Kid-friendly Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream + Vanilla Cake Crumbles Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Family Meal Plan: Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream + Vanilla Cake Crumbles

Family Meal Plan: Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream + Vanilla Cake Crumbles

Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream + Vanilla Cake Crumbles

by Dylan Sabuco
Photo by Dylan Sabuco
prep time
20 minutes
cook time
27 minutes
makes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream

When cooler weather sets in and fresh fruit options seem limited, I often turn to pears. During the fall and winter months, when apples usually take center stage, pears can shine just as brightly when given the chance. This dessert provides such an opportunity. 

And now I will let you in on a little chef's secret. When you want an elegant, seasonal, fruit-forward dessert that requires little effort to make, chefs have a trick up their sleeve: poaching!  

Poaching pears is like giving them a spa treatment in a sweet syrup. As they simmer, they become as soft and smooth as butter while absorbing the flavors of the poaching liquid (in this case, pomegranate juice). The result is sweet, soft, and sophisticated, with just a hint of tartness. 

Spoon it over a scoop of rich, slightly sweet pastry cream for a decadent, show-stopping dessert. Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream—it's the perfect way to end your meal in style!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief
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Shopping List

  • FRESH
  • 3 to 4 medium pears (your choice of variety)
  • DAIRY AND EGGS
  • 1 C heavy cream **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 4 eggs **(see allergy subs below)**
  • PANTRY
  • 1 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C pomegranate juice (or cranberry juice)
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 C all-purpose flour **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil **
  • 1 pinch salt
  • HAVE ON HAND
  • 1 C water
  • Paper cupcake liners

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • bake :

    to cook food with dry heat, as in an oven.

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • mix :

    to thoroughly combine two or more ingredients until uniform in texture.

  • simmer :

    to cook a food gently, usually in a liquid, until softened.

  • slice :

    to cut into thin pieces using a sawing motion with your knife.

Equipment Checklist

  • Muffin pan
  • Paper cupcake liners
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Small saucepan
  • Medium saucepan
  • Heat-safe bowl
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
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Ingredients

Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream

  • Poached pears:
  • 3 to 4 medium pears (your choice of variety)
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/2 C pomegranate juice (or cranberry juice)
  • Pastry cream:
  • 1 C heavy cream **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub coconut or plant-based heavy cream)**
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 egg **(Omit for EGG ALLERGY and cook cream for an extra 2 minutes)**
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY use certified gluten-free pure vanilla extract, not imitation vanilla flavor—check label)**

Vanilla Cake Crumbles

  • 3 eggs **(for EGG ALLERGY sub 2 T flaxseeds + 1/2 C warm water—more info below)**
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY use certified gluten-free pure vanilla extract, not imitation vanilla flavor—check label)**
  • 2 C all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free flour)**
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil **
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar

Food Allergen Substitutions

Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream

  • Dairy: Substitute coconut or plant-based heavy cream in pastry cream.
  • Egg: Omit egg and cook pastry cream for an extra 2 minutes. 
  • Gluten/Wheat: Use certified gluten-free pure vanilla extract, not imitation vanilla flavor in pastry cream.

Vanilla Cake Crumbles

  • Egg: For 3 eggs, substitute 2 T flaxseeds + 1/2 C warm water. Stir and soak flaxseeds in warm water for 5 minutes or until fully absorbed and thickened.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Use certified gluten-free pure vanilla extract, not imitation vanilla flavor in pastry cream. Substitute gluten-free/nut-free flour. 
  • Soy: Substitute canola oil or other nut-free high-smoking point oil for vegetable oil.

Instructions

Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream

1.
intro

Poached pears have a history that is actually wrapped up in the origin story of the modern kitchen itself. Auguste Escoffier is the chef who created the chain of command in kitchens. In the latter half of the 1800s, Escoffier revolutionized the way restaurants worked. His brigade system introduced the idea of an executive chef with their "brigade" of chefs answering to them. To this day, restaurants still use this system. In 1864, Escoffier also invented the dish "poires belle Hélène" (roughly "pears for beautiful Helen"), named after a French operetta called "La Belle Hélène." The dish began as an elegant peeled pear, poached in sugar syrup and served with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Over time, this dish has simplified greatly. Nowadays, poached pears can be found in a can at your grocery store. Let's try our hand at making this classic dish.

2.
measure + simmer + cool

We will start by making the pastry cream. This pudding-like cream will take only a few minutes to cook, but requires most of your attention to ensure none of the ingredients burn. In a small saucepan, measure 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and whisk over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then immediately pour the mixture into a heat-safe bowl to cool while you prepare the pears.

