


  1. Peel pears, quarter, core, and cut each quarter into three wedges.
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat.
  3. Add the sugar (and salt) and stir to dissolve.
  4. Increase heat to medium high, and cook, stirring constantly, until it turns caramel coloured.
  5. Remove from heat and add the pears in a single layer.
  6. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook five minutes.
  7. Gently turn the slices over, and cook until tender.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. Optional: add a tiny squeeze of lemon.
  10. Cool in the caramel.
  11. Reduce the sauce if desired, or caramelize more pears.

Serving Suggestions

    1. Serve either poached or caramelized pears with a dollop of softened ice cream, whipped cream, soft custard or pastry cream.
    2. Fill crêpes with caramelized pears and ice cream, mascarpone cream (see below,) or the ricotta filling in the April 2017 issue of Pacific Yachting. Reduce the caramel sauce and drizzle some over. Garnish with whipped cream and fresh raspberries.
    3. Totally decadent tarts: Start with a puff pastry square, tart shell, or a palmier (my fave). Spread with
      a thin layer of raspberry jam, then a generous layer of mascarpone cream (recipe follows), then slices
      of poached or caramelized pear. Top with whipped cream and garnish with sliced almonds.

Mascarpone Cream

For two generous servings:

In a chilled bowl, mix

  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream,
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Stir to dissolve the sugar, then whisk briskly until thickened. Honest, it doesn’t take long.


Caution: I gained weight just writing this recipe.