New classic ‘Belle Hélène’

New classic ‘Belle Hélène’

New Classics
Mark Roper

This is my version of Escoffier’s Poire Belle Hélène – poached pear with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. My version has all the elements of the great chef’s classic – dark chocolate, poached pear and rich vanilla ice cream – but made into a tart. The light but decadent chocolate filling in the buttery pastry adds texture and crunch.

Ice cream


Quantity Ingredient
250ml milk
250ml thickened cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
100g egg yolks
100g caster sugar


Quantity Ingredient
750g caster sugar
1.5 litre water
6 william, bartlett or packham pears, in between hard and ripe


Quantity Ingredient
Pâte sucrée


Quantity Ingredient
420g dark couverture chocolate, as féves or finely grated
300g butter, at room temperature
3 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
55g caster sugar


  1. For the ice cream

    Combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
  2. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and thick. Pour in one-third of the hot milk and cream mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk in the rest then return the mixture to the saucepan. Over medium heat, stir constantly with a wooden spoon using a figureeight movement until the mixture starts to thicken. To test whether the custard is ready, lift the spoon from the pan and run your finger across the back of it; if the line remains distinct for several seconds it's ready. If you’re unsure, use a candy thermometer and when the temperature reaches 80°C, it’s ready.
  3. Pour the custard into a bowl and place it over a larger bowl half-filled with iced water to arrest the cooking. Once it has cooled, strain through a fine sieve. No more than several hours before serving the dessert (so the ice cream is still soft and spoonable), churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. For the pears

    Choose a wide-based saucepan that will not crowd the fruit. Ideally the fruit should be well spaced, cut side up, while cooking. Combine the sugar and water in the saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Meanwhile, carefully peel the pears, starting at the stalk. Halve the fruit, keeping the stalks intact, and remove the core using a melon baller. Add the fruit, cut side up, to the simmering liquid and cover with a piece of baking paper cut to fit the pan. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes or until you can easily pierce the fruit with the tip of a knife. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears and place on a plate or tray, cut side down, and refrigerate until serving. Reduce some of the poaching liquid down by half or until syrupy and set aside.
  6. For the pastry

    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove your pastry from the refrigerator and cut it into manageable pieces. Place the pastry on a work surface. Soften the pieces of dough by smearing each bit away from you, so they all become the same texture and more workable.
  7. Bring the dough together again and shape it into a ball.
  8. Gently but firmly tap out the pastry with a rolling pin.
  9. Roll the dough out quickly, making one-quarter turns every couple of rolls to keep the thickness and the round shape even. Roll the pastry around the rolling pin until it is 32 cm larger than the 30 cm loose-based tart tin that it will go into.
  10. Lay the pastry over the tart tin. Carefully press the pastry into the tin, taking care not to warm it up too much.
  11. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pastry in the tin, to trim off the excess.
  12. Pinch up the sides of the pastry, using your left index finger and right thumb and index finger, to form a decorative rim. (This step is optional but it gives a lovely effect.) Put the tart in the freezer for 10 minutes at least to firm up.
  13. Once the pastry is quite hard, carefully line it with foil, pressing it well into the corners and smoothing out any wrinkles.
  14. Fill the tart with uncooked rice all the way up to the top. (I use rice, as opposed to beans or baking weights, as it forms more of a uniform mass that doesn’t have any gaps, therefore the baked pastry will have fewer imperfections.) Slide the tart onto a baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes or until the edges are golden.
  15. Carefully remove the foil and rice and return the tart to the oven for another 5 minutes to dry out and to even up the colour. Remove the tart shell and turn the oven down to 150°C.
  16. For the filling

    You can start this while the tart shell is cooking. Melt the chocolate over a saucepan of just simmering water. When it has melted add the butter and turn off the heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture is smooth. Keep this mixture warm. If it cools down and begins to set, warm it up again.
  17. Meanwhile, have your eggs and yolks beating using an electric mixer on high speed until well aerated. Add the sugar and continue beating until pale and firm enough to hold soft peaks.
  18. Fold one-third of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, noting that it will deflate slightly.
  19. Working quickly so the chocolate doesn’t begin to set, fold in the remainder.
  20. Pour the mixture into the tart shell. Put the tart in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. The filling should rise slightly and still be quite wobbly. Remove from the oven and slide onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely but ideally don’t put the tart in the refrigerator to speed up the process.
  21. To serve

    Bring a full kettle of water to the boil and pour the water into a tall pitcher. Carefully remove the tart from the tin by pushing the base up and sliding the tart onto a board (leave the tin’s base intact). Dip a long sharp knife in the hot water and cut the tart in half, then in quarters and then each quarter into 3 so you have 12 pieces, cleaning and re-dipping the knife after each cut. Place a slice of tart on each plate.
  22. Using a small sharp knife, slice each half pear in half again, leaving a little intact at the stalk end. Place the pear next to the tart. Dip a soup spoon into hot water and scoop a generous ball of ice cream onto each plate. Drizzle a little of the reserved syrup over the pears and serve immediately.
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