Pears cooked in a white wine and vanilla flavoured poaching liquid before being cooked in the centre of a chocolate and almond sponge. An impressive but surprisingly easy dessert.
Place the wine, sugar, water, star anise and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over a gentle heat.
Peel the pears, keeping their natural shape and leaving the stem intact, carefully scoop out the core from the bottom. Gently add the pears to the poaching liquid and cover with a cartouche. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and poach until the pears tender - this will about 25 minutes, depending on the ripeness.
Remove pears from liquid and set aside to cool.
Reduce some of the poaching liquid until thickened and use as a sauce when serving.
Preheat the oven to 180'C.
Separate the eggs. Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and pale. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time.
Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie and then fold into the butter, egg and sugar mixture. Mix well and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure there are no lumps. Add the Ameretto, sift in the ground almonds and the flour and fold together.
In a dry and clean bowl, whip the egg whites to firm peaks then gently fold into the chocolate cake batter. Either divide into ovenproof serving dishes and place a single poached pear in the centre of each chocolate cake, or spread the batter into an appropriately sized cake tin. Trim off the stalks and push the pears into the mix point into the centre.
Bake for around 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
If baking more than 1 pear in a larger dish,when cooled a little and set, cut into segments or with rings around the pear and remove to serve.
Serve at room temperature or slightly warm with some of the reduced liquor, sprinkled with praline and a good dollop of vanilla flavoured mascapone.
Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla pod.
Whisk the mascarpone, vanilla seeds and icing sugar together until smooth, chill before serving to allow to firm.
Toast the almonds on a silicon mat, on a baking tray until golden.
In a thick based pan melt the sugar without stirring until approximately 1/3 has melted, gently stir over a low heat until clear and golden amber colored.
Trickle the caramel over the almonds and allow to set.
When cold, either break into shards or crush into a crumble.
«Once your stock syrup is made it will keep in the fridge for months. The high quantity of sugar will make it similar to a jam which has a very long shelf life.»