Nothing surprising here, really. We're not a land of cheese and baguette makers to then just leave them to go to waste and get stale on the counter.
Christmas will feature the usual cheese platter of local delicacies such as Cancoillotte, Morbier, Comté and Munster, but it's for dessert that we go all out.
We've adopted the Provence originated tradition of the Christmas's 13 desserts. Yes, 13 desserts (although we don't stick to the list of 13 "official" desserts)
Amongst them, the inevitable chocolate mousse (my dad and grandpa's favourite and a Christmas tradition that goes back to generations in my family), têtes de chocolat (chocolate heads) and Billiotte biscuits from Montbeliard's Christmas market, some muffins, several homemade cakes and tarts, one or two British specialties (this year it will be a magnificent Dundee cake from our local bakery in Nunhead), and a fruit salad or poached pears.
Speaking of poached pears, they are a perfect addition to a Christmas dessert table and will accompany any cake or chocolate dessert to perfection.
and spiced chocolate sauce
These lovely poached pears taste like Christmas, spice and all things nice.
I didn't want the delicious spiced syrup made to poach the pears to go to waste, so I incorporated it in the chocolate sauce (optional if the pears are an accompaniment rather that the main dessert).
The spiced syrup gives the chocolate a lovely twist, and the end result is magnificent.
Ingredients (for 2 poached pears)
For the pears poached in spiced syrup:
2 pears, ripe but firm
300 ml water
200g caster sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 whole cloves
1 dried fig (optional)
For the chocolate sauce:
150 to 200g good quality cooking chocolate (I used Valrhona chocolate)
1/ In a medium sized casserole, add all the syrup ingredients, mix well, and bring slowly to a boil. In the meantime, peal the pears whole, leaving the stems on (which will make them easy to handle and also look pretty)
2/ Dip the pears into the syrup, and simmer for approx 25 min, turning them around delicately from time to time if they are not totally immersed, to make sure they cook evenly. Once cooked, take them out of the syrup and transfer to a plate to cool. (If you're making them in advance, cover the plate with cling film once cold and keep them in the refrigerator. Take them out 20min before serving to slowly bring them at room temperature)
3/ Bring the syrup back to the boil and let reduce and thicken for a further 10 to 15 mins. Take the fig out (and either eat it or cut it in quarters to serve as a decoration with the pears)
4/ Before serving, place the chocolate bracken into pieces into a small glass bowl set over a small pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water or the chocolate will burn). Leave to melt and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the spiced syrup (adapt the quantity depending of how thick you would like your chocolate sauce to be). Pour the sauce into a saucer, and bring it to the table so your guests can pour it on their poached pear as desired.