Poires Belle Hèléne

I recently spent two weeks travelling through California, experiencing the hot desert of Barstow, the majestic Redwoods of Northern California and the nearby beaches that were serene but also somehow a little unsettling. I hadn’t posted anything on my blog for three weeks and I couldn’t decide what to do next. I wanted to create some food that reflected my recent California experience – somehow another spicy Mexican dish didn’t seem quite right just yet – and decided that the dessert Poires Belle Hèléne was just right for me now. No, these poached pears covered in chocolate sauce cannot match the majesty of the California Redwoods, but  somehow the inner serenity and simplicity of this dish connected with my recent travels.


 Poires (Pears) Belle Hèléne was developed in 1864 by the famous chef, Auguste Escoffier, as a tribute to the opera, La Belle Hèléne by Offenbach. It is a simple dish – pears poached in a sugar syrup, and topped with chocolate sauce and a side of vanilla ice cream. I used three types of pears, Red Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc pears. The Bosc pears (brownish color) hold their shape the best when cooking; the Bartlett pears are the juiciest and tend to soften more when cooked. But to be honest, after I poached them altogether in the pot, I couldn’t tell the difference when I took them out to be coated in chocolate!


 Some recipes only call for water, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla flavouring for the pear poaching liquid, but I added a cinnamon stick which rounded out the flavour nicely. You could also be creative and add a dash of Cointreau or Grand Marnier to the poaching liquid.

 This is a very simple recipe but your dinner guests should be very happy if you ended your meal with this delicious dessert.


5.0 from 3 reviews
Poires Belle Hèléne
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 - 8
A simple but elegant dessert, consisting of poached pears covered in chocolate sauce and served with a side of ice cream
  • 6 - 8 fresh pears
  • Large pot or Dutch oven filled ¾ with water
  • 450 - 675 grams of caster sugar (2 - 3 cups)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Juice and zest from one lemon
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla flavouring (or 1 vanilla bean pod)
  • 340 grams (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 180 mls (3/4 cup) heavy cream
  • ice cream for garnish
  1. To prepare the poaching liquid, fill a large pot or Dutch oven ¾ full with water. Add the sugar, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon stick and vanilla flavouring to the water. (The amount of sugar you use depends on how large your pot is). Bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, peel the pears using a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Using a paring knife, cut a small hole on the bottom of each pear to remove a part of the core (cutting up into the core about 1 inch).
  3. Slice off a small amount of the bottom of each pear so that they will lie flat when you finally serve them on the plate.
  4. Place the pears in the poaching liquid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit over the top of the pot and simmer for 12 - 15 minutes- a knife should cut smoothly into the pear when done.
  5. Remove the pears from the liquid and place on a serving dish to cool.
  6. Heat the chocolate in a microwave for several minutes or over a double boiler on the stove, until melted. Add the heavy cream and stir until thoroughly combined.
  7. Spoon the chocolate sauce over each pear and serve with a scoop of ice cream on the side.


You Might Also Like

  • Daniela
    October 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    What an elegant way to present Poire Helene!
    The colors look gorgeous, so does the recipe.
    S glad I discovered your blog.
    Daniela recently posted…Subtle French Temptation: Creme Brulée with Blueberries and My First Blogging AnnniversaryMy Profile

  • Fran
    October 7, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Thank you Daniela- I’m now going over to your blog to have a look – happy to meet you!
    Fran recently posted…Poires Belle HèléneMy Profile

  • [email protected]
    October 7, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Poached pears are so terrific! And this is a dynamite presentation. I’ve heard of this dessert, but never had it. Definitely something we should try, particularly since Mrs KR is an opera nut! Good stuff – thanks.
    [email protected] recently posted…Chunky Pork and Sweet Potato ChiliMy Profile

    • Fran
      October 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Yes, maybe we should bring back the opera by Offenbach to celebrate this elegant pear dish!
      Fran recently posted…Poires Belle HèléneMy Profile

  • GourmetGetaways
    October 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Oh how delicious!
    Such a decadent way to enjoy poached pears. I love you scenery images as well… beautiful 🙂
    GourmetGetaways recently posted…Kra Prao GaiMy Profile

    • Fran
      October 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Thank you- this was the first time I made this dish and didn’t realise how easy this recipe was.
      Fran recently posted…Poires Belle HèléneMy Profile

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    October 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Hehe I know what you mean. I was so influenced by my time travelling around America that I made Mexican food as soon as I got home. These pears look divine! Look at that chocolate sauce!
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella recently posted…Misfortune Cookies for Halloween (or breakups)!My Profile

  • Nami | Just One Cookbook
    October 8, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Such a gorgeous dessert! I’ve never had poached pears this way. Love the chocolate sauce is drizzling on the side…beautiful!
    Nami | Just One Cookbook recently posted…Honey Soy Sauce Chicken Bento はちみつ醤油チキン弁当My Profile

  • [email protected]
    October 9, 2013 at 7:54 am

    There are few places on this planet that can match the magic that California is……sigh! I miss being there so. Thank you for sharing the gorgeous pictures.

    Beautiful poached pear…..looks warm and delicious.

    • Fran
      October 10, 2013 at 2:49 am

      Yes, California has it all- I’m now visiting the Anza Borrego desert in California- such a contrast from the Redwoods! Thanks for your comment.
      Fran recently posted…Poires Belle HèléneMy Profile

  • Sarah | The Sugar Hit
    October 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

    This is absolutely one of my favourite desserts of all time. And your rendition looks spectacular. Love it.
    Sarah | The Sugar Hit recently posted…Liege Waffles!My Profile

  • Juliana
    October 10, 2013 at 3:33 am

    Wow, this is such an elegant dessert Fran…Can you believe that I never poached pears…it is about time to give this a try.
    Thanks for the recipe and hope you are having a wonderful week 😀
    Juliana recently posted…Roasted Delicata SquashMy Profile

    • Fran
      October 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      I had never poached pears before- there is always a first time for everything!
      Fran recently posted…Poires Belle HèléneMy Profile

  • Joanne
    October 10, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    These are beautiful! Such an elegant dessert!
    Joanne recently posted…Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin TartMy Profile

  • Rachel
    October 16, 2013 at 6:07 am

    Wow! I love how you have presented the pears, they look absolutely divine 🙂

  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    October 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    It’s been far too long since I’ve traveled the California coastline or visited the redwood forests. Nothing can prepare you for driving through a tree. 🙂

    I love your poached pears and chocolate sauce. Simple and very elegant.
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted…Quick and Easy Cake DessertMy Profile

    • Fran
      October 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks, Maureen. I didn’t get to drive through the Redwood tree this time, but maybe next time!
      Fran recently posted…Poires Belle HèléneMy Profile