For an extra special, adults-only dessert, try these sparking wine-poached pears with homemade hazelnut praline and a rich chocolate sauce.
4 firm eating pears
4 scoops hazelnut or vanilla ice-cream, to serve
300 ml sweet sparkling wine
150 g caster sugar
1 large strip lemon zest
1 vanilla pod, split down the middle
2 bay leaves
50 g caster sugar
75 ml thickened cream
125 g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100 g golden caster sugar
150 g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- Peel the pears but leave the stalks intact. Make the poaching liquid by putting all the ingredients into a pan just big enough to hold the pears with 500ml water. Slowly heat to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat a notch and slip in the pears, they should be fully submerged in the liquid. Cover with a circle of baking paper and very gently simmer the pears until they are soft. Depending on the size and firmness of your pears this could take anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Check with a knife after 20 minutes, and if they are tender they will slide off the knife easily. Keep cooking if they are still firm in the middle. Once cooked, remove from the heat but keep in the liquid until you are ready to serve.
- For the sauce, put the sugar into a saucepan on a low to medium heat, without stirring, wait for a chestnut brown caramel to form. Tip the pan from side to side if the caramel looks darker in patches. At this stage add the cream and bring back to a simmer so the caramel melts again, it might solidify but keep heating and stirring and it will melt. Add the chocolate and stir until it is fully melted and the sauce is smooth and glossy (do not let it boil as the chocolate will seize). Add a pinch of sea salt and set aside.
- For the praline, put the sugar in a saucepan over a low to medium heat and make a nutty brown caramel as before. Pour the mixture onto some baking paper (or the back of an oiled baking tray) and immediately sprinkle on the hazelnuts and a pinch pf sea salt, then leave to cool and set. When hard and cool, snap into pieces and put in a food processor. Pulse until broken down to rough crumbs.
- To serve, slice a little off the bottom of the pear so that it can stand. Put a scoop of hazelnut ice cream next to the pear on top of a little praline to stop it rolling around. Sprinkle more praline over the ice cream and pour some hot chocolate sauce over the pear.