Warm Pear and Chocolate Cinnamon Tart
Mile-high chocolate tarts hide caramelized pears nestled inside. The tarts are topped with a caramelized sugar glaze, like a creme brulee. The pomegranate molasses mentioned adds just a touch of unusual flavor; you could substitute: 1 teaspoon molasses and 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate puree, or simply use standard molasses. Pomegranate puree would also make a pretty sauce for this dish.
- Sweet Tart Dough
- All-Purpose Flour - 3-1/2 cups
- Hazelnut flour - 1/2 cup
- Powdered Sugar - 1-1/2 cups
- Unsalted Butter - 1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks), softened
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Eggs - 2
- Vanilla bean - 1
- Pear Filling
- Ripe Winter Pears - 4
- Simple Syrup - 1 cup
- Pomegranate Molasses - 1 teaspoon (see headnote)
- Unsalted Butter - 1 teaspoon
- Cream Topping
- Cinnamon Sticks - 2
- Sugar - 8 tablespoons
- Unflavored gelatin - 1/2 packet
- Cold Water - 2 tablespoons
- Egg Yolks - 4
- Cornstarch - 1-1/2 tablespoons
- Whole Milk - 1 cup
- Bittersweet Chocolate - 4 tablespoons, chopped
- Dark Cocoa Powder - 1 tablespoon
- Egg Whites - 4
- Granulated Sugar - 1/2 to 3/4 cup
- Chocolate Cookies - 4, crushed to crumbs
- Chocolate Sauce - 1 cup
- Caramel sauce - 1 cup
To prepare the dough: Combine the flour and confectioner’s sugar and sift into a large bowl. Add salt and hazelnut flour and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the butter and eggs. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the mixture. Mix well until creamy, then add the dry ingredients in 2 or 3 additions. Mix until it just comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl in a soft, moist dough. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling.
When the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut parchment paper in four 4-inch circles. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut four 6-inch circles. Carefully lay each circle in a 4-inch tart shell; do not stretch the dough. Press it into the corners gently. Roll the rolling pin across the top to cut off the excess. Place a parchment circle in the bottom of each tart shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and finish baking for another 5 minutes, until golden. Remove and set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
To prepare the pears: Peel the pears, core, and slice each into 6 to 8 wedges. In a large shallow pan, combine the pears, simple syrup, molasses, and butter. Cook over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, keeping the pears moving in the pan to keep them from burning. Set aside off the heat.
To make the filling: In a medium nonstick skillet, combine the cinnamon sticks and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Set the pan over high heat and allow the sugar to melt, then caramelize to a golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes; the cinnamon will infuse the sugar during this process.
Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan. Very carefully and slowly, pour the hot milk into the caramel; it will bubble up, then settle down. Stir until blended. Stir in the chocolate and cocoa. Let the mixture stand for 30 seconds, then stir together until smooth.
In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatin powder in the cool water. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Whisk together until they thicken, become lighter in color, and form a slowly dissolving ribbon the mixture is when drizzled back on itself. Add a large spoonful of the chocolate mixture, whisking gently to temper, then gently combine the remaining chocolate mixture with the eggs. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking as the mixture heats. Strain into a medium bowl and stir in the gelatin; whisk gently until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and beat to a shiny meringue. Whisk one third of the meringue into the warm chocolate cream, then, using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining meringue. Use this cream immediately for the next step; do not plan to store it, as the gelatin will cause it to set.
To assemble the tart: With the tart shells still in their pans, remove the pears from the syrup and lay them flat in the tart shells (you may not need all the pears). Set the tart shells, still in their pans, on a cardboard circle or large serving tray. Set a second tart ring mold on top of each to add height and pour the warm chocolate cream over the pears and up to the top of the second ring mold. Smooth the tops. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
To serve: Lift away the top tart pan rings. Remove the second tart pan rings, leaving the bases under the tarts. One at a time, sprinkle the top liberally with sugar and caramelize with a small kitchen torch or under a broiler set to its highest setting. Press cookie crumbs onto the sides of the tarts. Place one tart in the center of each serving plate. Make a pool of chocolate sauce on one side of each tart, and caramel sauce on the other. Garnish with chocolate lattice (optional).