Poached pears are the perfect, simple dessert on their unembellished own; add some vanilla ice cream and an easy chocolate sauce and they become poire Hélène, a lot more style for just a bit more effort.


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 firm pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett
  • Chocolate sauce (optional)
  • 1 quart vanilla-bean ice cream (optional)


Combine the sugar, cinnamon stick, and lemon slices with 5 cups water in a large saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the pan, then add the pod as well. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Peel and cut the pears in half through the stem. Using a melon-baller, scoop out the cores. Add the pears to the poaching liquid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the pears are just tender (the tip of a paring knife will go through the flesh of a pear with just a little resistance), about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the pears in the poaching liquid, about 45 minutes.

Serve the pears as is, allowing 2 halves per person, or serve each half topped with a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream, a little pear-poaching syrup, and warm chocolate sauce drizzled over the top.

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