Photo: Jennifer Causey
The rosy hue of the hibiscus syrup is a holiday showstopper. Drizzle over spiced poached pears for a dessert that's a bit lighter, gluten-free, and still feels holiday-special. The key to beautifully poached pears is to cook them in just enough liquid to submerge the fruit--any more and the flavor from the spices may be lost. A parchment paper topper and a plate will keep liquid from evaporating too quickly.
Serves 8 (serving size: 1 pear, about 1 tbsp. syrup, and 1 tbsp. crème fraîche)
1. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add honey and salt, stirring until honey dissolves. Remove pan from heat; add tea bags, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and orange rind. Cover and steep 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags, and discard.
2. Peel pears, leaving stems intact. Add pears to pan. Add 1 to 2 cups remaining water to just cover pears. Cut a large piece of parchment paper into a 10-inch circle. Place parchment circle on top of pears; top with an upturned plate to submerge pears. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 1 hour or until pears are tender. Remove pears from pan with a slotted spoon.
3. Strain poaching liquid over a bowl, reserving 2 cups poaching liquid (reserve remaining liquid for another use). Bring 2 cups poaching liquid to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high; cook 20 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup syrup. Combine crème fraîche and vanilla in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Serve pears with syrup and crème fraîche mixture.