One of the wonderful things about living in England is the joy of the holiday season. People really embrace the cheer and warmth of it all. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of commercialism, but from where I stand, it seems less rampant than in the states and I’m grateful for that. There appears to be more emphasis on spending time together, enjoying festivities, hot drinks and twinkly lights. The Brits really know how to do Christmas.
Manchester’s Christmas markets begin in November. No Thanksgiving means they have no excuse not to Christmas up the place! They’ve won several awards for being the best in the country and one of the best in Europe (apparently!). For the better part of two months, the markets take over the pedestrian walkways and squares in city center, accompanied with (mostly German) vendors in adorable little log cabins offering every indulgent winter treat imaginable. At night, twinkle lights light up the city. It’s just lovely. One of my favorite things to do is simply wander through the cheerful Christmas scene with a mug of hot mulled wine or cider from the vendors.
Last year I was smitten with this slightly sweet mulled cider. This year, I’ve expanded to mulled wine. In case you’ve never had a mulled drink, here’s some backstory. To mull a drink means to heat a beverage–usually cider, wine, or apple juice–with a variety of “warming” spices like cinnamon, clove, star anise, and cardamom. The English like ginger in their mulled drinks while the Germans prefer citrus in their mulled drinks (Glühwein).
Since Sam doesn’t particularly like mulled wine (though he swears he does), I end up drinking most of our batches. I usually don’t mind, but leftovers had me wondering what else I could do with this little festive tipple.
Mulled wine is, of course, full of spice which reminded me of classic British puddings. Some of the most iconic British Christmas desserts are richly spiced, and I love that. Little mince pies. Dense Christmas puddings. Sticky gingerbreads. So I decided to take mulled wine and make it into a dessert–pears simmered in a sweet, spiced red wine and served with a little dark chocolate and whipped cream.
These mulled wine poached pears will put even the biggest Scrooge in the Christmas spirit. They have all the delicious spicy notes of mulled wine with the sweet, tender, spoonable flesh of a poached pear. They are so simple to make–the hardest part is waiting for them to finish bathing in the delicious spiced wine.
If you like these Mulled Wine Poached Pears with Chocolate & Cream, you might also like:
Mulled Wine Poached Pears with Chocolate & Cream
For the Mulled Pears:
- 4-6 firm pears peeled but leave the stem intact
- 2 cups red wine
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 thin slice of lemon
- 1 thin slice of orange
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 green cardamom pods cracked
- 1 star anise
- 4 whole cloves
For the chocolate ganache:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 1/2 ounces of bittersweet or dark chocolate chopped
For the cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Place all of the ingredients from red wine to the cloves in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears in one layer. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Carefully lower the pears into the hot liquid and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Check for tenderness by piercing the side of a pear with a paring knife. If the knife meets no resistance, they are tender enough. While the pears are simmering, spoon the spiced wine over the bits of pears poking out above the liquid frequently. When the pears are done, remove the pan from the heat and allow the pears to cool a bit in the liquid.
While the pears are cooling, put your chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl and warm 1/2 cup heavy cream in a small sauce pan on medium low. Watch the cream carefully. You don't want it to come to a boil, but you want to see a few little bubbles and steam coming off the top. When this happens, pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for about 2 minutes, then whisk the chocolate and cream together until smooth and silky.
Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
Serve the pears warm or at room temperature with a smear of ganache and a spoonful of whipped cream.