This dessert is a great way to start off the year. It's just a bit indulgent, while offering the health benefit of dark chocolate and fresh fruit. You will always find some type of poached fruit on a French dessert buffet, and for this recipe I simply expanded a classic French dish. I pair Bosc pears, which are firm enough to hold their shape when cooked, with a luscious fondue to accent their simple goodness.
If I were going to serve poached pears sans chocolat, I would use wine as the poaching liquid. However, since these pears are filled with a pear liqueur-flavored chocolate fondue, they don't require the additional deep flavor of wine. If you are feeding kids or don't like alcohol, eliminate the liqueur from the fondue. The pears will still be delicious.
For the Pears:
For the Pear-Flavored Chocolate Fondue:
To Poach the Pears
Fill a bowl large enough to hold the pears with water. Add the juice from half of the lemon. As you peel and core each pear, slip it into the acidulated water to keep it from discoloring.
Select a deep, lidded saucepan large enough to hold the pears for poaching. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a circle slightly smaller than the diameter of the pan. This will be used to cover the fruit and keep it immersed in the poaching liquid as it cooks. Set aside.
Peel the pears, leaving the stem intact. Using a small, sharp knife, carefully core each pear from the flower end, leaving the pear whole. This will allow the poaching liquid to flow into the interior of the pear, cooking and flavoring it evenly. Cut a thin slice from the flower end so that the pear can stand upright. Put the pear in the acidulated water and repeat with the remaining pears.
Pour 6 cups fresh water into the saucepan. Add the sugar and the juice from the remaining lemon half, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pears, cover with the parchment-paper circle followed by a lid, adjust the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes. Begin checking for doneness by inserting a long toothpick (or the very point of a small, sharp knife, as you don't want to affect the appearance of the pear) into a pear. It should offer just a tiny bit of resistance when pierced. This may take anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes.
Remove the pears from the heat and, if serving immediately, use a slotted spoon to transfer them, cored end down, to a wire rack placed in a baking pan to catch the draining liquid. If not using immediately carefully transfer the pears, along with the poaching liquid, to a clean container. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. When ready to use, drain well and proceed with the recipe.
To Make the Fondue
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set aside.
Place the cream in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat and heat just until distinct bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. Remove front the heat and slowly pour about half of the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds, until the chocolate begins to melt, and then begin stirring with a wooden spoon.
As the mixture starts to smooth out. add the remaining cream and stir gently to blend well. Add the liqueur and stir to incorporate. Set aside until ready to use. If made in advance, when ready to serve reheat the fondue in the top half of a double boiler set over simmering water.
To Assemble the Dessert
When the pears are very well drained – almost dry – neatly cut about 1 inch off the stem end of each one. Pat dry with a paper towel. You should now have a bottom half that forms a cup with a top lid.
If making it buffet platter, cover the bottom of a large serving plate with fondue. If making individual servings, spoon a generous amount of the fondue into the center of each of six dessert plates. For the buffet platter, place all of the pear bottoms in the fondue. For individual servings, place a pear bottom in the center of each dessert plate. Carefully spoon the fondue into the "cup" of each pear. Place the top "hat" on the side or slightly off to the edge on the top of each pear. Serve immediately.