Java-sauced poached pears

Makes 6 servings

The elegant sauce, as rich and thick as caramel, has undertones of coffee, making the pears and topping delicious on their own, but especially tempting served with a small scoop of rich vanilla ice cream.

For the pears

4 large pears, cored and peeled
3 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar, divided
¼ cup coffee-flavored liqueur, such as Kahlua

For the topping

2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon instant coffee powder

Halve each pear and cut each half into 4 lengthwise slices. Set aside.

Bring the water, lemon juice, and ½ cup of the sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pear slices. When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer until the pears are easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, arrange the pears in a single layer in a baking dish or flat refrigerator container and let cool to room temperature.

Transfer 1 cup of the pear cooking liquid to a small saucepan. Add the remaining ½ cup of sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until the sauce becomes light brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. (Watch closely; do not let it become dark brown.)

Remove the saucepan from the heat; stir in the liqueur. Set aside until the sauce is lukewarm, about 10 minutes. Stir the sauce and pour it over the pears. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or for up to 1 day.

To make the topping, combine the brown sugar and coffee powder in a small bowl.

Serve the pears chilled or at room temperature. For each serving, arrange 5 pear slices on a plate and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Lightly sprinkle the plate with the brown sugar mixture.