Every book I have on Korean cooking features a recipe for poached pears or baesuk. Asian cuisines aren’t known for their puddings, so that this one dessert exists seems to be justification enough for its inclusion in book. I ate it a few years ago at a restaurant in London, but only recently had the desire to cook it. I’ve been holding off trying it out until pears came into season (warm fruit is a more autumnal dessert anyway) and instead decided to marry summery peaches with the syrup, gently spiced with cinnamon, ginger and black pepper. The inclusion of peppercorns might seem a little left field, but I think they add a subtle herbaceous quality that helps to round off the more brash woodiness of the ginger and cinnamon – as a twist, I see no reason why a small sprig of thyme or rosemary couldn’t perform the same job. Also, it’s a traditional element of the Korean pear dish.
Normally I’m not picky about the specifics of ingredients, but I think that using white peaches (or nectarines, as the only difference is the furry skin) is essential for this: the skin releases a blush pink colour into the syrup, and of course it helps differentiate them a little from ordinary tinned peaches. I like to eat them on their own with fresh fruit, but you could also use them as a garnish to another dessert too. The only problem I have now is what to do with all the leftover syrup!
Fill a wide saucepan with cold water to a depth of about 3-5cm (I used about 500ml, and this was probably a bit generous), or enough to be able to cover the peaches. Add the sugar and spices, and bring gently to a simmer – doing this slowly will give the spices longer to infuse. Remove the whole spices and add the peach halves; simmer very gently for 5 minutes. Leave the peaches to stand in the syrup for a further 5 minutes off the heat. Remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skins (they should come away easily). Serve warm with fresh berries and a drizzle of the spiced syrup.