What most of you have been waiting for, my pear and chocolate tart!
I have talked a lot about adaptations that I have had to make to my cooking techniques, but there are some things that you just cannot mess with…..
Back in the UK I was a pretty formidable pastry cook, turning out wonderful tarts at the drop of the hat (No blag, I was once told by a male admirer that my ‘tarte au chocolat’ was worthy of a marriage proposal – and that my ‘tarte au citron’ was not far behind.)
Then, how could I possibly fail in the land of patisserie? Well I did, and horribly. My once crumbly, light, delicious pastry became something that you could knock nails in with (that or break your teeth on!)
I was doing nothing different, except for the fact that ‘TREX’ (grand old Liverpool product), and lighter than butter or margarine, so that if can be worked in very quickly straight from the fridge nor any form of equivalent, was available in France. (TREX is a pure vegetable fat which is solid at room temperature, but much softer and lighter than butter or margarine, so that it can be ‘ worked in’ very quickly straight from the fridge. My grandmother who was without a doubt the best pastry cook in the world, swore by it!)
So now each time we go to the UK in the car, I stock up on TREX and you will all be relieved to know that my pastry skills are still something to write home about – literally………(The wonderful Picard also do the best frozen pastry that I have ever used, but for emergency use only……)
The second ingredient that I could just not match here was cooking chocolate. I have tried many brands in both France and the UK and trust me Sainsbury’s milk and dark cooking chocolate is the best out there (not their ‘Taste the Difference’ range, just the regular cooking chocolate in the pink and blue wrappers) Again something that I stock up on from the UK.
The following recipe uses both of these very British ingredients in this very French tart.(adapted from a recipe taken from ‘Gourmand’ cookery magazine available in supermarkets in France)
200g/7oz of rich shortcrust pastry (go to the bottom to see how to make the perfect pastry)
6 medium pears cored and sliced into 6 or a large tin of pear half in light syrup drained (saving the syrup) and cut into 3 – I actually prefer the tinned variety for this recipe.
200g/7oz cooking chocolate – I use 100g dark and 100g milk, I find all milk too sickly and all dark to rich and difficult to work with
100g / 4oz castor sugar (sucre en poudre)
50g/2oz plain flour (farine pour tous usages)
3 tablespoons (6 cuillers de soupe) crème fraiche
Prepare a tart dish with the pastry (see below)
Melt the chocolate in a basin over a pain of simmering water, stirring occasionally and taking care not to get any water inside the basin or the chocolate will turn ‘fudgy’
Spread the melted chocolate quickly and evenly over the base of the tart.
Arrange the pears in a uniform circle on top of the chocolate.
Beat the egg with the sugar until light and fluffy
Add the flour a little at a time and mix well
Add the crème fraiche also a little at a time stirring well
If the mixture is too stiff (epaissee) loosen it with a little of the saved pear juice.
Pour the mixture over the top of the pears and chocolate.
Bake In a preheated oven at 200 degrees/gas mark 6 for around 35 minutes, until the top is just firm, checking to take care that it does not overbrown.
This dish must be served just a little warm (tiede) to be appreciated at its best, as if it is too hot, then the chocolate will be too runny, and if too cold the chocolate will be too set.
Serve with a little dollop of crème fraiche on the side – bon appetite!
HOW TO MAKE PERFECT PASTRY
200g/7oz plain flour (Aldi was my favourite in the UK, but Francine ‘farine de ble pour tous usages’ works well)
80g TREX (100g margarine – TREX has a higher water content so 20% less is needed)
1 egg yolk (jaune)
2 dessertspoons (cuilleres de soupe) of ice cold water
The three main factors for making a good pastry are :-
The speed of making it – pastry does not like to be overhandled
The temperature – the cooler the room, your hands, the surface, and the water the better.
The amount of moisture – the drier the pastry, the more light and crumbly (short) it is – even if it is more difficult to work with and may need patching up, it is worth it for the end result. The wetter, the more you will break your teeth!
Wash your hands and rinse in cold water
Sieve the flour into a large, preferable pottery mixing bowl
Chop in the TREX (or equivelent) with a cold knife, then quickly work it into breadcrumbs using the tips of your fingers only and lifting the mixture from the bowl as the work it, to get as much air in the mixture as possible
Cut the egg yolk into the mixture again using a cold knife
Add the water (direct from the fridge) and mix all together with a cold knife
Quickly draw the mixture into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to ‘rest’ for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from fridge for 5 minutes before rolling out to fit a 12” (30xm) flan/quiche dish
Put back in fridge until ready to fill