Mulled wine poached pears served in their own syrup, or with a simple vanilla custard sauce, is an elegant dessert for entertaining in the fall and winter months.
Mulled wine poached pears, translation: peeled pears that have been cooked in spiced wine. They can be served in a pool of the reduced poaching liquid, or on top of a créme Anglaise, aka vanilla custard sauce. It looks and sounds fancy, but is a straightforward process that doesn’t require any special skills. And while I will admit I’m not normally a fruit for dessert kind of girl, this one is really special and perfect after a fancy meal.
what you’ll need
Mulled wine poached pears is a uniquely beautiful dessert that has a complex flavor that’s not too sweet.
- firm ripe pears
- I used Bosc pears, but really any variety will work as long as they aren’t too soft.
- red wine
- pomegranate juice
- use honey or maple syrup instead, if you prefer.
- cinnamon stick, star anise, allspice, cloves, and cardamom. These are classic mulling spices, and you can use a pre-prepared mulling spice mix if you like.
- orange slices
for the vanilla custard sauce (aka créme Anglaise)
This is a thick, creamy sauce, the same one I drizzle over my Authentic Irish Apple Cake.
- half and half
- egg yolks
- vanilla bean paste (a happy medium between vanilla extract and super pricy vanilla beans)
the best wine for poached pears?
This is really up to you, but do use a decent wine that you like to drink. Since the liquid will be reduced after poaching, the flavors will be intensified. An inexpensive, drinkable wine is fine, I’ve used malbec and merlot with success. I use pomegranate juice in addition to the wine for added flavor and sweetness. Cranberry juice works too.
how to poach pears step by step
- Heat your liquid (in this case wine, pomegranate juice, and spices) to a simmer in a large pot.
- Meanwhile peel your pears and drop them into the pot.
- Simmer the pears until tender, about 30-40 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and let the pears cool in the liquid until room temperature. This step is optional but results in deeper color and flavor. You can leave them overnight in the fridge if you like.
- Remove pears and reduce the liquid by about half.
- Serve the pears with the reduced poaching liquid or vanilla custard sauce.
make poached pears ahead
This dessert is ideal for busy holidays because you can make it ahead and stash it in the fridge. The pears can be kept overnight in the poaching liquid, and then you can reduce it down the next day.
do you serve poached pears hot or cold?
This versatile dessert can be served hot, cold, or room temperature. Serving cold allows you to completely prep the dessert ahead, but there’s something very appealing about warm mulled pears in a puddle of warm custard sauce on a chilly night…
poached pear variations
- You can halve the pears before poaching. Be sure to scoop out the core with a spoon or melon-baller. This will shorten the poaching time a bit.
- Use maple syrup or honey instead of sugar.
- You don’t have to use the mulling spices…red wine/pomegranate mixture is fine on its own.
- Use pomegranate juice or cranberry juice for non alcoholic mulled poached pears.
- Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
more elegant fall/winter desserts
- Cranberry Pie
- Maple Frangipane Pecan Pie
- Bûche de Noël Layer Cake
- Acorn Meringue Cookies!
- Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart
- Glazed Gingerbread Bundt Cake
- Chocolate Cake with Cranberry Buttercream
Mulled Wine Poached Pears
- large Dutch oven or equivalent
- Put the wine, pomegranate juice, sugar, spices, and orange slices into a large deep pot and begin to heat.
- Peel each pear and drop them into the pot.
- Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally so the pears poach evenly. They should be completely submerged, if possible.
- Check a pear by piercing with the tip of a sharp knive to see if it is tender. If it is still firm, simmer for 10 more minutes, or until tender. Once the pears are tender, remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand until room temperature, with the pears still in the liquid.
- Carefully remove the pears and strain the liquid. Put the liquid back on the stove and boil to reduce it down by half.
- The pears can be served in a shallow bowl standing in a little of the reduced poaching liquid, or you can make a custard sauce to serve with them.
to make custard sauce
- In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
- In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan heat the half and half until scalded, but not boiling. It will start to smoke and little bubbles will appear along the edges.
- Drizzle some of the hot half and half into the egg mixture, while whisking constantly. Then pour that back into the pan and continue to cook, whisking or stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any stray lumps.
- The custard can be served warm or cold. If you'd like to serve the custard chilled, you can speed the process by placing it in a a large bowl filled with ice.
- This dessert is for adults only. The alcohol content of the liquid is reduced during cooking but a substantial amount remains.
- If you like you can substitute a pouch of mulling spices in place of the whole spices in the wine.