This is one of the most elegant desserts to make. It may take an afternoon or a day to poach these pears properly, but the rest of it is absolutely simple. I wanted to feature the beauty of tea in a dessert, so pears gently poached and steeped in chai tea was the perfect recipe. Palais des Thés Chai Impérial is a delicate black tea blend paired with an aromatic melange of green cardamom, pink peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger and orange zest.
I’ve loved chai tea for many years, and as you can imagine, being a lover of tea and spices, I can never have enough of either. There is a definite difference between a powdered sugary “chai latte” and the real thing. True chai tea— “chai” translates as “tea” in several languages— originates in India. In every Indian household, making chai is just making tea, a leftover custom from the British Raj influence in Indian culture. There is no one way of preparing a cup of chai.
A pear is a juicy and subtle fruit, which allows the chai tea leaves and spices to perfume its sumptuous plump flesh in a marvelous way. In an attempt to keep the flavor of the Chai Impérial tea as the main note upon the tongue, I first poached then steeped the pears overnight in the tea. The result? Incredible taste.
This recipe will delight your senses. In my tea drinking experience, Palais des Thés Chai Impérial tea is a harmonious match for the pears. I do not suggest trying to make your own with any sort of black chai tea blend because the flavors will differ, particularly if it is heavily spiced with cloves which has the tendency to overpower. The cardamom note in this tea is quite beautiful and will enchant your palate. I find this recipe to be quite romantic and an aphrodisiac for the senses. Serve this to someone you love, especially if you know they love tea.
Chai Impérial Pears
1 quart water
3 heaping tablespoons Palais des Thés Chai Impérial tea
4 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and halved
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and tea gently on low flame until warm. Please do not boil. Add maple syrup and vanilla extract.
2. Slide in the pears with a spoon and cover with parchment paper. This keeps the heat to poach the pears evenly. You can cut the parchment paper in a circle to fit the top of the saucepan and poke a few holes on top to allow the steam to escape.
3. Keep the liquid at a very low simmer until cooked through, 15-20 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears. You don’t want mushy pears, but a pleasant firmness with some soft bite.
4. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid. I suggest placing the pot in the fridge overnight after cooling, or transfer to a tempered glass bowl, cover and put in refrigerator.
Serve the pears warm or at room temperature by reheating the pears carefully on a low flame until just warmed. Don’t cook them.
I prepared a coconut cashew cream as a vegan alternative to custard, and garnished the pears with maple vanilla infused berries, silvered almonds and a sprinkle of chai tea and cinnamon.
If vanilla custard is more to your liking rather than the vegan coconut cashew cream, you can serve with the whole milk custard and berries as you please. Below is a recipe for coconut cashew cream. Infusing berries is really easy— just soak your berries in vanilla and maple syrup.
To plate as I have in the photographs:
1) Spoon a little coconut cashew cream (or vanilla custard) in the center of the plate and swirl it around to make a flat circle for its base.
2) Carefully place the pear (half or whole) upon the circle of cream/custard.
3) If you are serving a halved pear, fill the cored center with a spoonful of cream/custard. Just a dollop enough to fill.
4) Spoon some infused berries upon and around the pear, then sprinkle with almonds, toasted coconut flakes, and chai tea leaves (as garnish). If you have edible flowers (such as the borage flowers pictured) they will look beautiful with this dessert.
Coconut Cashew Cream (vegan)
1 cup raw cashews (soaked at least 4 hours)
2 tbs coconut butter
2 tablespoons agave or maple syrup
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut water
Drain and rinse cashews. Combine ingredients in a food processor (except for the coconut water) and blend until creamy smooth.
To get the cream consistency, begin by blending 1 tablespoon of coconut water, adding more as needed until mixture blends smoothly.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
Pears in the Time of Burnished Gold, a poem by Mohja Kahf
You bring me pears
The juice runs down your fingers
How long has it taken me to realize
that this is the place,
these are the times
which, if one day there is a paradise,
we will look back upon and say
Yes, we drank a little of this wine
We tasted, yes, of this before
You bring me pears
They are so ripe the knife slides easily,
curving around the tender core
in a pear-cutting ballet
Your hands are whole
We have children, water, and good health
I am suddenly aware
how everything around us is of burnished gold
You bring me pears
You houri, if houris can be men
You lean toward me, dark of eye,
and I am almost afraid to let go my breath
For, from my armchair, in the ordinary light,
it seems as if your jeans are green brocade
embossed with silver, as, moon among men,
you orbit me and we put time on hold
You are the plenitude of every age
The Nile in its fullness
Baghdad in its day
A Michaelangelan resplendence
The cistern filled to brim
The gifts of heaven lie strewn
over my body like plump berries
You bring me pears
and I take for a past or a coming poverty
from this munificence,
from this store of happiness and wealth
So let the glisten of my lips
express my thankfulness