Chai Poached Pears and Sorbet

Poached pear and sorbet | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

These poached pears with sorbet are the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving dinner. The pears can be made days ahead, don’t require any oven space and are decadent with flavor, but light enough to follow your Thanksgiving feast. The poaching liquid is homemade chai; a blend of sweet spices and black tea. Once the pears are finished poaching, the liquid can be chilled in an ice cream maker to serve as sorbet. A drizzle of chocolate ganache gussies up the dessert and makes it look like something you fussed over, even though this is one of the easiest desserts to create. No one needs to know that!

Be sure to pick firm, unripe pears for poaching. The harder the pear, the longer it will take to poach, which means it has more time to soak up the flavors of the chai. Slow poaching is key to great flavor.

Poached Pears and Sorbet:

10 cups water

1/4 cup black tea

2 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

5 cardamom pods, lightly cracked

3 whole star anise

1-inch fresh ginger, sliced into 1/8-inch coins

2 cups sugar

10 small, firm pears


3/4 cup heavy cream or the pear poaching liquid for a dairy free version

6 ounces chocolate, finely chopped

1 tablespoon butter or non-dairy butter substitute

Chai and other spices | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a large pot, combine the water, tea, and spices, bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. Cover the pot, turn off the heat and let the chai steep for at least 30 minutes, or you can leave it overnight. The longer you leave the tea to steep, the stronger the flavor will be. Strain the liquid and discard the tea and spices. Add the sugar and bring to a simmer.

Pears | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pick firm pears.

Peeled and cored pears | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Peel and core the pears.

Pears in poaching liquid | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add them to the poaching liquid and bring to a gentle simmer.

Pears in poaching liquid | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Slowly poach the pears, turning them on occasion to make sure all sides are equally cooked. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how low the heat and how firm your pears.

Testing poached pears for doneness | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To check for doneness, stick a skewer in the bottom of the pear, through the thickest part of the fruit. It should go into the flesh easily. If the pears are not the same size, you may need to take the smaller ones out before the larger ones.

Poached pears | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Set them to drain and cool on a piece of parchment or wax paper. If you are not serving right away, cover the poached pears with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

To make the Sorbet:

Strain the poaching liquid and refrigerate it until throughly chilled. Click here to find my simple technique to make the sorbet base. Just add more water if the egg floats too high or add a bit of simple syrup if it sinks. Freeze as directed by your ice cream maker.

Drizzling poached pears with ganache | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To make the ganache:

When you are ready to serve the pears, heat the heavy cream in a small pot, until simmering. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and butter. Let them sit for 2 minutes then gently whisk them together. Let the mixture sit until it is cool enough to cling to the pears. Spoon the ganche over the pears.

Pear sorbet | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add a scoop of pear sorbet.

Poached pears with sorbet | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Happy Thanksgiving!

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8 thoughts to “Chai Poached Pears and Sorbet”

  1. We are going to a cabin for Thanksgiving. I know I will be able to make the poached pears, but was wondering if I could make the tea into a granita instead of a sorbet and how much sugar you would suggest for a ratio of tea to sugar. Should I add some kind of liqueur or wine to the solution for the granita?

    1. Hi Nancy,

      You can follow the same instructions for the sorbet to get it to the right sugar level, but then freeze it into a granita instead of using a machine. You can add wine if you wish, just go by flavor and the sorbet instructions to make sure it will freeze well.

      Thanks, Zoë

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