This is a favorite dessert I like to bake at Easter time when everyone’s bored of apple-pumpkin-cinammon-everything, but the season of fresh fruit and berries is still months away. My first post on this blog in English – please enjoy, be kind and tell me if you want more!
The recipe comes from an old “BBC Good Food” magazine and has travelled with me to various holiday destinations, including South Africa, where I made it one spring in Cape Town together with Ieva and Bryn. Since I just returned from yet an other fantastic gastro-holiday there, it is only fitting that I should publish the adapted recipe here for my sister and her friends (an mine of course) to enjoy!
What you need
For the pastry:
175 g wheat flour
100 g butter, taken from the fridge 20 minutes before you start + an additional knob for greasing the pan
half a teaspoon of fine salt
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons sugar
For the filling:
100 g good quality dark chocolate
4 pears, similar in size, long Comice of Conference or whatever they’re called in your country are the best
100 ml cream (I use the kind with 35% fat)
a bit of vanilla paste, extract or seeds scraped from half a pod
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
What you do
Make the shortbread pastry: in a large bowl, mix flour with salt and sugar, add butter cut up in pieces and rub together with your fingers until it resembles coarse sand (this is why in Latvian the pastry is called “smilšu”, or sand pastry). Add the yolk and water and, working quickly, gather the mess together in a ball. You can do this in a food processor using the dough hook, not too conventional but I find it very helpful.
Get your tarte pan – I prefer a metal one with removable base, 24-26 cm in diameter, but a glass/pyrex one is fine too – and grease it well with soft butter. Roll out the pastry on a floured work top and place it carefully in the tarte pan – doesn’t matter if it breaks up, just glue it back together patiently and somewhat evenly, and press it all around and up the sides of the pan, mending holes. Then put it in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. I find that it is easier to do the pastry the evening before the party and then get on with it the next day – seems more effortless this way.
To assemble the cake, chop the chocolate roughly – either by hand with a chef’s knife, or with a machine if you wish. Whisk together eggs, cream, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl. Peel the pears, cut them lengthwise, remove the core and stem, and place cut side down on a chopping board. Then, cut them vertically in thin slices, starting from the fat end, sort of like this:
Preheat your oven and a baking sheet/pan to 200 degrees C. Now, take out the chilled tarte base, prick it with a fork and spread the chocolate evenly. Arrange the pear slices on top of the chocolate: this is easiest done by sliding a knife under the pear half and then transferring it to the tarte, the completed result looking like a flower of sorts:
I usually start by making a cross of four pear halves and then filling the remaining space with the rest of the pears. It doesn’t matter if the “petals” are straight or perfect, the point here is to try and cover most of the chocolate with fruit.
Finish the tarte by slowly pouring over the cream-egg mixture, trying to soak all pears and cover all chocolate that peeks through the fruit slices. Sprinkle a little sugar over pears and put in the oven for 10 minutes, then decrease the heat to 180 and bake for 25 minutes more. If you are brave, you can try and caramelise the sugar at the end under a hot grill, but do watch as it will burn quickly!
Let cool and enjoy! It is easiest to cut the tarte in 8 slices, according to the pear “petals” (giving anyone a smaller piece would not be very nice). Wonderful on the day it is made, with or without vanilla ice-cream. I am sure it still tastes amazing the next day, but in all these years I’ve been making it, not a single piece survived till next morning.