3.
scrumptious science

In the above step, you will use the gelling power of cornstarch. Cornstarch is a powder derived from the cellulose present in all plant cells. In its natural form, cellulose is like microscopic gelatin. It protects plant cells by cushioning them and filling in all the empty spaces in a cell. In this recipe, we use a powder version with all the liquid removed. When we add this dry cornstarch to a wet mixture (like cream and sugar in this instance), the cornstarch will absorb the liquid, and the cellulose will start to thicken our cream into a pudding-like consistency.

4.
slice + scoop

Slice 3 to 4 pears into 4 equal slices. Then, using a spoon, scoop out any seeds and set the pears aside. Peeling the pears before poaching may cause your poached pears to become mushy while cooking. Check the firmness of your pears before starting the recipe and decide whether you should peel your pear or not. If it is firm, peeling will be fine and result in a glossy, beautiful poached pear. If it is soft, leave the peel on. This will help the pear hold its shape.

5.
measure + simmer

In a medium saucepan, measure 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 1/2 cup pomegranate juice. Bring that mixture to a simmer, then add in your sliced pears. Simmer for 10 minutes or more. The longer the pears cook, the softer, more flavorful, and more colorful they become.

6.
serve

Serve your poached pears atop a healthy dollop of Sweet Pastry Cream and Vanilla Cake Crumbles (see recipe). Bon appetit!

Vanilla Cake Crumbles

1.
measure + mix

Crack and whisk 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk this mixture for at least 2 minutes or until all the whites and yolks are combined and frothy. Add in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup water, and 1 pinch of salt. Whisk until combined. Finally, add in 2 cups of flour and mix.

2.
preheat + divide

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Place cupcake liners in all the wells of a muffin pan. Then divide the batter into the cupcake liners using a 1/4 measuring cup as your scoop. This will ensure all the cakes are the same volume and, therefore, will take the same amount of time to cook.

3.
bake + crumble

Bake the cupcakes for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown on top and no batter is left. Remove the cupcake liners and crumble the cupcakes in a large bowl.

4.
sprinkle + serve

Let kids make their own Parfaits! They can sprinkle the cake crumbs on the bottom of their bowls and then layer the Poached Pears with Sweet Pastry Cream (see recipe), ice cream, or another dessert on top. Enjoy!

Surprise Ingredient: Pears!

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Photo by Taras Grebinets/Shutterstock.com

Hi! I'm Pear!

"I'm a fruit with a distinctive shape, except for an Asian pear cousin who is shaped like an apple! There's even a word for 'pear-shaped': 'pyriform!' We European pears have a thinner neck and a rounder end, but we're all juicy and delicious!"

History & Etymology

  • Pears have been around for a long time! There is evidence around Lake Zurich in Switzerland that pears have been eaten since prehistoric times! Pears were grown in China from around 2000 BCE, and the ancient Romans ate them raw and cooked with them. 
  • During the reign of Henry III, King of England, in the 1200s, court records indicate he received pears shipped to him from France.   
  • The word "pear" comes from Old English "pere," West Germanic "pera," related to the Dutch "peer," from the Latin "pirum."

Anatomy

  • Pear tree varieties come from the Pyrus genus of the Rosaceae or Rose family. There are 30 major pear species and over 3,000 cultivars (bred plant varieties). The European species include the D'Anjou, Bartlett, and Bosc. The fruit from the East Asia tree species is called by many names, such as apple, Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, or nashi. 
  • The pear tree grows from about 30 feet tall, although it can reach 56 feet, and some species are shrub-like. The fruit has a stem, green to yellow skin, white flesh, and a core with seeds. 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • Pears are picked before they are ripe, still green, and can easily be snapped off the tree. They ripen at room temperature.
  • You can tell pears are ripe when you press them gently around the stem, and their flesh gives slightly. Many pear varieties do not change color when mature; however, the Bartlett pear turns yellow. To help pears ripen sooner, place them next to bananas. To delay ripening, put them in the refrigerator.
  • You can purchase pears fresh, canned, as purée, or juice. You can add pears to salads, soups, breads, desserts, and preserves. 

Nutrition

  • Pears are part of a healthy diet. They have a moderate amount of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. They have antioxidants that are concentrated in the peel. Pears also have a high water content and are low in calories. 
  • Fiber aids digestion and slows sugar absorption, which is good for blood sugar. Vitamin C strengthens your immune system, contributes to wound healing, and helps build strong bones. Potassium is good for heart health, and the antioxidants in pears help prevent cancer and heart disease.

