Desserts,  Recipes

Pears Poached in Red Wine with Orange Cardamom Sabayon

Poached pears in red wine
Poached pears in red wine

It doesn’t feel like autumn yet here in Southern California, but pears are in the markets and pumpkin spice is everywhere (gah!). In a previous post I wrote about cooking with wine and liquor and this elegant dessert doubles your fun with wine; the pears are poached in it and the sweet custard sauce is made with it as well.

Start with pears that are ripe, but still somewhat firm and unbruised (you want them to be pretty, don’t you?). While it thankfully doesn’t have pumpkin spice, the cinnamon, orange and cardamom do give it a fall/winter/holiday feel. In fact, this dish would work well for a holiday dinner because the pears can be made in advance.

The recipe is highly adaptable; this one uses orange and spices but feel free to swap out with different types of citrus, use a white wine for poaching (though the pears are very pretty when they turn red) or try different spices (allspice, nutmeg, vanilla bean). The same can be said for the sabayon; use any kind of white wine, even champagne. If you use marsala (an Italian sweet wine), you’ll be making the Italian version, called zabaglione.

Tip; if you have whole cardamom pods and are wondering how to get the seeds out and grind them; read this post.

Poaching the pears.
Reducing the poaching liquid to a sauce.
Eggs, orange zest and cardamom for the sabayon.
Making the sabayon.

Pears Poached in Red Wine with Orange Cardamom Sabayon

Pears Poached in Red Wine with Orange Cardamom Sabayon
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dessert, pears, Poached


For the poaching liquid:

  • 1 750 ml bottle of red wine about 3 cups
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 each cinnamon stick
  • 2 each oranges juiced
  • 1 each peel from 1 orange
  • 1 each star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 each pears peeled, stem on

For the Orange Cardamom Sabayon

  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 6 each egg yolks
  • 1 each zest of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground cardamom


To poach the pears:

  • Peel the pears and leave the stem on.
  • Combine the wine, water, sugar, orange juice, orange peel and spices in a sauce pot large enough to hold the 6 pears snuggly and deep enough so that the pears are covered in the liquid.
  • Bring the liquid to a simmer and then gently submerge the pears. Poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a fork on the bottom. Time will vary depending on the ripeness of the pears (approximately 15-30 minutes).
  • If not serving the pears right away, refrigerate them in the syrup. Serve chilled or warmed.

Option to make syrup:

  • Remove the pears from the poaching liquid and continue to simmer the liquid until it reduces to a syrup which will coat the back of a spoon. The syrup can be used on the pears, over ice cream, or even as a sauce in a savory dish with fish or seared sea scallops.

To make the sabayon:

  • Whisk together all ingredients in a large heat proof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.
  • Whisk the egg mixture until frothy and it begins to thicken into a thin custard. It should coat the back of a spoon.
Poached pear in red wine.

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