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Poaching fruit—simmering it gently in liquid—can help you bring a simple, elegant dessert to the table quickly.
The Best Way to Poach Fruit
Many recipes for this delicate dessert are made with aggressive spices that can overwhelm the delicate taste of the fruit. This approach calls for simmering the ears in an unspiced syrup that is reduced to concentrate the fruity flavor. It’s worth the effort to seek out Poire Williams (a pear-flavored eau-de-vie) to finish the dish, but you can also use another pear-flavored liqueur or brandy. As it poaches, fruit becomes tender because it absorbs some of the cooking liquid. For this reason, the flavor of the liquid is key. Create a simple poaching liquid by mixing two parts liquid (such as wine, water, or fruit juice) with one part sugar. Then try your hand at this technique with the following tips.
Core or pit the fruit, and peel if appropriate. Firm fruits, such as pears and apples, work best when peeled, but keep the skin on delicate stone fruits, such as peaches and plums.
Submerge fruit in the poaching liquid in a stainless steel pan.
Cover with a plate to weigh the fruit down and ensure even cooking.
Simmer for 10 minutes, and then check for doneness by piercing the fruit with a knife. The fruit should give without being mushy. Continue simmering to suit your taste.
Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon, and allow it to cool. Serve or store the fruit with the poaching liquid in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
- 2 cups white wine
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 2 2-by-1/2-inch pieces lemon peel
- 4 medium nectarines (about 1 3/4 pounds), slightly underripe
- Creme fraiche, for serving
- Fresh mint sprigs, for serving
In a medium saucepan, combine wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, lemon peel, and 5 cups water. Place over medium heat, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Gently place nectarines in the liquid. Add more water if needed to cover nectarines. Place a square of cheesecloth over the fruit, and top with a small plate to keep fruit submerged.
Increase heat to high, and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until nectarines are tender but not soft, about 5 minutes. Remove nectarines from liquid, and allow to cool
Return liquid to a boil, and cook until reduced to a syrup that will coat the back of spoon, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool.
Cut nectarines in half, and remove pit. Place two halves on serving plate. Drizzle with syrup. Top each half with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprig of mint.
2. Instant Pot Fruit Clafoutis
Clafoutis is a French dessert, generally made with cherries. You can use cherries or not. This recipe is versatile and flexible to each season’s produce – the recipe does suggest to keep it small, red, and round though. It’s a mouth-watering way to use up overripe produce. Bon appetite! Recipe from Hip Pressure Cooking.
In reality, poaching is one of the easiest forms of cooking and is reasonably foolproof if you follow these simple steps:
First, decide on what meat you want to use. Poaching works excellent with chicken, especially chicken breasts, but also a whole chicken. The chicken absorbs the flavor of the poaching liquid well and turns mediocre poultry into something delicious. Fish is also a classic poaching product. Whitefish works exceptionally well, but some redfish, like salmon, are equally suitable. Even beef can be poached! Although sacrilege to some hardcore meat-eaters, poached beef is a mainstay in Europe and can be a delightful change on the menu. For poaching, use the same cuts of beef you would use for roasting like sirloin strips or rump roast.
Next, choose a container for the stovetop to poach your chosen protein. The pot should be a bit larger than the meat with enough room to easily cover the meat with about an inch of water or stock. Add your poaching liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. What’s a poaching liquid? Don’t worry. This is the best part.
Start with a liquid to match what you are poaching. Stock or broth adds instant flavor to the meal. Chicken stock for chicken, beef stock for beef, vegetable stock for fish (store bought is perfectly fine). And, of course, water will always work. Next, you need an acid. Vinegar, wine, or lemon juice are all excellent choices. Add about 1/4 cup of acid to each quart of your stock or water. You should be able to taste the acid in the liquid. Finally, add your flavorings. Add herbs, spices, and vegetables to the poaching liquid. These flavors will be absorbed by the meat and are what poaching is all about. Good things to add include: basil, chives, coriander, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, star anise, tarragon, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, onions, carrots. Use fresh herbs when possible and don’t worry about chopping things up. Just stick it in the pot.
