How many times have you ever purchased some pears and set them on the kitchen counter only to find that they stayed rock hard, got gritty, or rotted without getting sweetly ripe? I have also brought home pears, set them out to ripen on the table, and put them in the fridge thinking they were ripe enough and sweet when they weren’t. Sometimes buying and storing fruits can be tricky, especially since most pears at the supermarket are sold while they are still immature.
I had purchased a few pears at the time when the summer fruits were just starting to become in season. I really enjoy them when they ripen to sweetness perfection. This time I was careful to monitor the ripening since there is a relatively narrow window between ‘too hard’ and ‘too soft’ where the perfect pear texture lies. But even after passing the gentle pressure test, the pears were still not sweetly ripened. Any longer in the fridge and it would be too soft or rotten.
I usually keep a stock of phyllo dough in my freezer. A poached pear dessert idea saved the pears from being thrown away. I made it extra sweet by stuffing the pears with chocolate, but this step can be omitted if you don’t have too much of sweet tooth.
2 small Bartlett pears
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp dried cherries
1 cinnamon stick
2 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Peel the pears and core from the bottom, leaving the stems intact.
Combine the wine, 3 cups water, sugar, dried cherries, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the pears. If necessary, add more water to submerge the pears. Poach until tender (approx 10 minutes).
Remove from the heat and let the pears cool in the liquid. To make a day ahead, you may transfer the pears in the liquid to a container, cover and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 400oF. Mix the chocolate, walnuts (if using), 1 tbsp melted butter and a pinch of each salt and sugar in a bowl. Remove the pears from the liquid and stuff with some of the chocolate mixture. Simmer the poaching liquid over medium-high heat until syrupy (approx 25 minutes).
Lay out 1 sheet of phyllo dough and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat the layering 2 more times, rotating slightly the next sheet of dough relative to the previous one. Cut the dough in half crosswise.
Spoon the remaining chocolate mixture in the centre of each piece of phyllo and top with the pears, stem-side up. Pull up the corners of the phyllo to meet at the pear stem. Pinch and twist the excess phyllo. Brush the outside with butter and sprinkle with sugar.
Transfer the pear pouches to a baking sheet and bake until golden (approx 20 to 25 minutes). Serve with the cherry syrup.