An easy and elegant fall dessert, pears are poached in dry white wine and a delicious bouquet of vanilla, orange, cinnamon, and a pinch of saffron. Serve it simply, with a dollop of lightly sweetened saffron whipped cream on the side.
Poached Pears: Core pears from bottoms, using a small melon baller or measuring spoon to scoop out seeds. Cut a round of parchment to fit inside a medium saucepan.
Place pears in pan along with wine, sugar, orange juice and zest, cinnamon, saffron, and enough water to mostly cover pears (about 3 cups). Add vanilla seeds, then pod. Cover with prepared parchment round.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, turning pears occasionally to keep them covered with liquid, until tender (easily pierced with the tip of a knife) but not falling apart, 12 to 15 minutes, depending on ripeness and size. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a large bowl; cover with parchment round from pan.
Remove and discard vanilla pod and cinnamon. Bring poaching liquid to a boil and cook until reduced to a thin syrup, 25 to 30 minutes (you should have 1 to 1 1/2 cups). Pour syrup over pears and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Saffron Whipped Cream: In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup cream and saffron over medium until just barely bubbling around edges. Remove from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl; add remaining 3/4 cup cream. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Serve pears whole or halved in shallow bowls, with syrup and saffron whipped cream.