Whenever I travel, the small moments stay with me longer than the big ones. The feeling of standing at the center of an ancient world in Delphi, Greece. The beauty of the fogs rolling in over the lush English countryside in springtime. A nectarine in southern France that tasted so divine that time stopped moving, just for a breath. It is the unexpected experiences that bury themselves in my memory, to be remembered and re-lived often.
I may not be able to tell you all of the landmarks I have seen or the museums I have visited, but I can tell you how it feels to sit on the steps of a church in Rome at night, the piazza lit with yellow lamps, and listen to a man softly strum a guitar. In the end, that may be more important after all.
On my recent trip to Paris and southern France, I fell in love with pear sorbet at Soleileïs, a quaint ice cream shop in Arles. The sorbet was the literal essence of pears; the texture, the delicate sweetness, and the soft flavor were all represented. From that moment on, whenever I found another ice cream cone on my travels—which was often—pear sorbet was tucked in the bottom of the cone so I could savor it in the last few bites.
While pear sorbet is somewhat of a staple in France (and perhaps most of Europe?), the United States is barren to such pleasures. Since I adore it so, I set out to create my own version of that first cone.
Not to be confused with pear ice cream (where pear is blended in more or less equal parts with cream), this sorbet stays pure to its namesake. Pears are peeled, cored, and cooked down with vanilla bean, forming the base of the dessert. There is little added sweetener in this sorbet, relying on the natural sugars of the pear to bring out the sweetness. The pear flavor reminds me of a good vanilla ice cream: satisfying spoonful after spoonful, but never overpowering.
Make a batch to share and create your own new, small moments to remember.
Pears are cooked down with vanilla bean, lemon juice, and sugar before they are blended into a thick puree. Use a high setting to keep the sorbet silky smooth. The final sorbet will retain the flavor, sweetness, and texture of a good pear. I find that a cone full of sorbet can be used as a wonderful palate cleanser after meals, since it feels light and bright on the tongue.
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Pear Vanilla Sorbet
Yields about 1 quart
6 bosc (or bartlett) pears, peeled, cored, and diced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise with seeds removed
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)
In a large saucepan, place prepared pears, sugar, water, lemon juice, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla bean pod. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, reduce heat, and simmer until the pears are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pods. Stir in agave nectar. Cool until warm to the touch (it is dangerous to blend hot liquids because they expand drastically).
Transfer pears and juices to a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Place in the refrigerator and chill 3-4 hours, or until cold.
Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for 2-3 hours before serving. The sorbet will keep well for 2 weeks in the freezer.