Pears in red wine
Preparation and cooking time: 1hr 30min (not including 48 hours to marinate pears)
Based on the traditional recipe of pears stewed in Beaujolais red wine, chef Stéphanie Moreau creates a dessert that brings together three of Burgundy’s favourite fruits: the pear, the grape and the blackcurrant. From hearty stews to savoury cakes, wine seems to find its way into most recipes that originate in Burgundy, and that doesn’t stop at the dessert trolley. The traditional recipe, poires à la bonne femme, was designed to use up the pears that had not properly ripened and consisted of the fruit being boiled in sugar to disguise its grainy texture before wine was added for colour rather than flavour. During this process, the skin would go wrinkly, supposedly like an ‘old wife’, or ‘bonne femme’, which is how it got its name.
In this aromatic dessert, created by Stéphanie, the pears get a further boost in flavour by being marinated in wine for two days, along with citrus fruit, and cinnamon, which lend it a festive feel. As chef at the bucolic Moulin des Ruats, hidden in woods in the wildly beautiful Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan near Avallon, Stéphanie’s favoured method sees the pears gently infused with the wine, rather than boiling them in it. “It improves the taste of the wine,” she explains. Working at the cosy former watermill, Stéphanie has developed the dish into a sophisticated dessert that leaves its rustic roots firmly in the past. She serves it with a chocolate sorbet or ice cream, a red wine jelly and a tuile wafer that is made with one of Burgundy’s other key ingredients: blackcurrants. “You can use blackcurrant sorbet instead of chocolate to carry through the blackcurrant theme,” says Stéphanie, adding: “The tuile gives the dish an extra crunch, which works with the softness of the pears.”
This extra touch is a nod to the blackcurrants that were traditionally grown alongside the grapes by the wives of Burgundy winegrowers. While the main harvest was, of course, the wine, the blackcurrants were used to create the local liqueur named crème de cassis, which – like the wine –also finds its way into many a dessert in this corner of France.
For the pears & red wine jelly
- 10 pears
- 1L (13/4pt) Pinot Noir red wine
- 1L (13/4pt) water
- Zest & juice of 1 orange
- Zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6g (1/4oz) agar-agar powder
For the tuile
- 410g (141/2oz) blackcurrant purée
- 35g (11/4oz) flour
- 220g (73/4oz) icing sugar
- 20g (3/4oz) butter
- Chocolate sorbet, to serve
- Mint leaves, to garnish
Peel the pears (leaving the stalks in place) and place in an airtight container with the red wine, the water, orange juice and its zest, lemon juice and its zest, and cinnamon stick, and leave in the fridge for 48 hours.
Prepare the tuile by mixing the purée, flour, icing sugar and butter in a food processor.
Place teaspoons of the tuile mixture onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and spread it out in circles of approx. 5cm (2in) in diameter with your finger. Place in the fridge overnight.
Take the pears from the fridge and remove them from the red wine, reserving the liquid. Cut the pears in quarters horizontally and core each piece with an apple corer (this indentation will be filled with chocolate sorbet later).
To make the jelly, put 200ml (7fl oz) of the reserved wine mixture in a pan with the agar-agar and bring to the boil until it starts to thicken.
Line a large baking sheet with cling film and pour the warm jelly mixture onto it. Spread out to a thickness of about 3mm-5mm (up to 1/4in). Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Remove the tray of tuiles (from step 3) from the fridge and bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 150°C (300°F). They should appear slightly transparent. While still warm, cut each tuile in a neat circle with a pastry cutter. Leave to cool.
When ready to serve, fill the centre of each piece of pear with the chocolate sorbet, and arrange the pears on the plate with slices of the jelly and the tuile, and small mint leaves to garnish.
When cutting the pears, if you want to make it very neat, use three different sized smooth-sided pastry cutters to cut out the largest three pieces. Roll up the excess from the largest piece into a rose-like shape to decorate the plate.
IMAGE © LONELY PLANET/ RIVER THOMPSON
First printed in our sister publication France Today
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