History of Poached Pears!

Photo by Vesna Danity/Shutterstock.com
  • Poached pears originated in France or Italy. They may have been served at the coronation of France's King Charles VII in 1429. 
  • "Poires à la Beaujolais," or "Beaujolais-style pears," is a dessert of peeled whole or halved pears that are placed in a saucepan with Beaujolais (a light red French wine), sugar, whole cinnamon and cloves, a vanilla pod, peppercorns, and orange zest. The mixture is simmered for about ten minutes. 
  • Pears can also be poached in a sugar and water syrup. A French recipe that uses sugar syrup is "poires belle Hélène" (roughly "pears for beautiful Helen"), named after a French operetta called "La Belle Hélène." Auguste Escoffier, a French chef, created this dish in 1864. It consists of peeled pears poached in sugar syrup and served with ice cream and chocolate sauce.  
  • Be sure to try the Sticky Fingers Cooking version: Poached Pear Parfait with Sweet Pastry Cream, served with Vanilla Cake Crumbles!

Let's Learn About France!

Photo by Alliance Images/Shutterstock.com
  • Bonjour (hello)! Bienvenue en (welcome to) France and the spectacular Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, and ancient Roman ruins in the Provence region.
  • France is a European country, and its official name is the French Republic. The capital city is Paris, which also has the most people. 
  • France's land area is 248,573 square miles. That is almost the size of the US state of Texas! The number of people in France is 67,874,000, about 43 percent more than in Texas.
  • The official and national language is French, which is also the official language in 12 other countries, and a co-official language in 16 countries, including Canada. 
  • France's government consists of a president, a prime minister, and a parliament and is divided into regions and departments rather than states and counties.
  • The French have a well-known motto, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity."
  • In addition to the Eiffel Tower, France is known for the Louvre, the most visited art museum worldwide (the Mona Lisa resides there), the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur) in southeastern France on the Mediterranean coast.
  • France is famous for the "beaux-arts" (fine arts). Paris is still home to many artists and great painters, artisans, and sculptors. Great literature came from French authors, such as Victor Hugo's novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • Paris has two popular nicknames. The most common is "The City of Light" (La Ville Lumière), which came about because Paris was the first European city to implement street lighting in 1860, lighting up the city with 56,000 gas street lamps. The second is "The City of Love," (La Ville de L'amour). This name is probably due to Paris being considered one of the most romantic cities in the world and the high number of marriage proposals at the Eiffel Tower!
  • French cuisine is known for its freshness and high quality. Many of the world's greatest pastries originated in France, such as the croissant, eclair, and macaron!
  • Other French foods are escargot (snails!), baguette (bread), ratatouille (roasted tomato, zucchini, and eggplant—remember the movie?!), and crepes (very thin pancakes).

What's It Like to Be a Kid in France?

  • Most kids start school (preschool) at around age three. Depending on the area and the school, students go to school 4 to 5 days a week. They often get a 1½-hour lunch break, and some kids go home for lunch. 
  • Dinner is served at 7:30 pm or later, so afternoon snacks are essential. "Le goûter" (goo-tay), or afternoon tea, often includes a "tartine," a slice of bread topped with something sweet or savory (like cheese, butter and jam, or Nutella). Other popular snacks are yogurt, fromage blanc (white cheese), and fruit. 
  • Popular sports for kids are soccer, bicycling, and tennis.
  • There are several parks in France, in and around Paris. Napoleon III even designed one of them, the Bois de Boulogne, where you can find beautiful gardens, lakes, a zoo, an amusement park, and two horse racing tracks. In addition, kids can go on pony rides, play mini-golf, and race remote control boats at many public parks.  
  • Of course, kids can also go to the most popular theme park in Europe, Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992. While there, kids can go on a ride unique to Disneyland Paris: Ratatouille: The Adventure!

Lettuce Joke Around

Why was the apple uncomfortable in the fruit bowl?

Pear pressure!

THYME for a Laugh

Why did the cake go to the doctor? 

Because it was feeling crumby.

THYME for a Laugh

"Knock, knock!" 

"Who's there?" 

"Pear." 

"Pear who?" 

"Pear-haps I will stop telling silly jokes now!"

That's Berry Funny

What fruit never goes anywhere alone?

Pears!

Lettuce Joke Around

Why did the students eat their homework? 

Because the teacher said that it was a piece of cake.

The Yolk's On You

The date on my vanilla must have expired.

It just doesn't make any scents!

The Yolk's On You

What are twins' favorite fruit?

Pears!

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