Ginger Poached Pears with Honeyed Vanilla Custard

November  8, 2010
2 Ratings
  • Makes four large servings, or eight smaller ones
Author Notes

I don’t like pie.
There I said it.
That just may condemn me as un-American in some circles, but it’s the truth. By other tasters’ accounts, I'm privileged to know many excellent pie makers. So it’s not that I’ve not been exposed to good pie throughout in my life. I would just rather eat a bowl full of the spiced fruit with a soothing crème anglaise than have it surrounded by pastry.
I am sure my mother-in-law – a masterful pie maker who has searched several continents for the right type of lard for her crust – will make what has become her Thanksgiving standard: pumpkin chiffon pie. And my purist pumpkin freak of a younger brother will expect one of the plain Jane variety.
But since this is only the second time ever that I will be hosting Thanksgiving at my very own table, this is what I will be serving to myself, if to no one else.

Test Kitchen Notes

Who knew ginger and pears complemented each other so well? Poach the fruit in lots of ginger beer, and get ready for more layers of ginger flavor from ginger snaps, crystallized bits and the fresh root itself. Everything works together here and highlights the mild sweetness of the pears while adding depth of flavor, a silky creme anglaise and crunchy topping to boot. - broccolirose —broccolirose

What You'll Need
  • 4 semi-ripe Bosc pears
  • 4 12-ounce bottles of potent Ginger Beer (I used Reeds Extra Ginger Brew)
  • 4, ¼ inch disks of peeled, raw ginger
  • The zest of one lemon, cut into strips that can easily be fished out of the poaching liquid
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup pecans, toasted
  • 4 high quality ginger snaps (I used DeBeukelaer Corp. Speculaas Crisps Belgian Ginger Cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons, sweetened dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  1. Peel the pears, cut them from top to bottom (keep the stem on one half, if you can, for presentation’s sake) and core them. I like to dig a bigger core hole than necessary as it makes a ready-made receptacle for the crumble topping when you serve them.
  2. Pour the ginger beer in a pan big enough to hold the pears in a single layer and add the raw ginger and lemon zest. Arrange pears cut side down in the poaching liquid. To keep the pears from floating, I invert a pan cover that is slightly smaller than the pan I am using to poach the pears and place it on top of the poaching pears. Get the liquid to a slow simmer and poach the pears until they can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife. For large pears, that takes 25-30 minutes.
  3. When the pears are done, carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool completely.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to fish out the lemon zest and ginger and put the poaching liquid back on medium low heat to reduce to about ¾ of a cup of spicy ginger syrup. Strain the reduced syrup into a pitcher.
  5. To make the crème anglaise custard, pour the half and half and honey in the top pan of a double boiler. Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape its contents out of the pod. Place both the vanilla pod and its seeds into the cream mixture. With water in the bottom of the double boiler, put the pan on the heat and bring it up in temperature to just below a simmer. In a separate metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. When the cream is hot enough, slowly whisk 3-4 tablespoons of the hot cream into the egg mixture. Add another 3-4 tablespoons of cream to the egg mixture continuously whisking. Whisk the thinned egg mixture into the hot cream mixture and put the combination over the double-boiler heat until it reaches about 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer. When it hit that mark, strain the mixture through a sieve into a pitcher and set aside to cool.
  6. Pulse the pecans a few times in a food processor. Add the ginger snaps and pulse a few more times until they are broken down. Stir in the crystallized ginger and cranberries.
  7. To assemble, pour a bit of syrup on the plate. Arrange one or two pear halves on top of it and pour a bit more syrup over the halves to give them a nice sheen. Generously fill the core holes with the crumble mixture. Either serve each plate with a small pitcher of custard, or pour a good amount over the pears before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Franca
  • jane mcmillan
    jane mcmillan
  • SallyCan
  • mrslarkin
  • Sagegreen
I am an excellent eater (I have been all my life). I’m a pretty good cook (Ask my kids!). And my passable writing improves with alcohol (whether it's the writer or the reader that needs to drink varies by sentence.). I just published my first cookbook, Green Plate Special, which focuses on delicious recipes that help every day cooks eat more sustainably.

21 Reviews

allison November 29, 2021
How far in advance can you poach a pear?
Franca December 15, 2020
I absolutely love pie, but this sounds stupid good. I love everything about it, and well I can bathe in any form of custard. Many moons ago, I made your pumpkin caramels posted here on the site. Swoon!!! Can't wait to make this. Salivating as I type.
kdtrieuan August 18, 2016
thank for you sharing, I like it
reneebetrand August 20, 2014
These recipes are very detailed. It makes me hungry.
Trumans_Banjo March 15, 2013
This was delicious! I forgot the half and half and so had to make due with what was in the fridge. We added honey and vanilla bean to Greek yogurt. The tartness from the yogurt was a really nice complement. The custard sounded amazing but I liked this less sweet version.
jane M. September 10, 2011
This is so elegant yet simple and the ingredient combo has me salivating!
Beautiful post.
cheese1227 September 10, 2011
Thanks Jane!
ellenl September 9, 2011
This looks just wonderful. I have never liked pies--something about the crust and its ingredients ...can't wait to make this! Thanks.
cheese1227 September 9, 2011
Let me know how it goes!
SallyCan November 12, 2010
Nice recipe. Won't be able to join your club, though, as to me, pie is the perfect food, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. So I'll eat all of the pie that you guys won't!
mrslarkin November 9, 2010
Oh, this looks so nice! Make some tuiles on the side, and you've got deconstructed pie, so as to keep the peace at the Thanksgiving dessert table.
cheese1227 November 9, 2010
What a great idea!! Maybe a lemon one, to help bring out the citrus notes in the ginger beer. I don't think I'll have time to test a recipe for those out before the contest deadline, but there is certainly time before T-day.
Sagegreen November 9, 2010
Love pears! Love your recipe!
cheese1227 November 9, 2010
Thanks, Sagegreen!
cheese1227 November 9, 2010
I will be bringing a cherry pie to my Mom's the weekend before Tday for the big Burns gathering as it's my Dad's favorite. I checked out my jars of cherries and they seem to be thicker in consistency on the top than on the bottom. Are your's like that? I'll havae to ask Cathy if that is normal.
healthierkitchen November 9, 2010
Both of my jars look the same - pretty thick"block " or cylinder, I guess, of the cherries surrounded by some of the syrup.
healthierkitchen November 9, 2010
I'm actually thinking of doing some kind of a cherry cheescake instead of a pie with those beautiful cherries from the canorama. I don't do Thanksgiving day, but a large buffet the next evening so I get more leeway!
cheese1227 November 9, 2010
I've got people all around me admitting that pie is not a favorite. And all these years, I thought I was alone!!
Lizthechef November 10, 2010
Let's start a club!
cheese1227 November 10, 2010
If we are going to have a club. We'll need a catchy name.
healthierkitchen November 9, 2010
Right up my alley - I don't care for pie much either!