And now say the words: Chocolate Pear Tart. Say them slowly, imagining the aroma that will fill your kitchen. Not bad, eh? Now, back to work! But don't panic, because even if something doesn't turn out *just so* (sacrebleu, what an idea!), this tart will make everything right again.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! A. and I wish you all a wonderful, happy and warm holiday full of family, friends, laughter and love.
Chocolate Pear Tart
This tart is from Once Upon A Tart, but I hacked it a little, using a different crust and twice as many pears. I know I keep repeating myself with this book, but it's just too darn good!
You can certainly use pears from a can or a jar, but, considering that it's so ridiculously easy to poach them yourself, why would you? There are all kinds of fancy pants ways you can poach your pears, and you should feel free to use whichever way you are comfortable with. The easiest is to do it with water and sugar, and I always like to add half a vanilla bean or a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the poaching liquid.
For the poached pears
4 ripe Bosc/D'Anjour/Bartlett pears (I used Bosc)
4-5 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds and pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the crust (lightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, very cold, cut into 16 pieces
1 cold egg, lightly beaten
For the custard (from Once Upon a Tart)
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Apricot jam to glaze (optional)
1. Make the crust. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together. Scatter pieces of cold butter on top and cut in with a pastry cutter until the largest pieces are the size of peas and the mixture looks crumbly. Working quickly, drip the egg into the dough and toss with a fork until the dough sticks together when pinched. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of iced water. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times, just to incorporate the dry ingredients.
2. Butter or spray a 10-inch tart pan. Lightly press the dough into the tart pan. The dough should cover all the sides but not lose its crumbly texture (in other words, don't work with it too much or the pieces of butter will melt). Place the tart pan in the freezer for 1/2 hour.
3. Next, peel, halve and core the pears. Bring 4-5 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil in a large saucepan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Scrape the vanilla seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean into the water and put the pod in as well, or just put in the teaspoon of vanilla extract and stir to combine. Gently place the pears in the water (add more water if needed to completely cover the pears), lower the heat, and cook at a low boil until the pears are just tender when pierced with a fork (but not mushy). For me, this was around the 10-15 minute mark. Drain the water and set the pears aside.
4. Whisk the egg and the egg yolk lightly in a medium-sized bowl. Add the vanilla and whisk to combine. In a double boiler (or a metal bowl set over an inch of gently simmering water so that the bowl bottom doesn't touch the water) melt the chocolate with the cream, stirring and folding with a heat-proof spatula to combine into a smooth and shiny ganache. Stir in the 1/4 cup sugar and cook a few minutes more, until the sugar has melted. Set aside to cool.
5. Remove the tart dough from the freezer and preheat the oven to 375F. Carefully transfer your pear halves to a cutting board and, holding each pear with one hand to keep it intact, carefully slice into thin slices. To fan out the pear slices, press the wide end of the pear gently towards the narrow end. Slide the knife under the fanned pears and arrange them in a circle inside the tart pan.
6. To make the custard, slowly dribble about 1/2 cup of the chocolate mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. This warms the eggs, preventing them from cooking. Add the rest of the chocolate in a steady stream and stir to combine.
7. Pour the chocolate mixture into the tart pan, pouring as much as possible around the pears rather than on top of the pears. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the chocolate custard is puffed and set (it will be firm to the touch and slightly cracked around the edges). Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
8. Remove the tart from the tart pan and slide onto a plate. If desired, brush the pears with a little bit of melted apricot jam to glaze and then sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Serve warm with lightly-sweetened whipped cream.
Continued after the jump...