Poires Belle Helene, the Classic French Pear Dessert

French pear dessert

The Spruce 

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
932 Calories
16g Fat
189g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 932
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 21%
Saturated Fat 10g 49%
Cholesterol 58mg 19%
Sodium 221mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 189g 69%
Dietary Fiber 10g 34%
Total Sugars 154g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 5mg 25%
Calcium 215mg 17%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 773mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Few desserts come more classic than this delightful Poires Belle Helene. The dish is essentially poached pears with a chocolate sauce but certainly sounds so much more enticing with its beautiful enticing French name.

The dessert was reputably invented by the godfather of haute cuisine, Auguste Escoffier in Paris in the 19th century and purportedly named after the opera, La Belle Helen (the beautiful Helen) by Offenbach.

Without a doubt, the ease of preparation and beautiful presentation make this dish a stunning dessert for a dinner party, which is bound to impress but is equally impressive at any meal. What is not to love about pears, chocolate and ice cream; heaven in the bowl. 

Ingredients

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 1/2 cups water, divided

  • 4 firm Bosc pears, peeled and cored, with stem intact

  • 8 small scoops vanilla ice cream

  • 1/2 cup chocolate sauce, for drizzling

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    French pear dessert ingredients
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  2. Combine cinnamon sticks, sugar, and 1/2 cup of water in a medium saucepan.

    Combine cinnamon and sugar
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  3. Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 5 minutes, until it becomes a thick-like syrup and turns golden brown.

    Bring mixture to a bowl
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  4. Turn heat to lowest setting and gently whisk in remaining 2 cups water, until syrup is completely incorporated into water.

    Turn heat to lowest setting
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  5. Add prepared pears to sugar syrup mixture and bring to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes. Test doneness with a knife by pricking in the thickest part of the fruit; the pears are poached when they are just cooked through, but not completely soft. Be careful not to overcook or the pears will collapse.

    Add prepared pears to sugar
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  6. Allow pears to cool in syrup until they are at room temperature. Lift pears carefully from pan with a slotted spoon.

    Allow pears to cool
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  7. Serve with two small scoops of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. 

    Serve with chocolate and vanilla ice cream
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How to Core a Pear

  1. Lay the pear on its side. Using a sharp knife, take a thin slice from the base of the pear; this will expose the core and also create a flat surface on the base.

    Lay a pear on its side
    The Spruce
  2. Take a paring or vegetable knife and very carefully cut tight in and around the core (keep as close as you can to the core so as not to spoil the fruit or risk breaking through).

    Coring a pear
    The Spruce
  3. The core should come away easily. If not, use a teaspoon to scoop it out.

Which Pears to Use for Poire Belle Helene

Choose firm but not overripe, unblemished pears making sure the stem is still intact. A favorite is the Bosc pear, which has smooth, even skin and shape, making it easier to peel.​