The holiday season is upon us and that means holiday desserts!
Cookies may be a staple of the season, but I am a fan of creating decadent desserts that take your guests on a more luxurious flavor journey from time to time. This Red Wine Poached Pears with Sweet Cream Dumplings holiday dessert will definitely fit the bill.
Crafted around the elegance of ripe, succulent pears, this dessert will help you embrace the holiday season with a tantalizing symphony of flavors. Delicately poached in a sangria-like sauce and adorned with seasonal spices, this pear-based creation is a festive delight that embodies warmth and indulgence, perfect for celebrating the joyous moments of the season.
And don’t even get me started on the dumplings. Stuffed with a delicious sweet cream filling and steamed to perfection in my 3-qt Two Way Sauté Pan with Lid & Steamer Basket, these dumplings create the perfectly absorbent base for our pears. The pairing is nothing short of divine.
What are poached pears?
Poached pears are whole, peeled pears gently simmered in a liquid, often a mixture of water, sugar, and spices, until they become tender and infused with flavors. This cooking method helps the pears absorb the surrounding flavors, resulting in a delicate, delicious dessert.
For this recipe I halve the pears before poaching to allow them to reach the desired flavor and consistency more easily.
Which pears are best for poaching?
Fun fact: there are more than 3,000 pear varieties!
Which means, when it comes to selecting a seasonal pear, your options are quite extensive.
For this recipe I recommend selecting either Anjou or Bosc pears. These types tend to be readily available this time of year across the United States. They are also both great options for poaching because they hold their shape well and have a sweet, tart flavor that goes exquisitely with the sauce.
The most important thing to note when selecting pears for poaching is that they are just ripe. Overripe pears will turn out soggy from the poaching process.
Why steamed dumplings?
Steaming dumplings is a common and delicious way to cook them. It’s a gentle method that retains moisture and flavor while keeping the dumplings soft and tender.
Steamed dumplings are lighter and more delicate compared to their counterparts. Boiled dumplings have a heartier texture, while fried dumplings offer a crispier, more golden exterior. Each method brings a unique taste and texture to the dish.
Steamed dumplings were the best pairing for the pears because they perfectly soak up some of the goodness from the red wine sauce.
What do you need to make Red Wine Poached Pears with Sweet Cream Dumplings?
While the ingredients list of this recipe is a bit extensive, you’ll find taking the time to create a creamy filling and spice-rich poaching liquid will result in a memorable dessert.
For the pears:
2½ cups fruity red wine, like Merlot, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup port, brandy or sherry (optional)
½ cup water or orange juice
3” fresh ginger, sliced ¼” thick
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 – 6 whole cloves
3 strips (2″) orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries
4 large Anjou or Bosc pears (peeled, halved and cored)
For the steamed sweet cream dumplings:
1 can refrigerated biscuits (NOT the flaky ones)
1 4.6oz box “cook & serve” vanilla pudding
2 cups half-and-half
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Do not use flaky biscuits for the dumplings. Doing so will result in an entirely different end product that won’t have the texture of dumplings that we are looking for to serve as a base for our pears.
- You can use the cinnamon rolls or any flavored Homestyle biscuit on the market. I found that honey flavored biscuits added a pleasing, interesting element to the final dish.
- Use parchment paper under each individual dumpling. This will ensure that the steamer basket holes are too covered to achieve appropriate steaming, but also prevents your dumplings from sticking to the pan at all.
- 2½ cups fruity red wine, like Merlot, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup port, brandy or sherry (optional)
- ½ cup water or orange juice
- 3” fresh ginger, sliced ¼” thick
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 - 6 whole cloves
- 3 strips (2") orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries
- 4 large Anjou or Bosc pears (peeled, halved and cored)
- 1 can refrigerated biscuits (NOT the flaky ones)
- 1 4.6oz box "cook & serve" vanilla pudding
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Prepare the pudding:
- In the everyday pan combine the pudding mix with the cold milk.
- Whisk in the beaten eggs. Bring to a boil while continuing to whisk. Remove from heat when pudding thickens.
- Whisk in vanilla and butter. Pudding should be thick.
- Transfer to a large plate or shallow bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the paint to keep it from getting a skin. Cool in the fridge.
Wipe out the pan with a wet cloth.
Prepare the pears:
- Combine all of the poaching liquid ingredients in the 3qt everyday pan.
- Bring the wine to a simmer to dissolve the sugar. Add the pear halves.
- Bring the liquid to a soft simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and gently poach the pears until a paring knife easily slides into the center of one half without any resistance, 15 to 20 minutes.
Off the heat, uncover the pot and let the pears sit in the poaching liquid while preparing the dumplings.
Prepare the sweet cream dumplings:
- Remove the pudding from the fridge and transfer to a bowl.
- With a rolling pin, flatten each biscuit to ¼" thick. Place a generous tablespoon of pudding in the center of each dough round. The custard should be scoopable (not runny) and hold shape so that it is easier to handle the bun once filled.
- Pleat the edges of the bun, slightly stretching the corners of the dough to meet another side and pinch them together. Continue until the call is closed. Place the dumpling on a small square of parchment paper seam side down on the steamer basket. Continue with the remaining biscuits.
- Remove the pears from the pan. On medium high heat reduce the poaching liquid.
- As the poaching liquid reduces, place the steamer basket on top of the pan. Steam for 15 - 20 minutes or until puffy and cooked through.
- Serve a sweet cream dumpling in a shallow bowl with a pear half. Drizzle the poaching liquid over both.