Maple-poached pear sundae

Maple-poached pear sundae

After moving to Vermont in the late eighties, it didn’t take long for me to become familiar with what is probably the state’s signature product: maple syrup. “Sugaring” is the process of tapping the sap of sugar maples and then boiling down the clear liquid until the water has evaporated and the syrup acquires its distinctive amber color.

Native Americans practiced sugaring long before the settlers ever came to these shores (the Algonquin Indians named it Sinzibukwud or “drawn from wood”). Delighted by the flavor, the newcomers soon developed their own sugaring method – one that is still practiced today. The task is arduous for sure, but it yields the most deliciously sweet and earthy liquid.

Aside from its rich flavor, maple syrup is actually a very nutritious food. It is very high in manganese, potassium, calcium and zinc, and contains traces of a myriad of minerals and vitamins – making it a perfect alternative to regular sugar. It certainly widened my horizons! Maple syrup soon became my favorite sweetener, finding its way into many of my recipes: desserts and breakfast fare to salad dressings and savory dishes (I love using a dash of the stuff to glaze vegetables!).

Today’s recipe is probably my favorite creation of all. Instead of poaching fruits with sugar and wine as is so often done, I poach these fresh, local Bosc pears in maple syrup, vanilla and lemon zest. Surprisingly it takes very little maple syrup to make the pears intensely sweet and flavorful.

Serve the pears on their own for a light ending to a meal, or dress them up with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce. What a perfect way to conjure up romantic Vermont foliage on your palate!

Maple syrup

Maple-poached pear sundae

serves 6
active time: 20 min

For the pears

  1. 1 lemon
  2. 7 cups spring water
  3. 3/4 cup maple syrup (grade A or B)
  4. 2″ piece fresh vanilla bean – cut in half
  5. 6 Bosc pears – peeled, cut in half and cored

For the chocolate sauce

  1. 4 oz (115 g) semisweet chocolate (preferably Callebaut, Valrhona or Scharffen Berger) – broken in 1″ chunks
  2. 1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy cream
  1. 1 pt pistachio or vanilla ice cream

  1. Step 1: Peel the lemon with a vegetable hand-peeler in 6 strips. Place the water, maple syrup, vanilla and lemon strips in a large heavy-bottomed pot and bring to boiling point. Reduce the heat to medium to medium-high and add the pears, cut-side down. Fast-simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, turning the pears over once, two-thirds of the way through the cooking. When the liquid has almost all evaporated and starts foaming up, remove pot from heat and transfer the pears, lemon peels, vanilla and syrup to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled (about 2 hours).
  2. Cook’s note: The pears can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  3. Step 2: In a double boiler, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and slowly add the cream, stirring until the mixture is smooth, to the desired consistency. (Depending on the brand of chocolate, you will use 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of cream). Keep warm.
  4. Step 5: To serve – Place 2 pear halves in a dessert bowl or glass. Top with one or two scoops of ice cream. Drizzle with the pear juices and the chocolate sauce. Garnish with one lemon strip and serve immediately.

Maple-poached pear sundae

dessert, sundae, pears


  1. Viviane, Great photo of your tasty treat and I enjoyed reading your information. Now it’s time to start cooking! I love Pears!

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  6. Such deliciousness. I’ll be saving this one for sure.
    I went to school in Vermont and now live in Maine, so I do know something about maple syrup. But I never knew it had nutritional value. Just what I need – a way to rationalize my consumption.

  7. very elegant dessert, I love the flavor of maple syrup. It’s a shame that it can be very expensive, I try to buy it once in a while when it’s on sale

  8. Shelly, I must say your story made me smile — A happy and delicious ending to bad cough. I can only hope the maple-poached pears would do the same…

    They certainly put an ending to any bad mood!

  9. Shelly Huang

    This looks like absolute bliss! While we’re on the topic of nutrients, I once had a cough so horrible that I damaged my vocal cords so much it hurt to swallow. My friend, who’s an eastern holistic doctor, suggested poaching pears in honey. Like a miracle, my cough was gone the next day! Not sure if it was a coincidence, but perhaps it was because the dish was so delicious it boosted my immune system! 🙂

  10. These look divine.

  11. This looks and sounds absolutely amazing. I love that you provided nutritional information and a touch of history in your post – awesome!

  12. I didn’t know maple syrup was so good for us either – I’ll have to give this a try! thanks

  13. Hard to argue with anyone who extols maple syrup’s nutritional value! Lovely photo of a great dish I wish I had thought of, and will surely be making soon.

  14. Whether or not it comes with ice cream, the pear in syrup alone looks nourishing and delicious.

    • Thank you all for your comments. TasteHongKong, you are so right…

      The poached pears make a delicious, light dessert on their own. I love to serve them without the chocolate sauce and the ice cream for brunch/lunch… The flavor the maple syrup gives to the pears is truly unusual and addictive!

  15. Such a heavenly dessert. I love maple syrup but they are so expensive in the Philippines but their taste is just pure goodness. Oh, triple yum for this Sundae

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  17. What an elegant dessert. I had no idea Maple Syrup had nutritional value. Thanks for the info and for this wonderful new dish!

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