This make ahead dessert of pear liqueur-soaked sponge pudding with tender poached pears and a dollop of Chantilly cream is ideal for an autumn dinner party
- 200g white caster sugar
- juice 2 lemons
- 1 thyme sprig
- 1 tsp dried lavender
- 2 tbsp honey
- 4 large, ripe pears, peeled, halved lengthways and core removed with a melon baller
- 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
- 10g honey
- 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and seeds scraped out
- 160g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 70g unsalted butter, softened and chopped, plus extra for greasing
- 100ml Poire Williams liqueur or sweet sherry
- vanilla Chantilly cream, to serve (to make your own, see tip below)
- fresh lavender, to serve (optional)
- Make the dough for the sponge the day before. Put the yeast, honey, vanilla seeds, flour and a pinch of salt in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (use an electric hand whisk and large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer) and whisk for 30 secs to combine. On a medium speed, slowly add the eggs, then increase the speed and gradually beat in the butter, waiting for one bit to be fully incorporated before adding more. The texture of the finished dough will be very wet, similar to brioche. Cover the bowl with cling film and prove overnight in the fridge – this will make the dough easier to handle.
- The pears can also be poached the day before. Mix the sugar with the lemon juice and 500ml water in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the thyme, lavender, honey and pears, then lower the heat and poach gently for 10 mins (firm pears may take longer). Remove the pears from the heat and leave to cool in the syrup, then refrigerate until needed.
- The next day, divide the dough into eight balls . Put each one into a buttered dariole mould, cover with buttered cling film and prove in a warm place for 1 -1 1/2 hrs until the dough has doubled in size. About 20 mins before the dough has finished proving, heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Bake the dough for 12 mins until golden and risen. Remove the puddings from the oven and cool for 5 mins, then remove from the moulds and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To assemble the pudding, drain the poaching liquor into a saucepan, bring to the boil, then reduce the liquid by half. Put the sponges in a deep-sided dish, then pour over the hot syrup. Cover with cling film and leave for 30 mins, turning the puddings over halfway through. Pour the Poire Williams over the sponges, re-cover and leave for a further 30 mins . Serve one pudding per person with the poached pears, a dollop of Chantilly cream, a drizzle of the poaching syrup and some fresh lavender, if you like.