Maple poached pears

We serve these pears at breakfast, but they make a delicious, light dessert, chilled or at room temperature. Serves 6.

2 cups apple cider
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup (the real stuff)
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 ripe, but firm, pears (we prefer bosc)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup yogurt, preferably Greek-style
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
mint sprigs (for garnish)

In large skillet, bring 1 cup maple syrup, cider and spices to a boil; cook 10 minutes and remove from heat.  While liquid is cooking, halve pears lengthwise and peel. Using melon baller or paring knife, scoop out core. 

After the liquid has cooked ten minutes, place the pears into the poaching liquid. Add enough water to barely cover the pears with liquid. Bring back to boil, lower the heat, and simmer, turning occasionally and spooning liquid over the pears, until they are just tender, about 15-20 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pear.  Remove the pears from the poaching liquid.  Raise the heat under the poaching liquid to high, and boil until it is reduced by half. 

Meanwhile, when the pear halves are cool enough to handle, place them, cut-side down, on a cutting board and make 1/4″ lengthwise vertical slices from the small end almost to the end of the large end of the pear, leaving enough uncut at the large end to hold the half together (see picture). Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks; gently whisk in the yogurt, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and powdered sugar.

To serve, place one pear half on a dessert plate and gently press to spread out the slices. Pour a tablespoon or two of the reduced poaching liquid over the pears, put a dollup of the whipped cream/yogurt mixure on the side, and garnish with a mint leaf.

The poaching of the pears and reduction of the liquid can be done several hours ahead. Cover the pears with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.