11 October 2010

Chocolate-Pear Tart

I've been working on perfecting (or at least ironing out the kinks in) my pastry making and rolling out skills. After a few months of semi-regular pie and tart making, I've gotten to the point where I agree with all of these pie experts that making the dough is easy as, well, pie. However, I'm not sure if I'll ever agree that rolling out dough to just the right thinness and getting it in said tart or pie pan without the need for any "patch jobs", will ever be as easy or produce as universally great results as unrolling something made by Pillsbury.  

Nonetheless, it doesn't seem in the spirit of my food blog to write about rolling out something that came wrapped in plastic in the freezer section of Key Food. So I keep trying. 
This chocolate-pear tart was incentive enough, despite the pear being one of my least favorite fruits -- something about the grainy consistency that always bugs me. However I like the mild flavor of pears and do always think they look elegant when I see them in a fruit bowl or someone else's recipe. I've made poached pears before, but generally count this as equivalent to eating fresh fruit for dessert, i.e. not much of one. 
However, poaching pears and then half-burying them in chocolate, surrounded by my own ever improving pastry shell and topped with creme fraiche? That sounds like dessert to me. 
Chocolate-Pear Tart
It may seem overly fussy combining elements of three different recipes for one simple tart, however when I saw the method in an old New York Times recipe for poaching pears, it appealed to me for the time saving technique of combining the pear prep and poaching process.  That said, I wasn't on this occasion looking for a nut-based chocolate tart, as the NY Times recipe, thus I found the Once Upon a Tart custard, and finally, Baking for All Occasions provided my new standby for pie and tart dough preparation.  As always, I reduced the amount of sugar in all but the pastry part of the recipe, to no ill affects to the chemistry process of anything. One other note, while this recipe seemed long as I was writing it, it really was very simple to put together (once the tart shell was complete). 

Tart Dough: Adapted from Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker
1 large egg yolk
2-3 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 16 pieces 

Whisk together egg yolk, water and vanilla and place in the freezer for a few minutes while completing the next step. (Don't leave for more than 10 minutes!)

In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and with pastry cutter, or two knives, cutting in butter until mixture is the consistency of slightly lumpy cornmeal. Add the water/egg mixture and combine until the dough just comes together. You may need to add a bit more water. (This process can also be done in a food processor). Without mixing it too much, form into a ball and flatten into a disk about 5-inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit for 10 minutes, then roll out the dough between two sheets of wax or parchment paper, or plastic wrap, till 1/8 inch thick. Place in 10-inch tart pan and trim edges by rolling a rolling pin (or empty wine bottle) along the edges and removing excess. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with tines of a fork. Cover entirely with wax or parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans and bake for 10 minutes*, carefully remove wax paper and beans and return uncovered tart shell to oven and cook for another 10 minutes till golden brown (time varies so check the tart shell periodically). Let cool slightly. 

*Ms. Braker insists the step of covering the dough and weighing it to bake is not necessary for tarts, however I'm not taking any chances on shrinking, slumping tart shells.

PearsAdapted from The New York Times

Approximately 3 to 4 cups water, or enough to cover pears when submerged
Juice of 1 lemon
3 ripe pears of any sort
1/2 cup sugar

Place the water and lemon juice in a saucepan large enough to hold all of your pears. Peel the pears, cut them in half and core them. As each is peeled and cored, place it in the saucepan, just covered with water.

Add sugar to the sauce pan, bring to a simmer and cook gently about 10 minutes, until the pears are just tender. Drain the pears in a colander and place them on several thicknesses of paper towel to continue draining.

*Note you could also add a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick to the poaching liquid and I'm sure it would go deliciously with the rest of the tart. 

Chocolate CustardAdapted from Once Upon a Tart

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the egg and the egg yolk lightly in a medium-sized bowl, then whisk in the vanilla. In a double boiler (or a metal bowl set over an inch of gently simmering water so that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water) melt the chocolate with the cream, stirring and folding to combine until smooth and shiny. Stir in the sugar and cook a few minutes more, until the sugar has melted. Set aside to cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes.

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.

Assemble the Tart: Preheat oven to 375 F. Placing the pears on a flat surface, cut them cross-wise into thin (1/4 inch) slices, keeping the halves in their same pear shape. Carefully place the pears in the slightly cooled tart shell, fanning them out by pressing from the narrow part of the pear to the thick end (near the edge of the tart crust). 

>Once all of the pear halves are arranged, carefully pour the chocolate mixture into the tart pan around the pears rather than on top of them. Place the tart on a cookie sheet and bake for 50-55 minutes or until the chocolate custard is puffed and set (it will be shiny, firm to the touch and slightly cracked around the edges). Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and if you like, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Serve warm or room temperature with a spoon of creme fraiche or vanilla yogurt. 

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