Quarter the pears, peel them and remove the cores, then cut each of the pieces in half.
Place the butter and sugar in a frying pan; cook over a medium heat for a few minutes until
caramelized. Carefully add 150ml / 1/4 pint water and bring to the boil.
Add the pear slices and cook for about 10 minutes over a high heat,
shaking the pan occasionally and allowing the pears to absorb the syrup. Add the Poire William or
brandy and cook for 1-2 minutes, shaking the pan until the pears are coated in a syrupy glaze.
Make the custard: beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale. Warm the milk, cream and almonds
until just below the boil. Pour the cream mixture over the egg yolks and mix well, then return the
mixture to the pan and cook over a very gentle heat without boiling, stirring continuously, for
about 15 minutes until it is thickened. Stir in the almond flavouring, if using it.
Toast the slices of brioche. Serve them topped with the pears and with custard poured around
each portion; decorate with some sprigs of mint if you like.