Just Dessert

Bittersweet Chocolate and Ginger-Lemon Poached Pear Tart

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Years ago Bill and I used to frequent a tiny restaurant featuring the cuisine of Northern Italy.  The name of the place was Nonna Cherubina.

The husband and wife – Luigi and Stephania – who owned and ran the place (and lived above it) were warm and kind and welcoming.  We always felt like family there. 

There were a few years – after we’d moved to a different neighborhood and had two babies – when we didn’t go out to eat there at all.  And then, a few years ago, we discovered that Nonna Cherubina had closed.  I heard that Luigi and Stephania had moved to Spain.  And that was the end of a little period in our lives.

The food was fabulous, every time.  So were the desserts.  One evening one of the desserts offered was a pear and chocolate tart.  I tried it, and it was delicious.  I never forgot it – the uncommon combination of flavors, and the simplicity and beauty of it.

Well, a while ago when I was making my poached pears for this post, I started thinking about that pear and chocolate tart.  I didn’t remember it perfectly, but I thought I could at least make something kind of similar.

So here’s what I came up with.

First, I poached the pears.

I didn’t poach them whole, like I’d done for that other dessert.  And I didn’t use red wine this time, either.  I wanted them white, to better contrast with the dark chocolate.

For the poaching liquid, I used 3 cups of water, 2 cups of sweet wine (2 different kinds that Bill’s nephew brought back from Germany recently),

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1/2 cup of sugar, the peeled zest of a lemon, and about a 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, sliced,

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and two teaspoons of vanilla. 

I put all of that in a pot and brought it to a boil.

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While the poaching liquid was heating up, I peeled two firm pears…

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And then sliced them in half…

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trimmed the ends off slightly, and continued to slice each half lengthwise, into 1/8-1/4 inch thick slices.  (I cut around the little seed area where necessary.)

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And when the poaching liquid had reached a boil, I added the pear slices and let the liquid come back to the boil.

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Once the liquid reached a boil, I shut the heat off and just let everything sit there for an hour and a half or so.  I didn’t want to cook the pears too much – they were thin slices and I didn’t want them to turn mushy.

I removed the pears from the liquid and put them in a smaller bowl on the counter to finish cooling down, and then I removed any remaining pieces of ginger and lemon peel, covered the pears with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge.

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Next up – the crust.

I wanted nuts in the tart crust – I figured they would add some crunch, and nuts go great with both chocolate and pears, so why not?

I used 3/4 cup of ground almonds, 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of salt, 1  1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1 stick of unsalted butter (chilled and cut into little cubes), 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening (also chilled, also cut into little cubes), and somewhere around 6-8 T of ice water to make the dough. 

First I combined the almonds, flour, salt, and sugar in the food processor and pulsed to combine.

Then I added the chilled cubes of butter and pulsed 5-6 times.

And then the shortening and another 5-6 pulses.

To that I gradually added the ice water – a tablespoon or two and then a pulse…tablespoon and a pulse…until the dough just came together.

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I wrapped the dough in plastic and put that in the fridge to chill.

After half an hour or more (I don’t remember exactly), I took the dough out of the fridge and divided it in half.  I rolled the first half out so it was large enough to line my 8" round tart pan…

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I folded it into quarters…

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Placed the dough so that the point of the fold was in the center of the tart pan…

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Unfolded the dough and pressed it gently into the corners of the pan…

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And then trimmed off the excess.

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I did the same thing, more or less, with the other half of dough and my rectangular tart pan.

And then, since I was going to prebake these tart shells, I docked the dough with a fork. 

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Docking means piercing the dough with many small holes so that steam can escape while it’s cooking and you won’t end up with a great big pastry bubble in your pan.

I baked the shells at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.

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And last, but certainly not least – the chocolate part.

I made a bittersweet ganache – actually, I made a LOT of a bittersweet ganache.  I still have half of it in the fridge.  It calls to me in the night…

Anyway, here’s what I used:

1 quart of heavy cream/whipping cream (same thing)

24 oz good bittersweet chocolate

4 T unsalted butter

4 T sugar

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I put the cream, sugar and butter in a pot and started heating it on medium.

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While that was heating up, I broke my chocolate into pieces an put them in a large stainless steel bowl.

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Once the sugar had dissolved, the butter melted, and the cream mixture started to boil, I poured all of that into my bowl of chocolate.

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Then I stirred it and stirred it…

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and the chocolate melted and melted…

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(yum)

And once the chocolate was all melted, and the mixture was nice and dark, I poured it all through a strainer (just to get any tiny bits of unmelted chocolate out) and then poured the ganache into my two tart shells.

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I let these sit out on the counter until the ganache had completely cooled and was starting to firm up a little bit. 

I dried off the pear slices on some paper towels and then arranged them on top of the tarts. 

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I could have used more pears, I suppose, and really overlapped them tightly so they’d look like a flower or something, but the ginger-lemon flavor of the pears was pretty strong, and I didn’t want to upset the balance between that and the chocolate.  And also, I only had 2 pears anyway.  heh heh.

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I put both tarts in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours before slicing them and serving.

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Julia and Alex had some after dinner last night.

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They both liked it.  In fact, Alex just asked for a piece a moment ago – for a snack.

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The spicy tartness of the pears, the smooth and rich chocolate ganache, and the crispy, nutty tart shell.

It’s not exactly the way I remember the other tart,

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but I’m still pretty pleased with it.

3 thoughts on “Bittersweet Chocolate and Ginger-Lemon Poached Pear Tart

  1. I just came here from Red Pony Farm. Oh, heavens, how I wish I hadn’t just joined Weight Watchers. I think I’ll drop out. That looks worth every calorie/pound.

    Will come back and look around more when I’m not hungry!

  2. AND ~~ Anne, not everyone is aware that since chocolate comes from a cocoa BEAN, it is considered vegetagle….and it has a lot of medicinal properties….

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