There is always room for dessert – especially when the dessert is just as healthy and light as it is scrumptious and festive! Poached pears are one of the simplest recipes to make, but also one of the most satisfying: this delicious holiday dessert is a great alternative to the dense, overly-rich classics we’ve been scarfing down all season long.

Made by Anya Kassoff of Golubka Kitchen for her latest cookbook, The Vibrant Table, Anya’s passion for balanced, seasonal fare is exemplified in every dazzling, wholesome dish. From Amaranth Pumpkin Porridge and Squash Blossom Quiche, to Roasted Plum Ice Cream and Hazelnut Cacao Goji Halva Bars, you will never run out of inspiration for enjoying whole foods no matter the season.

Naturally low in sugar, these vegan Earl Grey poached pears are the perfect end to your holiday meal… and one that won’t leave you feeling weighed down the next day (we’ve all been there). Whip these up for your next dinner party – you’ll be saving the best for last!

This is an autumnal dessert full of comforting flavors. It can be an elegant alternative to cake or pie when served at a dinner party. I love using tea leaves in my cooking as a way of introducing new, deep flavors into a dish, and the hint of bergamot in Earl Grey combines so well with the poached pear. This panna cotta can be exceptionally nutritious if you use Irish moss as a thickener.

Earl Grey Poached Pears with Hazelnut Panna Cotta
serves 8


For the panna cotta:
2 cups untoasted hazelnuts
4 cups purified water
6 tsp vegan gelatin or 1 1⁄2 oz dried Irish moss
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
seeds of 2 or 3 cardamom pods, ground in a mortar and pestle (see Note), or 1⁄4 tsp ground cardamom
6 Tbsp honey
6 Tbsp coconut oil

For the pears:
zest of 2 oranges
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
2 cups purified water
1⁄4 cup loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1 cup coconut sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1-inch piece fresh ginger
4 ripe but firm pears, peeled, halved, and cored

For assembly:
1⁄2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Note: If you are using a high-speed blender, there is no need to pre-grind the cardamom; you can throw the whole seeds in with the rest of the ingredients.


For the hazelnut milk:
1. Combine the hazelnuts and water in a high-speed blender (for best results) and blend until smooth.

Let rest for 10 minutes for the flavor to infuse. Strain the milk through a nut milk bag or several layers of cheesecloth and discard the pulp.

You should have 3 1⁄2 cups strained hazelnut milk (alternatively, you can use 3 1⁄2 cups store-bought nut milk).

2. This step varies according to which thickener you are using:

Vegan gelatin and any kind of blender: Bring the hazelnut milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the gelatin and whisk to dissolve completely. Pour it into the blender, add the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth.

Irish moss and a high-speed blender: Rinse the Irish moss under cool water to remove as much salt and debris as you can, then place in a large bowl.

Soak in plenty of hot water for at least 10 minutes. Irish moss will expand in size significantly, so make sure it is completely covered with water.

Add more water as needed. Drain and rinse the Irish moss again, making sure it is completely clean.

Combine the Irish moss with the remaining ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth.

3. For both thickeners: Divide the mixture among 8 serving bowls that are big enough to accommodate 1⁄2 pear.

Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Keep the panna cotta refrigerated until you are ready to serve.

For the pears:
In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the pears. Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Add the pears, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Remove them from the saucepan and let them cool to room temperature.

For the spicy syrup:
Strain the poaching liquid and pour it back into the same saucepan; return the cinnamon stick and ginger to the pan.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the liquid is syrupy and reduces to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

Stir and check for thickness often. The syrup will thicken further when it cools.

The syrup will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

To assemble:
Arrange a pear half on top of each panna cotta. Drizzle with the spicy syrup and sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts.

Note: If you are not vegetarian and decide to use regular gelatin as a thickener, add 10 teaspoons of it with the rest of the panna cotta ingredients and blend until smooth.

© 2014 by Anya Kassoff. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com

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