Last week I celebrated my birthday, and although I usually love any excuse to make cake I just wasn’t feeling it this year. I was craving chocolate, more specifically, truffles. And, with the forecast looking like spring the next week I decided to give one last ode to winter with the addition of a little bit of spice and pears. On the day I made this it was snowing outside, we hadn’t had a full day of snow for weeks, and it just felt so appropriate. With the next few weeks full of sunshine and melting snow, this is my goodbye to winter and hello to spring. (Even though winter’s a tease and will surely be popping by to say hi from time to time.)
This tart has a dark chocolate cookie crust, a smooth, spiced ganache-like filling, and a tender poached pear topping. It’s really not as complicated as it may seem. Each of the elements are quite simple to make, and most of it can be made over a couple of days if you don’t have time to do all the work in one sitting. It would be a great make-ahead dessert for a dinner party. Or, if you’re like me, a make-ahead birthday cake!
I don’t have a tart pan so I used a 10 inch springform pan, that you would normally use for cheesecakes. The end results are a bit more rustic this way, but it works!
- 3 pears, peeled, halved and cored
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons brandy, optional
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- ¾ cup whipping cream, or canned coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Place pears, sugar, water and lemon juice in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a simmer. Place a circle of parchment paper on top to cover pears (this keeps the parts of the pear that are sticking above the liquid moist). Lower heat and cook just below a simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow pears to cool in liquid until easy to handle. Remove from liquid, sprinkle with brandy (if using), toss gently and chill until ready to serve.
- Cream together butter and sugar, until fluffy. Stir in egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating well between each addition. Sift together flour, cocoa and salt. Add to to butter mixture and beat on low until dough just comes together (do not over-beat). Shape into a disc and chill for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to roll. This may be made a day ahead, if so, remove the dough from the fridge an hour before rolling.
- On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll dough to just over ¼ inch thick, or until large enough to line a 9-inch tart pan with a removable-bottom. Line the pan with dough, trim the edges with a knife. Chill for 20 minutes (this will keep the dough from shrinking while it bakes).
- Dock pastry with a fork and bake at 350ºF for 18-20 minutes, or until set. Allow to cool completely while you prepare the filling.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF. Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Place the cream and spices in a small saucepan, heat to just below a simmer. Pour over chocolate, let sit for one minute. Stir gently until smooth and cohesive. Stir in vanilla and egg, until well blended. Pour into cooled chocolate shell and bake for 12 minutes, it will not look set. Let cool for 15 minutes before covering and transferring to the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
- Thinly slice the pears and arrange over tart in desired fashion.
Adapted from Fresh with Anna Olson.