Bring the poaching liquid to a boil, and then add the meat. The poaching liquid should completely cover the meat by about one inch. This will ensure that the meat cooks evenly and will have the proper color and texture when finished. After the meat is added, reduce the heat to the adequate poaching temperature. If you happen to have an instant-read thermometer, this is a handy place to use it. If poaching fish, the temperature of the liquid should be maintained between 175 F and 185 F. The poaching liquid for chicken or beef should be between 160 F and 175 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t worry. Just keep the temperature below that of a simmer. The liquid should not be bubbling (one or two bubbles is ok) and the surface will appear to be rippling.
Cooking time varies depending on the size of the meat you are cooking. Typically, an eight-ounce portion of fish will take about 10 minutes and an equal size portion of chicken about 15 to 20 minutes. If unsure if it’s done, you can always cut into the meat before serving to make sure it has been cooked through.
Combine 3 cups water, 300 g sugar and any herbs or spices you like (cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, vanilla seeds, etc.)
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and add 6 plums, peaches, apples or pears (pears and apples should be peeled and halved) making sure they’re fully submerged in the liquid. Poach for 15 minutes – they shouldn’t be too soft, and hold their shape.
Once the fruit is just cooked, remove from the poaching liquid, increase the heat and reduce the liquid until syrupy. Alternatively, leave the fruit in the liquid to cool and store in a sealed jar in the fridge.
How to poach fruit
We love any recipe that we can use multiple ways – so it’s no secret we love poaching fruit. An easy way to create a moorish and luscious dessert while making use of our favourite seasonal fruits, this gentle cooking method is fabulous for highlighting the natural goodness in fruit.
From easy poached apples that are the perfect topping for morning oats to pears that are infused with the distinct flavours of red wine, orange and vanilla – the possibilities of poaching are endless. Cinnamon to cardamon or fresh vanilla pods, poaching is a great way to utilise spices that, chances are, you already have on hand.
Here is our ultimate guide to poaching fruit, with recipe ideas and inspirations for flavour combinations that are unbeatable.
How to poach fruit?
The simple rule of poaching, is to use 2 parts liquid such as wine or water to 1 part sugar. You can replace sugar in poaching with ingredients like honey.
- Prepare chosen fruit by peeling and coring (optional). The smaller the piece of fruit, the quicker the poaching time will be
- Add liquid to sugar and dissolve in a large pot or pan. Add spices and aromatics
- Add fruit and simmer over medium heat until fruit is tender (This will depend on the ripeness of fruit)
- Remove fruit and reduce sauce until it is a syrup like consistency.
TIP: For a more intense flavour, let your aromatics and spices sit in the poaching liquid for an increased amount of time before adding fruit.
Which fruits should you use for poaching?
It’s always great to choose a seasonal fruit for poaching. Buying in season means that you won’t have to compromise on quality and you will enjoy fresh produce at it’s best. Here are a few of our favourites:
What liquid should you use to poach fruit?
While wine, both white and red and and water are a common and perfect choice for poaching fruit – it doesn’t stop there. For something different you can poach in tea (chamomile or lightly scented white teas are fantastic), fruit juice or even coconut water.
Flavour combination ideas for poaching
- Red wine + orange + vanilla bean
- White wine + cinnamon + vanilla bean
- Maple syrup + cardamon + mixed spice
- Coconut water + apple + vanilla bean
- White wine + citrus + sugar + persimmons
- Water + brown sugar + chilli + cardamom + plum
- Water + sugar + orange + star anise
Pannacotta with Citrus Poached Pear – Australian Pears
The annual Winter Warmers Foodbook 2016 has more incredible desserts ideas that are perfect for the cooler weather. Get your copy here.
Poaching 101: Easy Recipes and Tips
Keep this recipe on hand if you're entertaining guests or simply looking to add a tasty variation to your dinner routine. We recommend serving with fresh green beans and brown rice.
