Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Desserts

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Close your eyes and imagine this.

A layer of chocolate génoise. A layer of chestnut cream. A layer of chocolate almond crunch. Another layer of chestnut cream. Repeat.

The result: a Chocolate Chestnut Crunch Cake.

That was the reality for our Christmas dinner, with a decadent cake to cap off an already decadent dinner.

This was a mash-up of several recipes. The chocolate génoise was a recipe from Cordon Bleu Cakes. The chocolate-almond crunch was initially inspired by Ricardo Larrivée. The chestnut cream came about by mixing things in a bowl and tasting as I went along.

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Unfortunately the recipe for the glaze wasn't enough to cover the whole cake, and I was left with a half-covered cake that looked...well, very fugly. Delicious, but fugly.

The cake was a bit of a daunting project, and from start to finish, took almost four hours to put together. But it was well worth it. Decadent and luxurious without being overly rich or sweet.

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From chocolate and chestnuts, we went to chocolate and pears for New Year's Eve (or technically, New Year's Day as I was just too tired after making the epic meal to do dessert afterwards). Upon the the suggestion of my brother to make poached pears, I decided upon making a Chocolate Pear Tart.

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First I poached the pears in some mulled wine to infuse some Christmas flavour into them and to give them a gorgeous red hue. The shortcrust dough is an Anna Olson recipe, while the filling was based off Jamie Oliver's own Chocolate and Pear Tart.

The tart is sinfully rich from the dark chocolate, with great texture thanks to the ground almonds. The poached pears were absolutely delicious, having soaked up a lot of the flavours from the spices in the poaching liquid. A beautiful and delicious dessert that's a great finish to any meal!

choco pear tart_06

Chocolate Pear Tart
Adapted from Anna Olson and Jamie Oliver
Serves 8

For the poached pears:
3 large (or 6 small) ripe but firm pears (Bosc or Anjou are great choices)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 cups dry fruity red wine
1 cup sugar
1 2-inch stick of cinnamon
2 2-inch long, 1/2-inch wide strips orange peel
2 whole star anise
8 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean

For the shortcrust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

For the filling:
125 g ground almonds
2 large free-range or organic eggs
125 g butter, softened
95 g caster sugar
185 g dark chocolate, melted

To make the poached pears: Cut the pears into eighths and place them in a large bowl of water with the lemon juice, to help prevent oxidation.

In the large pot over medium flame, bring the wine, sugar, spices and vanilla bean to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Drain the pears and add them to the wine mixture. Place a parchment round the same diameter size as the pot and place on top of the pears, to ensure the pears remain submerged in the wine.

Reduce the heat to a medium low and slowly simmer the pears, covered, until they are soft, but not mushy when poked with a sharp knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool completely in the syrup. Reserve in the refrigerator in the poaching liquid until ready to use. The pears are best poached the day before.

To make the shortcrust: Cream butter and sugar together. Stir in egg yolks, adding one at a time. Sift together flour, cocoa and salt and add to butter mixture. Mix until dough just comes together. Roll into a log and chill until ready to roll. If preparing ahead of time, pull dough from fridge an hour before rolling.

On a lightly floured surface, Cut the log into 1/4-inch slices and line a 9-inch (23 cm) removable-bottom tart shell with the dough slices. Use your fingers to blend the overlap slices together by pushing the dough around. Trim off any excess edges and chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Dock pastry with a fork and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

To make the filling: Mix your almonds, eggs, butter and sugar together and stir in the melted chocolate while it’s still warm. Pour the mixture evenly into the pastry case.

Remove the pears from the poaching liquid and drain off any excess liquid on some paper towels. Slice them on the horizontal. Slide the whole pear piece onto your knife, lightly press down to fan out the slices, and place gently onto the chocolate and almond mixture, pressing the pears down slightly. Repeat with the remaining pears. Alternatively, you can leave the pears whole if you want.

Bake the tart for about 45 minutes until the chocolate and almond mixture is firm. Serve warm with lightly whipped cream or good quality vanilla ice cream.

7 comments:

Sarah January 16, 2011 at 12:39 PM  

Holy crap - those both sounded like they tasted amazing beyond belief! Don't worry about the whole fugly thing either... I've come to realize that fugly often equals tasty. Just think of boeuf bourguignon, or lobsters. Not pretty, but damn fine eating!

Jen H January 16, 2011 at 1:15 PM  

Yum!!

Andrew and (formerly) Bonita January 16, 2011 at 2:13 PM  

Hehe, chocolate and poached bears, the best of both worlds in one dish! Thanks, sis, you really wowed us all!

munchkie January 16, 2011 at 3:49 PM  

Great recipes! That cake looks beautifully organic and homey, not fugly! I'm going to try to make it, but it'll probably take me a few tries. It looks complicated. I'll also err on the side of more when it comes to making the glaze!

Bonita January 17, 2011 at 9:51 PM  

Thank you for the lovely comments!

So true Sarah! Or as my friend calls it, "rustic."

Munckie - Don't be intimidated by it. It'll be well worth it, and it's so much fun to actually construct a cake like that.

canadianfoodiegirl January 20, 2011 at 4:05 PM  

That first photo made me salivate. Wow. I'll be shoving people out of my way in line when you open your bakery. :)

Suzanne Ellis January 22, 2011 at 4:44 PM  

Oh, wow. Both desserts look absolutely amazing, but I'm knocked out by those Chocolate Chestnut Cake photos. That must have been to-die-for!!

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