A delicious, decadent, alcohol-free alternative to red wine poached pears – these Saffron Poached Pears are just as easy to make, and look just as impressive! Spiced with cardamom, orange juice, orange peel, vanilla and sweetened with honey.
Saffron poached pears are perfect for holiday entertaining!
Now that you guys know how easy it is to make perfect Red Wine Poached Pears, you can use it as a guide to just as easily make white wine poached pears. But how about delicious poached pears without wine for anyone who doesn’t like alcohol?
These Cardamom and Saffron Poached Pears are just as flavorful as red wine poached pears, and just as easy to make! A beautiful and exotic spice, saffron is undoubtedly the star in this dish and makes this dessert absolutely decadent and impressive.
Saffron has a very subtle sweet flavor, and is very fragrant. It’s a spice that can easily get lost in the midst of stronger spices, so it’s important to use it in ways that it can shine. These red strands are also freaking expensive, but absolutely worth it in my opinion. It’s a luxurious spice that can elevate a dish unlike anything else. If you do get your hands on particularly cheap saffron, chances are it’s too good to be true. The good stuff really makes a difference, and makes these saffron poached pears uniquely delicious.
Which pears should I use for poaching?
I always use Bosc pears. I’ve shared some tips on how to choose the right pears for making poached pear desserts in this post here. It’s worth reading that post if you’d like to know why I recommend Bosc pears over others.
How to prepare saffron for these Saffron Poached Pears?
Saffron threads need to be soaked to get the most flavor out of them. Grinding the threads to smaller pieces will coax out even more flavor. If you have a mortar and pestle, place the saffron threads in the mortar with some granulated sugar and a generous punch of kosher salt and grind it all together to form a powder. Then this powder is mixed with about 1/4 cup of hot water and the saffron is allowed to soak and infuse the water.
If you don’t have a small mortar and pestle, you can simply put the saffron threads in a small bowl along with some sugar and kosher salt, and then using your finger tips, rub everything together. This doesn’t grind the saffron into a powder, BUT it will break the saffron sufficiently into very small pieces. Since this saffron is used for a sweet dish here, I used more sugar than salt.
How do I store saffron?
Saffron needs to be kept in a dry, dark and cool place. I store saffron in a small wax envelope, inside a covered glass bottle, in the fridge. But if you keep the saffron in the freezer, you can keep it for up to a year.
How to flavor the poaching liquid for these saffron poached pears
Saffron is the star in this poaching liquid, but I also wanted to add more flavors that complemented the pears and the saffron, without adding wine.
I chose orange juice and peel as the base flavor. You can use either orange blossom water, or even rose water as well. They both complement the flavor of saffron really well.
Honey is my choice of sweetener. Don’t use a strong flavored honey like manuka. A milder honey flavor like clover honey, or even orange blossom honey works well.
Additional spices – green cardamom is my first and only choice. Cardamom is a fragrant spice that perfectly complements the flavor and fragrance of saffron. But you also have to be careful not to use too much of it, or it’ll overpower the saffron and pears. If you’re using fresh green cardamom pods, you’ll only need a few pods as the spice will be fresher and more pungent. By using whole pods, you can also control the flavor more easily, because it’s easier to remove pods if you feel like it’s too strong or too much.
Another flavor I love to add to these saffron poached pears is vanilla! It’s a safe bet with pretty much any dessert. But I particularly like adding vanilla caviar, which will speckle the poached pears to make them look even more delicious!
Choosing the right saucepan to make saffron poached pears
Since the poaching liquid can be used to poach between 3-5 pears here, it’s important to use the right saucepan for the job. You want the pears to fit snugly inside the pan, with some wiggle room so that the pears can be partially submerged at an angle, or upright.
This is because I poach them with the pears sitting upright first, and then submerge them at an angle so that the tops of the pears get poached. Then I rotate the pears every few minutes to make sure the whole pear is poached well and flavored by the spices, and colored evenly. Unlike with red wine poached pears, it’s a little harder to tell if these saffron poached pears are taking on the yellow color at the beginning, so keep an eye on the pears as they are being poached.
It’s also important to let these cardamom saffron poached pears cool down in the poaching liquid. This will allow all of the flavors to really get inside the pears. I actually prefer to let the pears sit in the poaching liquid overnight, in the fridge.
After you remove the pears from the poaching liquid, cook the liquid for a few minutes to let it thicken and form a syrup. This syrup is insanely decadent and yummy! 🙂
How to serve these saffron poached pears
You can serve these saffron poached pears with a little syrup poured on top. A little whipped cream or mascarpone cheese would be a great addition, along with some chopped roasted pistachios.
These saffron poached pears taste just as indulgent as they look impressive! They are great to serve friends and family during the holidays, and they couldn’t be simpler to make!
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Saffron Poached Pears
- 15 Saffron threads
- 1 tsp sugar (leave out for a paleo-friendly dessert)
- Generous pinch of kosher salt
- Peel of 1 orange
- 10 cardamom pods opened
- 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ cup honey
- 1 cup water
- ½ tbsp vanilla bean paste / ½ vanilla pod
- 5 medium sized bosc pears
- Place the saffron, sugar and salt in a small mortar and pestle. Grind them together into a powder. Add ¼ cup of freshly boiled hot water to the ground saffron-sugar mix and let it steep for about 15 minutes.
- If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, place the saffron, sugar and salt in a bowl and rub the mix with the tips of your fingers to crush the saffron threads against the sugar and salt granules. Add ¼ cup of freshly boiled hot water to the ground saffron-sugar mix and let it steep for about 15 minutes.
- Place the saffron water and all the ingredients (except pears) in a saucepan. Make sure the saucepan is large enough for the pears to fit snugly in there, with just enough wiggle room for the pears to submerge in the poaching liquid at an angle as well.
- Bring the liquid to a simmer while stirring to make sure the honey is dissolved.
- When the liquid comes to a simmer, peel the pears and then lower them into the poaching liquid.
- Let the pears poach in the liquid on medium-low heat (simmering) for 20 - 25 minutes, but rotate the pears every 5 minutes to ensure they poach evenly on all sides, including the tops of the pears.
- When the pears have been poached, keep them upright in the poaching liquid, and remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the pears to cool down in the poaching liquid.
- I prefer to serve poached pears chilled, but they can be served at room temperature as well.
- Before serving, remove the pears from the poaching liquid and leave them on a plate, covered with plastic wrap.
- Strain the poaching liquid to remove the orange peel and cardamom. Return the syrup to the saucepan and heat it and bring it to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid thickens slightly into a syrup. The cooking time depends on how much liquid is left, so keep an eye on it. If the syrup is too thick, add a little water to thin it out.
- Serve the pears on a serving plate, and brush them a little with the syrup to make the pears look shiny (optional).
- Pour a little syrup over individual pears, and serve with some whipped mascarpone cheese or whipped cream, flavored with some orange extract (optional) and pistachios (optional).