Combine all ingredients except the pears and gingersnaps (or shortbread biscuits, if using) in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add pear quarters and gently simmer until tender but not mushy (about 20 to 25 minutes). Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, remove pears from liquid and set aside. Strain poaching liquid and throw spices away. Place the poaching liquid in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue boiling over medium heat until reduced by about 1/3. Pour liquid into a medium container and add pears. Set aside. When at room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to one day.
About 1 hour before serving, remove from refrigerator. Remove pears with a slotted spoon and place in a food processor or blender (with a blender, you may have to work in batches). Pour approximately 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid into the pears. Puree until the pears are smooth, with no visible chunks. Add more poaching liquid until desired consistency is reached. Return to the refrigerator until chilled.
When ready to serve, pour chilled pear soup into goblets or pretty dessert bowls or attractive dessert cups. Serve gingersnap cookies (or shortbread biscuits) alongside soup or roughly crumble and sprinkle on top. Garnish with fresh raspberries, and mint sprig (optional).
Makes 6 servings.
Note: If Bartlett pears are not available, substitute with any other sweet juicy pear, such as Bosc or Red Sensation.
Make sure you use pears that are not going to become to mushy while cooking.
Date: August 15, 2002