I bought some absolutely beautiful pears last week. I know, I know, I get a little obsessed with them every winter, but how could you not? They lend themselves to cold-weather cooking so beautifully, both in sweets and savouries. When I got home, I found that Mum had also bought a slew of pears and my brain went into overdrive thinking about what I could do with them all. And for some reason, every idea seemed to involve pears and chocolate.
I was a little wary of the combination at first but I’ve seen it work beautifully and I wanted to give it a try. I used Matt Moran’s insanely good chocolate crust from the Aria Chocolate tart, which is kind of magical. It uses eggs to bind it together instead of iced water, which I think is the reason that it doesn’t shrink in the oven. It’s a godsend because shrinking pastry is one of my absolute pet hates in baking!
The tart filling is lovely and rich thanks to the ground almonds and cocoa. I underbaked mine a tiny bit so it was nice and gooey in the middle, with the perfectly cooked pears lending a lovely floral taste. It just was delicious with a lightly spiced cardamom crème anglaise. I loved how elegant this dessert turned out to be, and it would be a great way to end a dinner party. And, as always, a good splash of booze in the filling wouldn’t go astray – perhaps some Kahlua for a slight coffee hit.
Pear and Chocolate Tart with Cardamom Crème Anglaise
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Chocolate Pastry (this makes enough for 2 tarts)
• 320g plain flour
• 60g cocoa
• 160g caster sugar
• 160g cold unsalted butter, diced
• 2 eggs
• 160g unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 cup almond meal
• ¾ cup sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 3 firm, ripe pears (use 4 if pears are small)
Cardamom Crème Anglaise
• 3 egg yolks
• 55g caster sugar
• 6-8 cardamom pods
• 250ml milk
• 250ml pouring cream
To make the chocolate pastry, place the flour, cocoa, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add eggs and process until dough just starts to come together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until smooth. Flatten into a disc shape, wrap in clingwrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick. Line the base and sides of two tart tins (I used 20cm round tins) with the pastry, and trim any excess. Alternately, halve pastry, wrap excess in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 6 months. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking weights or rice. Bake at 160°C (320°F) for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Allow to cool.
To make the filling, place butter, almond meal, sugar, eggs, cocoa and vanilla extract in the bowl of a food processor and process until combined. Spread mixture evenly in prepared tart crust. Peel, halve and core pears. Cut into quarters and slice horizontally, but not all the way through. Arrange on top of chocolate mixture, pressing in very slightly.
Increase oven temperature to 180°C (350°F). Place pan on baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes or until top is puffed and toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in pan.
In the meantime, make the cardamom crème anglaise. Lightly whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Place the milk, cream and cardamom in a saucepan and bring almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for 30 minutes. Return to the heat and rewarm. Whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, and return to the saucepan.
Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Do not let it boil. Strain through a fine sieve, allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold. Crème anglaise will keep refrigerated for one or two days. To serve warm, gently reheat in a saucepan over low heat.