Poire belle Hélène sur le pain grillé

This morning, I decided to do something special with our last Williams’ bon chretien pear.   Pears are definitely my favourite Autumn fruit.  It’s difficult for me to muster up much enthusiasm for apples, lovely as they are.  Last weekend I bought a bag of six ‘ripen at home’ Red Williams (aka Williams’ bon chretien) pears and have been enjoying them all week long.

Red Williams

First, sliced thin with thin slices of Parmesan cheese, then au naturel, and finally, in slices on toast with Nutella.  This last one got me to thinking about a famous chocolate and pear dessert.  Poire belle Hélène  is a dessert made from pears poached in sugar syrup and served with vanilla ice, chocolate syrup, and crystallized violets.  It was created around 1864 by Auguste Escoffier and named after the operetta La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach.

Paris and Helen from a production of La belle Hélène at the Mikhaylovsky Theatre.

The Williams is often eaten raw, but holds its shape well when baked or poached.  The fruit has a bell shape, considered the traditional pear shape in the west, and its green skin turns yellow upon later ripening, although red-skinned derivative varieties exist.

Williams Bon Chrétien 1822

Before we get to my culinary creation, did you know that the Williams pear is known by another name in America?  The Williams’ bon chretien pear is commonly called the Bartlett pear in the U.S. and Canada.

The Williams pear is thought to date from 1765 to 1770 from the yard of an Aldermaston, England, schoolmaster named Mr. Stair or Mr. Wheeler, giving rise to the now-obscure synonyms Aldermaston pear and Stairs pear. A nurseryman named Williams later acquired the variety, and after introducing it to the rest of England, the pear became known as the Williams Pear.  However, the pear’s full name is Williams’ Bon Chretien, or “Williams’ good Christian.”

In 1799 James Carter imported several Williams trees into the United States, and they were planted on the grounds of Thomas Brewer in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  The Massachusetts estate was later acquired by Enoch Bartlett of Dorchester, Massachusetts.  Unaware of their origin, Bartlett named the pears after himself and introduced the variety into the United States.  It was not realized that Bartlett and Williams Pears were the same until 1828, when new trees arrived from Europe.  By that time the Bartlett variety had become vastly popular in the United States, and they are still generally known as Bartlett pears in the U.S. and Canada, although there are about 150 other synonyms worldwide.

I couldn’t believe this sentence from the GreatGrub website:  “Apparently the British, refusing to bow to American marketing still refer to it as the Williams Pear.”  Well why not?  It was developed over here for crying out loud!!

Now onto this morning’s breakfast in which I invented a tasty little something I call Poire belle Hélène avec de la cannelle caramélisée sur le pain grillé, or Cinnamon Carmelised Pears and Nutella on Toast.

Poire belle Hélène avec de la cannelle caramélisée sur le pain grillé

  • White bread
  • Butter
  • Nutella
  • Williams or Bartlett pear
  • Cinnamon and sugar

Preheat the grill.  Lightly toast the bread, then butter and spread generously with Nutella.  Arrange sliced pears on top and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Put under the grill for a few minutes until the sugar has partially melted and the pears are soft.


Info Source – Wikipedia


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