September 19, 2011

pear and chocolate cake-tart

In May, my husband took me to Paris. But let's back up.

Last Christmas, my husband gave me a blender. 

I'm proud to say that it didn't cause a Father-of-the-Bride-esque breakdown, but I should note that the second I opened it, husband quickly injected, "That's not your main present. I just knew you wanted an immersion blender." I'm not proud to say that this may have been the reason that it didn't cause a Father-of-the-Bride-esque breakdown.

He knows the rule about how you're not supposed to get a woman something she needs. He's smart.
He then offered me a smaller present.

It was a CD of French music. Cute. I'm obsessed with all things French. This he knows. Told you he was smart.
He then offered me a slightly larger present.

Two French books. One of them was called Edible Adventures in Paris. He suggested I open it to page 105. There lay two plane tickets. To Paris.

I burst into tears.

I tell you this telling anecdote not just because my husband deserves some credit for being so sensational, but also because the aforementioned book is a wonderful one that guided us well on our dreamy trip. And because in it I saw a recipe/picture of a chocolate and pear tart that I have not forgotten about. Since last Christmas

My parents have a pear tree and I have been anxiously awaiting its sweet fruit for some time, with this very recipe in mind. I don't know why I didn't ever just do the sensible thing and buy some pears from the store to make this tart. I don't know why. Don't ask.

But this thing was worth the wait. Rich, dark chocolate is accented by sweet rum-poached pears and a buttery crust. The chocolate was gooey and may have been slightly underdone and we rather liked it that way.

It was awesome with an afternoon cup of chai yesterday, it was awesome for dessert after dinner, and husband said it was awesome for breakfast this morning. 

Pear and Chocolate Cake-Tart 
Serves 12 (maybe)
Clotilde is the author of Chocolate and Zucchini

For the Crust (Pâte Brisée)
1 large egg yolk (save the white for the filling)
3 T. plus 1 tsp. ice cold water
a pinch of fine sea salt
2 T. sugar*
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for sprinkling
8 T. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced, plus a pat for greasing

*I wouldn't have minded a slightly sweeter crust and may increase the sugar to 3 T. next time.

For the Pears
2 T. sugar
3 T. dark rum (optional)
2 pears, ripe but still firm

For the Chocolate Filling
3 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
a pinch fine sea salt
4 1/2 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate
7 T. unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white (saved from crust recipe)

Prepare the crust: In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk, water, salt, and sugar, and set aside. Combine the flour and butter in the bowl of food processor, and process at low speed for 10 seconds, until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Pour in the egg yolk mixture all at once and process for a few more seconds, just until the dough comes together. If it is too dry, add a little more ice-cold water, 1 tsp. at a time, until it reaches the right consistency. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball without kneading. Flatten the ball slightly, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a day (if you refrigerate it for more than an hour, let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before using).

While the dough chills, poach the pears. Combine 1 cup water, the sugar and the rum in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Peel and core the pears. Cut each of them lengthwise into sixths, rather than quarters, in order to get twelve pieces total. Add the pears to the saucepan, bring back to a simmer, and cook for 4 minutes, until tender and slightly translucent. Lift the pears from the syrup cautiously with a slotted spoon and and set aside in a colander to drain.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Grease an 11-to-12-inch tart pan with a pat of butter (see Note). Working on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 13 to 14 inch circle and line the pan with it, trimming off the excess dough. (All I had was a 9-inch pie pan, so I rolled the dough to about 11-12 inches and just had a thicker crust.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 30 minutes; this will prevent the dough from shrinking as it bakes. Preheat the oven to 350 and put the tart pan in the oven for 10 minutes.

While the crust bakes, prepare the chocolate filling. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring regularly to combine. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the sugar, and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the egg and egg white, stirring well between each addition. Add the flour mixture and stir again until just combined.

Remove the crust from the oven but leave the heat on. Pour the chocolate filling into the tart shell and even out the surface with a spatula. Arrange the pear pieces over the filling in a sun-ray pattern, the small ends pointing towards the center of the tart. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the filling is just set at the center (it will continue to cook as it cools) and the crust is golden. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely before serving.

Note: The recipe can be made in eight 4-inch tartlet molds, rather than one large tart. You should then cut each pear into fourths rather than sixths, and reduce the baking time of the chocolate filling to 15 minutes.

You can serve it plain with a glass of milk or tea, or you can serve it with some gelato or whipped cream or ice cream. Just eat it, whatever you do.


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed that recipe, Esther! And indeed, your husband seems to have remarkable gift-giving skills. :)

  2. Your husband really does have some awesome gift-giving skills. I've never combined pears with chocolate, but you are tempting me to give it a try. This looks good.

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