Our annual extended family gathering and gastronomical feast is at Round-the-Pond, in Norway (Maine). Since the days of my late great-grandmother’s business, Young’s Turkey Farm, our clan has gathered from all over the globe. It’s a wonderful tradition that’s grown to several generations of aunts, uncles, cousins, babies and small children.
The tribe is so large we rent a hall for the dinner, and everyone helps, like a moveable feast. For decades, my contribution to the gastronomical spread was the “bird”. But because my sister Jennifer has volunteered to take on the turkey, this year I opted for a dessert.
For special holiday entertaining, my family really enjoys Chocolate Pear Tart. This classic French dessert, made with ripe, fall pears, is both elegant and delicious. Not too sweet, with layers of rich flavor, Tarte aux Poires et Chocolat, also makes a good breakfast treat.
The crust, a pate brisee, is the French version of a classic pie or tart pastry. Rich and buttery, with a crisp and crumbly texture, the pastry is easily prepared in a food processor. Unlike traditional New England crusts with flour and fat, this pastry includes an egg yolk. The egg yolk strengthens the structure, and allows you to pat the dough into a tart pan without making it too tough to eat.
Once the tart pan has been lined with the dough, a thin layer of chocolate is sprinkled over the top. I like to use semi-sweet chocolate chips, but bittersweet chocolate is good too. For best results, be sure to finely chop the chocolate. Thinly sliced pears are then arranged over the chocolate. The pears are topped with creamy custard, and sprinkled with sugar.
The best part about this confection: Chocolate Pear Tart stores and travels well. When packed in an airtight container and refrigerated, the flavors of the pears mellow. The tart can even be frozen.
For serving, defrost the tart and allow it to come to room temperature. For the final piece de resistance, sprinkle the Chocolate Pear Tart with sugar and caramelize under the broiler. Serve up with a big dollop of whipped cream.
Chocolate Pear Tart
- 1½ cups flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
- 1– 2 tablespoons milk as needed
- 4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate about 2/3-cup, finely chopped
- 2 cups sliced ripe pears about 5 small or 3 large pears
- 3 eggs
- 2/3 cup cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Assemble ingredients and tools. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter a 10-inch round or 8 by 10 inch tart pan. If desired, sprinkle the bottom with sugar.
- To prepare the crust, in the bowl of your food processor, blend the flour and sugar. Pulse in the butter.
- Then add the egg yolk. The dough should form large crumbs that you can pat into a large ball. If needed, add some milk so that it just sticks together.
- Make a smooth ball, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
- While the dough is chilling, peel and thinly slice the pears. Chop the chocolate. Set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Press the dough into bottom...
- ...and up the sides of the prepared tart pan.
- Sprinkle the bottom of the tart crust with the finely chopped chocolate.
- Arrange the sliced pears on top of the chocolate.
- In a medium bowl or 2-cup liquid measure, whisk together the 3 eggs, cream and vanilla.
- Pour the custard over the pears, spreading with a spatula so that it completely covers the pears. Sprinkle the top with 3 tablespoons sugar.
- Bake the tart in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 10 - 12 minutes, or until the bottom cooks. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the crust is golden brown and the custard is set, about 15 – 18 minutes. If desired, to caramelize the top of the tart, slip the tart under the broiler for 2 – 3 minutes. Watch carefully!
- Cool the tart on a rack. For best results, chill the tart completely before removing from the pan. Makes 12 servings.