Birne Helene/Poires Belle Helene
This classic ice cream coupe or sundae is a mainstay of Swiss tearooms casual restaurants. It’s usually made with poached pears, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, but this is an especially chocolaty version that pairs the pears with a dark chocolate sorbet.
Makes 6 servings
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 firm-ripe Bartlett pears, about 2 pounds
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
One 2- to 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2/3 cup unsweetened alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon clear pear brandy/eau de vie, optional
Chocolate shavings and curls to decorate
- To poach the pears, half fill a 4 quart pan with a lid with ice water and add the lemon juice. One at a time, peel, halve and use a melon ball scoop to core and stem the pears, adding the halves to the acidulated ice water as they are prepared. Use a slotted spoon to skim out the ice and pour away all the water except what’s needed to cover the pears by about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Add the sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and stir gently. Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper the same diameter as the inside of the pan and cut 6 to 8 1-inch (2.5-cm) holes in it. Cover the pears in the pan with the paper, pressing the paper down so that it is fully submerged. (This will keep the pear halves from floating up out of the liquid while they are cooking.) Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a full, rolling boil. Cover the pan, remove from the heat and allow the pears to sit in the hot liquid until they have cooled completely. If the pears are perfectly ripe, they won’t need any more cooking; if they are less ripe, boil them for 2 minutes before proceeding. Once the pear halves are cool, use a slotted spoon to lift them gently to a plastic container and pour the pear brandy, if using, over the pears. Pour in enough of the poaching syrup to cover the pears and transfer the vanilla bean to the container. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Leftover syrup may be frozen for the next batch of pears.
- For the sorbet, bring the water, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil in a medium saucepan, whisking occasionally. Off heat, whisk in the chocolate.
- Sift the coco into a bowl and gradually whisk in about a third of the chocolate mixture to form a paste. Whisk the paste into the remaining chocolate mixture.
- Strain into a container and refrigerate until cold.
- Whisk the chocolate sorbet mixture smooth and freeze in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Scrape the sorbet into a plastic container and cover it. Freeze until serving time.
- To serve, drain the pears well and arrange them in pairs, cut side facing, in dessert coupes or bowls. Arrange a scoop of the chocolate sorbet between them. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings and decorate with a couple of chocolate curls. Serve immediately.