Poire Belle Hélène

“Poire Belle Hélène is one of the great classics of the culinary world. This dessert, invented in 1870 by the great chef Auguste Escoffier in honour of the opera, has since featured on menus all around the globe. My version is a modern tribute to this dessert with the pear poached in delectable spiced syrup, traced with saffron and vanilla and then ultimately baked into a rich, decadent chocolate cake. Enjoy!”

30 minutes
4 people

Ingredients

  • 250 ml white wine - a crisp Semillon Blanc would suit really well 400 ml sugar syrup (1:1)* 200 ml water Pinch saffron 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 115g Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa 100g unsalted butter 100g sugar 3 eggs, separated 100g almond meal 27g plain flour 1tbsp Poire Williams or Kirsch

Method

Step 1.

To poach the pears:
1. Place the wine, syrup, water, saffron and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over a gentle heat.2. Peel the pears, ensuring you retain their natural shape. Leave the stem intact.3. Gently place pears in the poaching liquid and cover with some baking paper.Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and poach pears until tender - about 25 minutes.Remove pears from liquid and set aside to cool. Remove the core from the base of the pear.4. Reduce poaching liquid until slightly thickened and keep as a sauce.

Step 2.

For the chocolate cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC (140 ºC fan forced).2. Place butter and sugar in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and mix until light and pale. Mix in egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.3. In the meantime, gently melt the chocolate. Mix the melted chocolate into the butter mixture, mix well and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure there are no lumps.4. Sift together the almond meal and flour. Fold into the chocolate mixture and mix in the Poire Williams or Kirsch.5. In a dry and clean bowl, whip the egg whites to firm peaks then gently fold into cake batter.6. Divide batter into oven proof serving dishes and place a single poached pear in the centre of each chocolate cake.7. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.8. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm with some chocolate sauce and a good dollop of vanilla scented mascarpone.

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