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Poires Belle Helene Trifle for Christmas Dessert

Caitlin McGrath | Dec 26, 200504:11 AM

When noodling about what to make for dessert for Christmas, I thought a trifle sounded good and (bonus for me) simple to put together. I looked at a bunch of recipes, but didn't feel particularly inspired by any. I thought a bit, and decided to make a trifle based on the delcious French classic poires belle Helene (poached pears with chocolate sauce and whipped cream or ice cream).

I composed my trifle of layers of pound cake (I had initially intended to use ladyfingers, but this was a somewhat last-minute affair I couldn't find any), cinnamon-flavored pastry cream, poached pears, and chocolate sauce, and covered the whole with whipped cream, topped with a grating of chocolate. I made a batch of each of the components not knowing how much I would need of each (I figured I could find a use for leftovers [g]), but as it happened, the full amount of each perfectly fit in my two-quart trifle bowl (bought for the occasion for $10 at Bed Bath & Beyond) in three layers.

The pastry cream was a standard vanilla recipe using 2 cups milk, 6 egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 2 tablespoons butter, with the addition of a teaspoon of Vietnamese cinnamon. I poached five medium-sized pears in a 750 ml bottle of sauvignon blanc, 1/2 cup of sugar, and enough water to cover, then cut them in ~3/4-inch chunks. For the chocolate sauce, I melted together about seven ounces of 72% cocoa content chocolate, 2/3 cup whipping cream, and 1/4 cup water.

This wasn't a trifle of pretty layers to gaze upon through the sides of the bowl, as my pastry cream was quite loose (I used 2% milk rather than whole) and so filled in all the crevices around the edges, but the whipped cream and shaved chocolate provided a bit of elegance. I thought it was delicious, and it met with universal approval and many trips back for seconds among our guests. Just sorry I didn't take a picture!

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