Poaching fruit is one of my favorite things to do when cold weather arrives. It's so warming to stand over a boiling pot of fragrant spices and lose yourself in thought. When I made these, I couldn't help but daydream as I stirred; if I were a pear... I wouldn't want to spend my days on the shelf of a cold produce department. I'd want to be taken to a warm home and placed in a jacuzzi of honey and spices. I'd want to be wrapped in an extra long puff pastry scarf and baked until golden and toasty.
That sounds a little silly, but that's what I'd want... if I were a pear.
The idea for these came from the Pepperidge Farm website. They looked so much like little bee hives that I decided to poach them with honey.
On a personal note, our Christmas tree is already up courtesy of Mr. Baird. I have (gratefully) been inundated with projects and handed the tree decorating baton over to him. I am ashamed to say that I was hesitant to do this. I'm a little obsessive when it comes to decorating, and my past Christmas trees have been a little too "department-store looking" (his words). I must say, his new ornament choices are charming, and have an almost Scandinavian feel. I love it!
Since poaching is a relatively easy task, I'll skip to some helpful tips for wrapping the pears in puff pastry. You'll need a small cup of water, a paint brush and 1 sheet of puff pastry cut into 1/2 inch strips.
The poaching liquid has a high concentration of sugar, so your pears will be sticky. The pastry will have no problem sticking to the surface of the pear. Begin wrapping the puff pastry in a tight spiral from the bottom of the pear up. When you come to the end of your first strip of pastry (above, left) brush a little water on the end and press to adhere the pastry pieces. Continue to wrap in a tight spiral.
When you reach the top, tuck in the end piece of pastry behind the last spiral.
Honeyed Pears in Puff Pastry [click for printable]
4 small pears
1 sheet of ready made puff pastry dough, thawed
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, seeded with hull reserved
3 sticks of cinnamon
6-8 whole cloves
Peel pears and core from the bottom. Cut the bottom of the pears strait across, so they will stand upright. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the 4 cups water, 2 cups sugar and 1 cup honey. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the sugar has melted, add the pears, vanilla seeds and hull, 1/2 lemon, cinnamon and cloves. Simmer pears until they are fork tender. This can take 20-40 minutes, depending on the ripeness of your pears.
When the pears are soft, remove them from the pot and allow them to cool slightly. Discard solid pieces from saucepan and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the poaching liquid. While pears are cooling, cut the puff pastry into 1/2" strips. One sheet of puff pastry will cover 4 small pears. Large pears will need a second sheet of puff pastry to compensate.
Wrap cooled pears with puff pastry starting at the bottom and working upwards. When you come to the end of a pastry strip, brush it lightly with water and press to adhere to the next pastry strip. Continue wrapping until you reach the top of the pear. Tuck the end of the last pastry piece behind the previous dough spiral. Place wrapped pears on a parchment lined jelly roll pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden brown.
Simmer the reserved poaching liquid over medium heat until thick and syrupy. Plate pears and top with syrup.
*NOTE: Your favorite blend of spices can be used in this recipe - go crazy!