You need to prepare the croutons and raisins at least 6 hours ahead.
While the brioche is in the oven, pour
Peel the pears, halve or quarter and remove the cores. Place the pieces in a pot just large enough to hold them, pour over the pear or apple juice and the remaining honey, add the saffron and star anise and/or cloves, and bring to the boil. You want the liquid to cover the pears; if there isn’t enough, add some boiling water. Place a cartouche or appropriate plate or saucer on top to hold them under the surface and cook at a rapid simmer until you can easily insert a knife through the pears, 20–30 minutes.
Take the cartouche, plate or saucer off the pears, turn the heat up to moderate and cook to reduce the liquid by half, taking care that the pears don’t stick to the pan. (If you aren’t using them immediately, leave them to cool before storing in the fridge.)
Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape the seeds into a bowl. Add the sugar and grind together briefly with the back of a spoon (don’t discard the pod – it can be used for other recipes). Mix in the mascarpone, then add the cream and whisk until forming medium-firm peaks. Store in the fridge.
Place the pears and syrup in a pan, gently bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Take off the heat and mix in the sultanas and their juices. Divide the pears and half the sultanas between 4 bowls and scatter the brioche over the top. Dollop on the mascarpone and the remaining sultanas, and pour on all the juice from the pan.
© 2005 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.