There is something perennially fall to me about poached pears. Maybe it is because my first ever pastry cook job at a massive restaurant began in the fall, so my task every day was to peel and poach two crates’ worth of pears. It became like a meditation, each day, peeling that many pears by hand!
In any case, find the best firm-but-ripe pears that you can– I like the Bosc variety as they travel well and are not hard to find. Make sure after you core them, you check to see you’ve cored them straight through the bottom and there are no bits of stem leftover. You can also forego coring if you like the look of them poached while they are still whole, just know that you need to cook them longer to compensate.
The olive oil cracker is an amazing addition to anybody’s cookbook, and I would encourage you to throw in any seeds or spices you particularly like, to jazz it up! Perhaps toasted fennel seeds or even cumin or fresh thyme would complement the dish nicely. As for the ricotta if you are very adventurous you of course can make it by hand, but if you have a great deli or grocery nearby that specializes in Italian imports, get the best you can find! It is worth it.
For the cracker, preheat your oven to 350F and place a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Mix flour, baking powder, sesame seeds, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites by hand using a large whisk till they are broken up and foamy. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking quickly the whole time as though you are making a salad dressing.
Add wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir quickly and evenly until well-combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (it will be very wet, that is normal!) and chill a few minutes in fridge, or in the freezer if you are pressed for time.
Using a rolling pin, divide the dough in two or three pieces and roll between 2 sheets of baking paper till very thin. Brush with egg whites and dust with sugar. Bake 7-9 minutes being sure to rotating midway, till sheet is evenly brown all around edges. Cool on wire rack and break into pieces just before serving.
In a large stockpot, bring red wine, water, sugar, salt, lemon peel and juice, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and vanilla bean up to the boil. Meanwhile, peel and core the pears, toss with a little lemon juice if they have to wait, to prevent oxidation.
Once red wine mixture is boiling, gently lower pears in. Lower heat to medium and simmer pears until they are tender and can be pierced by a fork, 20-25 minutes. Remove pears and bring poaching liquid to a boil; reduce to a sauce consistency watching it closely especially near the end.
Serve poached pears drizzled with red wine reduction, ricotta, and sesame seed olive oil cracker pieces.