This is a recipe I’ve been dying to try for ages and it took a couple of attempts to get it right. Pastry hasn’t posed me too much of a problem before (bar the soggy bottom Bakewell) but chocolate pasty was a new challenge. I’m not sure if it’s the cocoa powder but it just seems so much more dry and crumbly than normal sweet shortcrust, even this recipe that uses three egg yolks. In attempt number one the pastry bubbled and in the second it cracked when I lifted it out of the tin. It was third time lucky and about time too! The pastry is rich but not very sweet, which is just as well because the hazelnut cream and poached pears really are, the cocoa adds a depth of flavour which offsets that sweetness.
Start with your pears, doing these the day before will allow the medley of spices to infuse.
- 8 pears
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- Vanilla pod
- Star anise
- 50g caster sugar (or honey)
- 500ml water
As I’ve said before, I love spices. I used bits of whatever was in the cupboard but to keep it simple just use a vanilla pod – sometimes less is more and the pear flavour won’t be overpowered by just using vanilla.
Peel, core and chop the pears in half.
Allow to simmer over a low heat until the pears are soft. Test this by poking them with a sharp knife, they should feel soft like tinned ones.
- 175g plain flour
- 50g icing sugar
- 50g cocoa powder
- 150g butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
Just as with normal shortcrust, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub together with the butter.
Wrap it up in clingfilm and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.
Grease a tart tin ready for when the pastry is rolled and preheat the oven to 180C.
Dust a surface lightly with flour and roll the pastry out to fit the tart tin.
Drape it over and press gently into the sides, overhang is good because the pastry will shrink as it cooks.
Finally, line the pastry case with some baking paper and fill with baking beads
I know I normally use rice or lentils when baking pastry to keep it’s shape, however I have discovered that baking beads are much more effective.
Bake for 15 minutes before removing the beads and baking for a further 5.
Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.
- 300ml milk
- 50g cornflour
- 60g golden caster sugar (I used a mix of brown and caster)
- 3 tsp vanilla sugar (or a drop of vanilla essence)
- 3 eggs
- 100g ground hazelnuts
I roasted and ground my own hazelnuts using Mum’s fabulous food processor which, as much as I love it, puts my little hand blender to shame. The perks of being at home.
Turn the oven up to 160C
Place the nuts on a tray and stick them in for 10 minutes.
Take them out and remove the skins, they should come off easily but if not you can put them in a bowl of water and sort of squeeze them out. Into the food processor they go and whizz until they’re finely ground.
You can make your own vanilla sugar too; just stick a couple of vanilla pods in a jar of caster sugar, leave for a week or two and bob’s your uncle. Well, he might not be but you’ve got vanilla flavoured sugar anyway. I didn’t bother and just added a drop of vanilla essence.
Finally, for the cream!
Weigh out the sugar and cornflour and sieve into a bowl
Crack the eggs into the bowl.
Bring the milk to the boil and once it’s nice and bubbly pour over the sugar, cornflour and eggs – whisking all the time.
Return the mix to the saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer for two minutes stirring constantly.
Once cool pour into the pastry case and arrange the pears on top.
Chopped roast hazelnuts
Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the tart with a spoon (I ended up with a couple of dollops but who doesn’t like a good blob of chocolate…)
Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts over the top et voila!
I brought this to a friend’s for dinner and it went down well with a scoop of ice cream, and even better with a Ferrero Rocher to follow. Indulgence at it’s best.
*adapted from this recipe: Pear Hazelnut Chocolate Tart