Nothing brings a meal to a satisfying conclusion like a great dessert. Few of us eat dessert after every meal, of course, but perhaps that’s what makes them feel like such a treat. Whether you’re coming to the end of a dinner party with friends, or grabbing a well-earned bite to eat after a long day, nothing quite hits the mark like those few decadent mouthfuls of something sweet.
There are plenty of obvious ingredients when choosing a dessert - chocolate, strawberries or raspberries to name a few - but if you’re looking for something a little different, there are also plenty of reasons to choose pears. Often ignored in favour of sweeter, more brightly-coloured fruit, pears have a fragrant, mellow sweetness that works with other flavours instead of competing against them, and can be enhanced with spicing to produce a subtle and sophisticated taste profile.
How to use pears in desserts
People have been enjoying pears as a sweet, juicy treat since prehistoric times, and between then and now a huge variety of recipes have emerged, all with pears as the star ingredient. Here are just a few of our favourites.
Like its cousin the apple, pear tastes great as part of a traditional pie or pudding, with a generous topping of creamy egg custard. If you want to take advantage of the classic combination of vanilla custard and pear, and you don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen, try this simple, delicious pear custard pie from Dinner at the Zoo. Ideal for busy parents, this dessert can be made in a few simple steps, then left to cook while you get on with other things.
Pears can also be baked into cakes, adding a fragrant pear flavour to your favourite teatime treat, and helping to keep the sponge light and moist. This pear bundt cake from Taste of Home is another simple bake, and is also surprisingly low in fat, with just 149 calories and 3g of fat per slice (1/16th of a cake)
If you need a partner for sweeter fruit, like raspberry, the mellow flavour of pear works perfectly. This pear and raspberry crisp from Taste of Home blends the two perfectly, adding a crunchy cereal topping for an interesting twist on a classic crumble. Serve with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream for the perfect family dessert.
Pear is also a popular choice in French patisserie, if you’re looking for a more elegant way to enjoy your pears. This recipe from Food 52 for tarte aux poires et chocolat makes the perfect encore to any dinner party, with its golden pastry casing, decorative fan of pear slices, and decadent chocolate ganache and pear filling.
Poaching pears in red wine is another elegant yet simple dessert idea, originating from the Beaujolais region of France. This red-wine-poached pears recipe from Food 52 produces stunning, ruby-red pears, subtly spiced with cinnamon and orange peel to bring out their natural flavour. They are simply served, with a scoop of ice cream, mascarpone or a syrup made from reduced poaching liquid, and the leftovers taste divine over oatmeal and yogurt the next morning.
Fragrant, juicy and delicious, pears have the perfect, mellow sweetness for a truly satisfying dessert - enough to satisfy a sweet tooth, but not so sweet that they overwhelm everything with a huge hit of sugar. They can be used to balance stronger flavours like raspberry or chocolate, or their own flavour can be enhanced with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla. In fact, they also work well in savoury dishes, and are often paired with piquant blue cheese flavours like stilton or gorgonzola.
Pears are also a relatively substantial fruit, which means that they work well in hearty winter desserts like pies and cakes. In fact, pears are one of the few fruits in season throughout the colder months, making them an essential part of any seasonal dessert menu. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, helping to keep your body stocked up with essential nutrients during flu season.
If you’re hungry for more pear recipes, check out our list of 10 sweet and savoury pear recipes, which is full of ripe, juicy pear inspiration, from savoury risottos and gourmet sandwiches to fragrant pear and cranberry crumbles and vitamin-packed smoothies.