I’m on a whole-fruit-as-dessert kick. There’s just something so elegant and simple about serving a piece of fruit in its whole and natural state, lightly sweetened and topped with nothing but a bit of ice cream or crème chantilly.
The saffron not only adds a lovely flavor but also an orange tint to the syrup that stains the pears ever so slightly, giving them a deep, golden glow.
Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, and saffron in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the liquid, then add the scraped bean to the liquid, too. Bring the liquid to a simmer.
Carefully lower the pears into the liquid and simmer, turning occasionally, until the pears are soft and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pears from the liquid and set aside. Remove the vanilla bean. Bring the remaining liquid to a boil and cook until reduced by about ½ to a thick syrup. Serve the pears warm with the syrup, with a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream if desired.