Often forgotten, poached pears make for simple, but elegant, dessert.
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For the life of me I could not get the pears to become soft. After 30 minutes I gave up expecting that was as good as it was going to get. Very firm. I used unripe pears as suggested, but maybe too unripe. I also did not have any parchment paper (cooking at work) so I used a plate at first and later another pan to hold the pears down as they appeared to want to float up. Barlett pears by the way. Anyway, a lot of time with no payoff but I'll keep trying.
Poaching helps to soften, tenderize and infuse fruit with flavor. Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, the amount of sugar can be increased or decreased. The notes in the recipe indicate to use pears that are quite firm and not fully ripe; therefore, sometimes they can lack a bit in flavor. By adding more sugar to the poaching liquid, you will increase the sweetness of the pears. You can definitely experiment by adding less sugar, but keep in mind, that you are infusing flavor into the fruit, so it's important to have a flavorful and well-balanced poaching liquid - taste it to make sure you like it before you add the pears. Hope this helps. Cheers!