- 1/2 cup sugar - 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/4 cups water - 3 whole star anise - 4 whole cloves - 1 cinnamon stick - 1/2 vanilla bean, cut crosswise in half - 4 medium-size firm Anjou or Bosc pears. They must feel firm but smell sweet. (You can leave them whole or cut them in half as in the to the right.)
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. 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.
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Cover and simmer until tender, turning pears once, about 5 minutes. Using a parchment paper to keep the pears submerged is a good trick. 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.