These are the directions from the original recipe I found:
Combine sugar, 2 tablespoons water, star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean in heavy large saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/4 cups water (mixture will bubble vigorously). Bring to simmer, stirring until pieces of caramel dissolve.
OK, so that's just a little bit fussy for me so I take a short cut:
Because I make this often, I put the extra syrup in the fridge. I boil the spices together in enough water to cover half a pear and add the syrup from last time. I boil it until it is amber and add the pears.
While the pot is simmering prepare your pears.
- Peal the skin off the pears leaving a little peel at the top for decorative reasons.
- If you are making half pears, (this is so much easier to poach as it needs less water and is much easier to handle) cut them in half and scoop out the seeds using a melon baller. Make a "v" shaped cut to take out the stem.
- If you are making whole pears take out the core from the bottom using a melon baller.
- The original recipe suggested cutting the pears in quarters. I can't make them look as nice this way. Remember you "taste" with your eyes first!
If you are making half pears, add pears to the water as you have them ready. When you add the second pear flip the first over in the water so you can identify which has been cooking the longest.
If you are making whole pears you need to rotate them carefully in the water so as not to bruise or nick them. (This is really fussy. I don't know why I ever did this in the past!)
Cover and simmer until tender, turning pears once, about 5 minutes. Test with a fork. They should still be a little firm.
Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate to cool. Put them inside down with half pears and stand the whole pears upright so they don't deform.
Boil liquid in saucepan until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. I watch for when the syrup get really bubbly and simmer it until it drops off the spoon in a stream and stops before dripping. If you try this do email me and tell me the perfect temperature and I'll buy a candy thermometer. I like the syrup really thick but soft enough to pour when it has been in the fridge. That way it gives a shiny glaze to the pears when I serve them. If you make it too thick and it turns out sticky, you can always add more water. In the pear above, the half pear syrup was just a little too thin for looks but it was oh, so tasty.
Pour a little warm syrup over pears, cover with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge until they are cold, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Plate the pears in the morning and add garnishes. Pour a little syrup over each one.
They are lovely with a little vanilla yogurt for breakfast and if you are serving these up for a desert, use a vanilla ice cream.