Why Poaching is Preferred: Poaching is defined as extraction cooking, meaning the flavor of the ingredient being poached is extracted into the cooking liquid. Which begs the question, why ever would one waste it? When making a sauce to accompany your poached item, try incorporating some of the poaching liquid.
Poaching Tip: When poaching eggs, it's important to add a small amount of vinegar to the water &mdash this practice helps set the whites. Note: Adding salt to egg-poaching water causes the whites to break, creating a messy finished dish.
Poaching Tip: Poaching is a great way to soften and enhance the flavor of dried fruits, which often are more readily available than their fresh counterparts.
Poaching Tip: Similarly, dried cured sausage becomes plump, juicy, and extra flavorful when poached with herbs and aromatics, giving a long-lasting pantry item a lively boost.
Poaching Tip: Inherently low in fat and calories, poached chicken breast can be incorporated into more-healthful versions of traditional salads. Keep it light by whipping up a low-fat dressing to accompany.
Poaching Tip: When flavoring poaching liquid with citrus zest, make sure to remove all the pith (white part) that's attached to the colorful outer skin. Pith is responsible for the bitter flavor, while the zest is the source of essential oils that define the flavor and fragrance of citrus fruit.
Poaching Tip: To prevent unsightly curling, fish should be placed into poaching liquid that is cold or at least cool. Then bring the liquid and fish to a gentle simmer together.
Poaching Tip: Poaching may be an age-old way to cook, but feel free to bring it into the 20th century by employing a microwave instead of the stovetop. Fish works best with this method. Covering the dish with plastic wrap while microwaving is the key to success.
Poaching Tip: As with stewing and slow-cooking, poaching can be used to tenderize and flavor tougher cuts of meat, like beef chuck. The meat becomes fall-apart tender and can be incorporated into dishes like tacos and salads. Note: When poaching beef, be sure to skim the foam from the liquid for the first few minutes of simmering.
Poaching Tip: Fruit poached in sweetened, spiced liquid is a natural ice cream topper or float flavorer, and the cooking liquid works well as a fruity syrup. Even fibrous fruit like rhubarb becomes sweet and tender after a quick poach.
Poaching Tip: Homemade infused teas make a great base for poaching fruit &mdash they even impart extra antioxidants to the fruit during the poaching process.
Poached Peaches with Raspberries
I have never understood people that order fruit for dessert. I like fruit well enough, but if the options are chocolate cake or mixed berries, you know that I will always pick the cake. I don’t even like when a restaurant tries to put fruit on my chocolate cake. The berry garnish will sit there untouched and please put the coulis back in the kitchen. Leave my chocolate alone thankyouverymuch. I tell you this about myself because if you served me this dessert and I had never tasted it before, I would be incredibly disappointed. It is like when I watch Barefoot Contessa (I love me some Ina, but sometimes I question her judgment) and Ina serves dried fruit for dessert. If I were a dinner guest, I would leave sad and disillusioned. I know that she can whip up a mean Beatty’s Chocolate Cake or a Coconut concoction. Dried fruit is not dessert. Dried fruit is punishment if you ask me. It is like I was a badly behaved dinner guest. She even says that people are not going to remember what you serve for dinner, but they will always remember dessert. I say this because this Poached Peaches with Raspberries changed my opinion on two things. Fruit desserts and peaches.
I thought that I did not like the peach. I have a thing about texture and peaches can fall into that mushy fruit category. Maybe I got lucky when I made this and had perfect peaches. Not mushy at all, not even when poached. I have fallen in love with this peach dessert. It falls into some of my favorite dessert categories. Easy to make? Yes. Make ahead? Yes. A little bit different? Yes. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.
I found this recipe in Martha Stewart Living and ripped out the page (it is the issue with the mini pies on the cover) because the picture of the peaches was so gorgeous. The entire peach article is gorgeous. I want to live at that peach growers house, it is that beautiful. What I failed to rip out was the recipe. Oops. The other day, I was walking through Safeway (buying replacement ingredients because I burnt a cheesecake badly that I was supposed to take to a party. Uh-oh.) and saw the MSL and grabbed it to see what was in the poached peaches. Why I did not buy the magazine again I do not know. I figured that if I had the title of the recipe that I could find it online. No go. I did write down the ingredients while standing in the magazine aisle of Safeway while people were walking past me thinking that I was a crazy woman. I found the most gorgeous peaches and made this and will never snub my nose at a peach again.
