We have a few weeks left until the official start of autumn, but aren’t you getting the itch?

The itch for chai tea, pot roast, apple fritters and country ham. Crisps and chilis and creamy macaroni and cheese. Anything slow-cooked. And the shout-hallelujah return of Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Autumn, you’re giving me that new-boyfriend feeling.

Here in Nashville, it’s still too hot for heavy comfort foods, so this is my compromise: Chai Poached Pears Filled with Ginger Cream Cheese.

You place the ingredients in a small bowl and mix them with a fork or spoon. Then, spoon the filling into a bag for piping (a sandwich bag with one corner snipped off will work), or slice the pears in half and add a mound of filling. It’s the sort of crave-worthy stuff that would be good eaten straight out of the bowl or spread on a gingersnap, much less piped into a poached pear.

You could stop there and have a fantastic dessert.

But, just to push it to that level of Total Pear Nirvana, there’s a sauce. A warm sauce made of the chai poaching liquid, orange zest, cream and honey. Add a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg, and you have a light but comforting dessert that will help you get that fall fix, minus the lard and red-eye gravy.

Chai Poached Pears with Ginger Cream Cheese

Adapted from Esther Benaim and Maggie McKeown (Food Network Canada)

Yield: 4

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons chai tea
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 pears, peeled and cored
  • 1 cup Neufchâtel cheese, mascarpone or cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Garnish: cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg
  1. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil, add tea, and boil for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how strong you want the taste.
  2. Reduce heat to just under a boil, and add sugar.
  3. Once sugar has dissolved, add peeled and cored pears, and reduce heat to a simmer. Poach pears until soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve poaching liquid, and cool to room temperature.
  4. While the pears and poaching liquid are cooling, place the cheese, vanilla and ginger in a medium bowl, and combine with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons of poaching liquid to mixture; mix well. Place mixture in a piping bag, and fill the holes in the pears. Set aside.
  5. In a heavy saucepan, bring 1 cup of poaching liquid and orange zest to a boil. In a separate pot, combine cream and honey, and heat until warm. Add cream mixture slowly to poaching liquid.
  6. Place 1 pear on a plate. Spoon sauce around the pear. Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg.