How to Turn Pears and Red Wine Into an Elegant Dessert

Red wine and cranberry poached pears with mascarpone.
Red wine and cranberry poached pears with mascarpone. / Institute of Culinary Education

Most dessert recipes require you to turn on your oven. If you love sweet dishes but hate baking, check out this poached pears recipe from the Institute of Culinary Education. Made with cranberries, pears, and red wine, it’s the perfect alternative for people who are sick of eating (or making) cakes and pies.

The fruit is the star of this dessert, so make sure you use the best product you can find. “You want to start with ripe pears,” ICE’s lead recreational chef-instructor Roger Sitrin tells Mental Floss. “Ripe pears poach much better than unripe pears.”

After adding the wine, sugar, and aromatics to a saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add your peeled and cored pears and simmer them for 25 to 40 minutes, or until a knife pokes through them without resistance. 

Sitrin suggests finding a way to keep the pears under the liquid so they cook evenly. “If you keep a heat-safe plate on top of those pears, it will keep them under the liquid and allow them to be submerged,” he says. “The other method we use in restaurants is what we call a cartouche. And it is a round, cut-out of parchment paper that we sort of cover the pears with in the pot. [...] Sometimes i like to use the cartouche method better because i can see what’s happening in the pot.”

Add the cranberries to the pot around the 20-minute mark. Once the fruit is cooked, transfer it to a separate bowl and increase the heat of your cooking liquid. Allow it to reduce for several minutes, and serve it with the pears and cranberries. The fruit and sauce taste great on their own, but if you want to take the dish to the next level, make a whipped ginger mascarpone topping to add to the plate. “The whipped ginger mascarpone cheese is wonderful. What’s nice about that is that it’s not overly sweet, and the hint of vanilla hits back to the pears themselves,” Sitrin says. You can find the full recipe for the poached pears and whipped mascarpone below.

With campuses in New York and Los Angeles, ICE offers courses in the culinary arts, pastry and baking arts, and hospitality and hotel management. If you’re interested in furthering your culinary education, view their curricula online.

Red Wine and Cranberry Poached Pears

Serves 4

Poached Pears

4 cups red wine
1 vanilla bean, scraped seeds and pod
2 orange peels
1 orange, juiced
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 cup sugar
4 pears, peeled and core removed with a melon baller, stem left intact
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries

  1. Combine the red wine, vanilla bean seeds and pod, orange peels and juice, cinnamon stick, star anise, and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, dissolving the sugar and allowing the flavors to infuse.
  2. Add the pears to the poaching liquid. If necessary, place a small heatproof plate on top of the pears to submerge them. Simmer the pears for 25 to 40 minutes, or until the pears are tender when poked with a small knife.
  3. Once the pears have been in the poaching liquid for at least 20 minutes, add the cranberries. The cranberries should be simmering and begin to pop. Once the pears are tender, remove the pears and cranberries from the liquid and set aside to cool.
  4. Increase the heat under the poaching liquid and simmer until the liquid is reduced and thickens to syrup consistency.
  5. Serve pears with ginger mascarpone.

Whipped Ginger Mascarpone

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped.

  1. Place heavy cream, mascarpone cheese and sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip until it begins to hold stiff peaks, and then add the vanilla extract to the bowl. Continue beating until whip cream holds a peak. When the mixture is just about finished, fold in the chopped crystallized ginger.