The poaching liquid is so divine that I need to make something else out of it. Maybe pour it over seltzer water and some more wine? Do not mind if I do.
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar (I used vanilla sugar so you will see vanilla beans in the pictures, but regular sugar is just fine)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick snapped in half
the zest of one lemon (I used a vegetable peeler and got big strips)
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
6 ounces raspberries
Put all of the ingredients except the peaches and raspberries into a large pot.
Halve the peaches and remove the pit.
Add the peaches and bring the pot to a boil.
Cover the pot with parchment paper and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the peaches in the poaching liquid for 7-10 minutes (this depends on the peaches. I checked mine every few minutes and pulled them when I could get a knife through them with no resistance, but they were not completely mushy.)
Take the peaches out of the cooking liquid.
Add half of the raspberries to the cooked peaches.
Add the remaining raspberries to the pot and bring it back to a boil. Reduce the cooking liquid to about half.
Strain the poaching liquid.
Pour the glorious poaching liquid over the peaches and raspberries.
These are perfect just like this. But they would be pretty tasty in your morning cereal, oatmeal or on top of a waffle or pancake. Vanilla ice cream? Yes please.
Sliced on top of a piece of pound cake or angel food cake? If you must.
Or with a dollop of whipped cream on the side. If I were a peach this is how I would want to go.
How to Poach Fruit - Recipes
Poaching is a great way to deal with out-of-season or underripe fruits that are too hard or haven't developed enough natural sugar to be tasty on their own. The fruit is poached in water, wine, fruit juice, spirits such as whiskey or rum, or some combination of these, almost always sweetened with sugar. (The sugar is necessary even when poaching ripe, sweet fruits, because without it, the poaching liquid will pull out the fruits' natural sugars.) The liquid can also be flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, or vanilla. After poaching, the cooking liquid is often reduced so that the flavor of the fruit is concentrated in it, and then it is served along with the fruit.
A delicious way to poach all kinds of fruit is to cook the fruit in water sweetened with sugar, reduce and cool the syrup, and then flavor it with an appropriate fruit brandy or other alcohol that underlines the taste of the fruit. Pears are often poached in sweetened red wine that is then reduced, cooled, and served as a sauce for the pears.
Sweeten the poaching syrup lightly so that when it reduces, it doesn't become too sweet. When using spirits to flavor the poaching liquid (eaux-de-vie, fruit brandies, rum, whiskey, brandy), poach the fruit in a sugar syrup first and add the spirits only after the syrup has reduced and cooled. Reduce the syrup to a fairly thick consistency (it will be sweeter than you like), because the alcohol will thin the consistency as well as cut the sweetness of the syrup.
As you get adept at poaching, you may want to adjust the amount of sugar in the syrup to the sweetness of the fruit. But here are some basic proportions to get you going:
For pears only: (for 6 pears) 2 bottles red wine to 1 cup sugar. Flavor with 1 vanilla bean, split, and 2 cinnamon sticks (optional).
For all fruits: 2 cups water to 1/2 cup sugar.
Essentials of Cooking
By James Peterson
Artisan, December 1999
300 pages, more than 1100 photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
5 Ingredients to Poach in Yummy Fruit Desserts
Here are 5 ingredients to poach in your fruit desserts, and some cooking tips on how to craft them into a gourmet-status sweet treat.
It’s cold outside, but you still want a refreshing fruit dessert after dinner. Instead of a cold fruit dessert, get cozy with a poached fruit dish that will refresh you while keeping you warm.
Right off the bat, you’ll want to learn how to poach (read our article here for a quick tutorial). Once you’ve mastered this simple but sophisticated cooking method, you can create wonderfully soft and juicy desserts.
Choose any of the winter fruits below to test out with your winter fruit dessert, and poach away!