Pears Belle Helene

by Maggie Battista on February 20, 2008

in Desserts


I did a very risky thing. I made what I thought would be a very beautiful, delicious French dessert for a beautiful, modern French girl. I figured, “There’s no way she’ll be familiar with this dessert. It’s so old-fashioned!”

As it turns out, this modern French girl’s grandmother used to make Pears Belle Helene often when she was a child. She conveyed that little tidbit of information to me while I began steeping the pears in the hot sugar-vanilla water. I had no idea I was making her favorite childhood sweet. I freaked. Who is silly enough to attempt a favorite recipe that your guest’s grandmother lovingly prepared often, very often? Me, that’s who. I freaked, moved on and focused on doing at least a touch of justice to this infamous dessert.

This very beautiful, delicious French dessert actually turned out to indeed be very delicious. It may not have tasted exactly like that of her grand-mere, but it at least resurrected good childhood thoughts. We talked about her grandmother, all the different ways her grandmother prepped this dish and vowed to do it again. Next time, with loads of vanilla bean seeds in the pear broth and roasted hazelnuts on top.

Pears Belle Helene


For the pears:

  • 4 to 6 firm Bartlett pears or other dessert variety
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Chopped pistachios, optional

Nigella’s recipe is fairly involved; mine is not. Peel, core and slice the pears in half. Place them in a shallow pan with the water, lemon juice, sugar and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the pears are soft and firm (not soft and mushy). Pull the pears out of the juice and let them cool on a pretty plate.

In a separate small saucier pan, melt the chocolate and sugar on low heat. Once melted, add the heavy cream while stirring. After the pears have cooled, pour the chocolate sauce all over them, and then sprinkle the pistachios on top.

Place the plate in the center of the dinner table with four forks. If your company is not so inclined to share, serve two pears per person with a short glass of champagne. French, of course!



Maggie Battista

Founder at Eat Boutique
Maggie, is the founder of Eat Boutique. She started Eat Boutique as a blog in 2007, and sold out of her first gift box of small batch independent food in 2009. Maggie continues to offer unique and delicious handmade food in tasting subscriptions and seasonal gift boxes for food fans and home cooks. Maggie also hosts Eat Boutique Markets, where she spotlights cookbook authors and food makers. She’s written for Style Me Pretty, Food52, Time Out New York, Spencer Magazine, and writes a cocktail column for the popular wedding blog, Snippet & Ink. Maggie's also created retail experiences for the largest floral and event design company in New England. She regularly travels far distances to find the next great chef, farmer, food maker or host. You can follow her worldwide – and homemade – gastronomic adventures on Twitter at @mizmaggieb or @eatboutique. Maggie's first-ever cookbook Food Gift Love will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in October 2015. You may pre-order now.


  • Vegeyum

    There is something so very special about this dish. I first had it when I was working in France, in Nancy in a little cafe in a back street. I went back again and again to have the same dessert time after time.

  • Lise

    So in France i will say.

    ” C’ etait delicieux ”

    And i finish the rest the next day just cold and was great too.

    Merci beaucoup pour ce delicieux moment ensemble

  • Hillary

    I saw the same dish on someone else’s food blog. I have to say, yours look better! Shh….

  • white on rice couple

    Wow, those pears looks divine. We’ve been looking for something different from our standards poached pears for dessert. These look even better! We found your blog from someones blogroll and glad we did. You’re really do throw mean dinner parties!

  • Vanessa Soeterboek

    I am brazilian married to a dutch and I made this dessert for dinner last weekend on my mother-in-law`s house and everybody loved it! So deliciously french!


    can it be prepared a day before

    • Maggie

      Hi Elisa, You can poach the pears the day before, but I’d do the chocolate just before serving. Happy holidays! xox

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