Pears Belle Helene Recipe

This pears with a chocolate sauce and ice-cream dessert is a classic French dessert that I love to serve. It’s relatively easy to make and I’m sure it will impress your guests tremendously… Go to the end of my article for “twists” to the Belle Hélène French dessert.

There are also several advantages to making “Pears Belle Helene”:

  1. most of it can be made well ahead of dinner time (even the previous day)
  2. it’s a dessert that is on the lighter side, not very sweet and can definitely close a rich dinner without any problems
  3. you can move away from the traditional recipe and ‘match’ the flavours of the dinner that you served (more on that later)

Les Ingredients de la Poire Belle Hélène

  • 4-6 Pears (ripe but still firm – get the best quality you can,  it’s the key) (“des poires”)
  • 1 Liter Water (“un litre d’eau”)
  • 200g Sugar (“du sucre”)
  • Lemon or Orange zest (“des zestes de citrons ou oranges”)
  • Optional: Vanilla (pod or extract) (“de la vanille”)
  • Optional: 1 Star Anis (“de la badiane chinoise”)
  • 250g Dark bittersweet chocolate (“du chocolat amer”)
  • 30cl Heavy cream (“de la creme”)
  • 50g Butter (room temperature) (“du beurre a temperature ambiante”)
  • Slivered toasted almonds (“des amandes grillées”)
  • Ice-cream (traditionally vanilla) (“de la glace”)

The Pears for the Pear Belle Hélène

Fill  a large saucepan (“une casserole”) with water and mix in the sugar, the zests and optionally the star anis and the vanilla (a pod split in half or some extract).  Put on the heat and let it come up to a very gentle simmer (“Faire frémir l’eau”).

Poire Belle Helene - La Poire

Peel the pears then cut off the lower part so that the pear can stand nicely on a plate (important for the plating later).

Then, from the bottom, core the pears (i.e.: remove the seeds & core) using a knife and a small spoon.  This is a very delicate operation (this is way the pears still need to be firm) so take your time.

To make the pears more appealing, try to keep the stem on them, it’s the classic ‘twist’ :-)

Poire Belle Helene - Les Poire

Then simmer the pears inside the syrupy liquid (“le liquide sirupeux”) until they are fork tender (test using a thin knife and see if it goes in smoothly throughout the pear).  Be careful to not overcook them, otherwise you’ll end up with “de la compote” (pear sauce)!

Poire Belle Helene - La cuisson

Set aside to rest inside their poaching liquid in a clean pan (you can keep them like that overnight if you need and even up to 3 days).

Making the Chocolate Sauce for the Pears Belle Hélène

Slowly heat up the cream in a heavy bottom pan or even better in a double-boiler (“un bain-marie”) (a container on top of a simmering pot of water).  Once it’s heated (never bring to a boil!), then add the chocolate (chopped up into small even pieces).  Keep mixing until the chocolate completely melts.  Then add the butter and mix gently until it has all melted and incorporated the chocolate mixture.

(Note: in the picture that I took, I kind of screwed up my chocolate by trying to go a little too fast.  This is why the texture is more granular and not silky smooth… Still delicious but much less presentable.  You’ll do a lot better than me I’m sure!)

The Plating of the Pears Belle Hélène

In a dessert dish, place one of the pears standing up.  Add an ice cream scoop and then drizzle the warm chocolate sauce on top of both the pear and the ice-cream.  Finish with a small handful of toaster slivered almonds… Enjoy!

Poire Belle Helene - Photo

Alternate Versions – The Pears Bella Helena?

One of the nice things about this dessert is that you can easily adapt it to what you served your guests…

  • Did you serve Thai food? Then poach the pears in a ginger syrup and serve with a coconut ice-cream or a lime sherbet…
  • Italian food? Try poaching the pears in a basil based-syrup and serve with a strawberry ice cream…
  • Indian? Poach your pears in an earl-grey tea syrup and serve with a vanilla ice-cream and add rose water to your chocolate sauce…
    You see where I’m going with this?

Let me know in the comments how it turned out for you and what combo you think might work well.

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