Chocolate Pear Tartlets
The recipe for these pretty pear tartlets comes from the mother-daughter duo who co-founded of The Cook’s Atelier, a cooking school, epicurean center and wine shop in Beaune, France. You’ll need 12 tartlets pans, each about 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter, to make these, although you the recipe makes enough dough and custard for two 9-inch tarts instead.
For the dough:
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) heavy cream, plus more as needed
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz./390 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) sugar
- A pinch of sea salt, preferably fleur de sel
- 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) (8 oz./250 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
For the custard:
- 8 oz. (250 g) good-quality bittersweet chocolate
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) crème fraîche
- 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
6 firm but ripe pears
To make the dough, in a small bowl, whisk together the cream and egg yolks. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Using your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal; be careful not to overwork the dough, or it will become tough. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and toss gently with a fork just until the liquid is incorporated. Using your hands if necessary, continue combining the ingredients until a small handful of dough holds together when squeezed. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add more cream, about 1 tsp. at a time, until it achieves the right consistency, but continue to be careful not to overwork the dough.
Transfer the dough to a work surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Wrap each piece separately in a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, and preferably overnight.
To make the custard, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over but not touching barely simmering water in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, crème fraîche and sugar. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Discard the vanilla bean pod or save for another use. Stirring constantly, slowly add the chocolate to the egg mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined.
Position a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C).
Unwrap both of the dough disks and place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each piece into a round about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick and about 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter. Gently press a dough round into a 3-inch (7.5-cm) fluted round tartlet pan, being careful not to stretch the dough, which would cause it to shrink when baking. Working your way around the tart pan, pinch off any overhanging dough with your fingers. Place the tartlet shells on a baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes.
Remove the tartlet shells from the freezer and line each with parchment paper. Fill the lined tartlet shells with pie weights or dried beans. Transfer the tartlet pans to the oven and bake just until the sides of the dough have set, about 10 minutes. Remove the tartlets from the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper and pie weights. Return the baking sheet with the tartlet pans to the oven and bake until the dough is dry and set, about 5 minutes more, rotating the pans 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Set aside on a rack to cool.
To assemble the tartlets, spoon about 2 Tbs. of the filling into each tartlet shell, being careful not to overfill the shells, as the custard will puff when baked.
Peel the pears and cut each in half lengthwise. Using a melon baller, remove the core from each pear half, then cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Arrange a pear half on top of each tartlet, gently pressing on the pear half to fan the slices but leaving the slices overlapping.
Bake the tartlets until the custard is set and a tester inserted into the center of the filling comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Transfer the tartlets to a wire rack and let cool completely. Immediately before serving, dust the tartlets with confectioners’ sugar. Makes 12 tartlets.
The Cook’s Atelier, Beaune, France