In spite of the perceived dearth of seasonal goodness during the Wintertime, as well as citrus fruits, pears are delicious at this time of year. Pairing the fruit (!) with chocolate takes the humble pear from everyday snack to decadent treat; these small but rich tartlets combine a chocolate biscuit pastry with bitter chocolate custard and fresh, thinly sliced pears. The trickiest part is the pastry, which is very short and you can’t really use flour to help you handle, as it will leave white marks. I rolled mine between sheets of baking parchment and the results were delicious. The rest is quick and easy enough, making them perfect for a Wintery afternoon treat – you only need one to satiate that sweet craving. To make the pastry, you will need:
150g plain flour
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
75g cocoa powder
100g icing sugar
150g unsalted butter, chilled
2 medium egg yolks
2 tbsp icy cold water
1/4 tsp vanilla paste
(I halved all quantities to make fewer tartlets).
Start by making the pastry: put the flour, salt, cocoa and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse to combine.
Add the butter and blitz until the mix looks like fine crumbs.
Add the egg yolks and vanilla paste and run the machine until the mixture comes together into a heavy, sticky dough.
Chill the dough for 20 – 30 minutes until it firms up, it’s easier if you press it down to make a thick disk, as above.
Place the dough between two pieces of parchment and roll into a rectangle slightly bigger than your tin. Peel off the top and cut into 12 rounds with the cutter – if necessary you can re-roll and cut more rounds. the dough is quite fragile (but deliciously short!) so don’t worry if you have to patch it. If you have any leftover, you could make small biscuits by rolling the dough into balls and pressing them flat with a wet fork.
Lightly grease your tin and press each round evenly into the holes of the tin. Chill for twenty minutes then fill each tartlet with parchment and baking beans. Blind bake in a preheated oven at 180C/ 160C Fan for seven minutes until just set. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further five minutes (taking care not to burn and darken as it will be baked again with the filling inside and you don’t want them to be bitter). Leave to cool while you make the filling. Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
You will need:
2 medium, just-ripe pears
150g dark chocolate, broken up (or a mix of milk and dark)
2 medium eggs at room temperature
150ml double cream at room temperature
60g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 tsp cacao nibs, for sprinkling
Gently melt the chocolate and cool until lukewarm. Put the eggs, cream, caster sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whisk until fully combined.
Scoop the chocolate into the bowl and whisk for a minute until the mixture is smooth, thick and glossy.
Assemble the tartlets with 1 1/2 – 2 tsp of the chocolate custard in each case – until they are almost, but not quite full. Top with two or three thinly sliced pear pieces, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle with cacao nibs, if you have them.
Set the tray on top of the heated baking sheet and bake for 17 – 19 minutes, until the custard is just set – the filling will firm up as it cools so be careful not to overbake. Allow to cool completely before unmoulding. Dust with icing sugar and serve.
Best eaten on the same or the next day (keep in an airtight tin). What are you baking this weekend?
Recipe via The Great British Bake Off At Home.