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It's a hit and it's become a dessert: the belle hélène pear

The Belle-Hélène pear is a very simple dessert. It also has a history. It is the story of a "hit" hummed by the whole of Paris and which inspired many chefs before catching on in the fertile mind of Auguste Escoffier "the cook of kings and king of cooks"... Here is its history and the recipe of Monsieur de France.


A recipe born after a huge musical success


A hit: the opera "La Belle Hélène" by Offenbach:

"La Belle Hélène" is a "bouffe" opera signed by Jacques Offenbach and which was first performed in Paris on December 17, 1864. The story is about the famous Helen, loved by Paris, and at the origin of the Trojan War. A satyr of the time of Napoleon III that this opera whose verse of the kings is very known:


And a fashion 

La belle Hélène, opéra-bouffe de Meilhac, Halévy, Offenbach : Anna Judic Hélène) : dessin de Draner

La belle Hélène, opéra-bouffe de Meilhac, Halévy, Offenbach : Anna Judic Hélène) : dessin de Draner

While the opera is a huge success and everyone sings the verse of "la belle Hélène", the Parisian chefs, who already know what marketing is even though it was not invented, all have their own little "belle hélène" recipe to be in the air. The tables of Parisian restaurants were filled with "belle hélène" grilled tournedos (with potatoes, watercress and béarnaise), or "belle hélène" poultry supremes. It was at this time that the dessert that everyone knows was born. 


An idea attributed to Escoffier. 

We are not sure, but it is very likely that it was the great chef Auguste Escoffier who invented this recipe, especially since he arrived in Paris a year after the premiere of the opera at the time when "La belle Hélène" was most hummed. It is also possible that he arrived after the creation of the dessert to which he would have given a little inventiveness, which is quite in the style of this culinary genius. 


The recipe of the Poire Belle-Hélène 

Poires belle hélène / Photo Jessica Kantak Bailey

Poires belle hélène / Photo Jessica Kantak Bailey


The ingredients 

For 4 persons

  • 4 pears 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 20 grams of butter
  • 60 grams of caster sugar
  • 75 cl of water (to make your syrup)
  • 100 grams of dark chocolate (for pastry).
  • A few flaked almonds 
  • A little whipped cream


The process 


  1. Peel your pears 
  2. Lemon them by rubbing the lemon evenly over them
  3. In a saucepan, pour the sugar, place the vanilla bean that you have split in half
  4. Pour the water gradually, bring to a boil and you will have your syrup.
  5. Turn down the heat under the syrup pan
  6. Place the pears in the syrup and cook them for 15 minutes 
  7. Take your pears out and put them in cups or in a nice dish
  8. Keep 20 cl of syrup.
  9. Fry your slivered almonds in a frying pan, without fat
  10. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt it in a bain-marie
  11. Add the 20 cl of syrup
  12. Add the 20 grams of butter. 
  13. Pour the chocolate over the pears 
  14. Add a little Chantilly around it 
  15. Sprinkle with the slivered almonds 



You can replace the whipped cream with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or keep the whipped cream and add the vanilla ice cream after all!). It's also great with iced nougat. 

fancy other french sweet flavors ? for other recipes click here

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.