Chocolate Pear Tart

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This recipe was shared with me by a well-known foodie who lives in my area. She’d received it after attending a cooking school in Tuscany about 25 years ago. The recipe never got published, so I’m sharing.

This is the only dessert my husband has requested on more than one occasion. Oh, there might be an occasional bananas Foster request, depending on the season, but this tart is hands down his favorite dessert. And for good reason.

The pie has a dense chocolate crust, a layer of raspberry jam, pears, and a chocolate, meringue-like filling. What is not to love?

Use canned or jarred pear halves for this tart. Home-made poached pears would be lovely, but the other flavors are strong and I don’t think it would be worth the poaching. Raw pears would not be soft enough.

Chocolate Pear Tart

1 stick, or 4 ounces butter
2 cups white flour
2 eggs, whisked
2 cups sugar
2 cups unsweetened cocoa
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
2 egg whites
3 ounces seedless raspberry jam
2 – 29 ounce cans pear halves, drained well, dried
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons baking sugar

Make the dough by processing the butter, flour, egg, sugar, and cocoa, adding a few drops of water if necessary. I have had to place the mixture in a large bowl to moisten the dough before; it’s a large amount of dry to uniformly turn into a crust.

Butter and lightly flour a 11” pie tin with a removable bottom. Form a crust in the bottom by pressing and forming as neatly as possible, and chill in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler over barely simmering water until smooth. I remember reading that you are not “cooking” the chocolate when tempering, you are simply melting it. Set aside to cool.

Remove the pie tin from the refrigerator and spread the jam on the crust. Forming a concentric circle, place the best, most uniform-sized pears, inside down, on the jam layer. You can form one last pear into a round and place it in the middle of the tart.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is thick, about 5-6 minutes. Whip the egg whites until stiff and set aside.

Gently fold in the chocolate and egg whites into the yolk and sugar mixture.

Pour the chocolate filling over the pears and smooth. Bake for about 40 minutes.

If desired, serve with whipped cream.

When I mentioned that the recipe calls for an 11″ tart pan, it’s important. I could only find a 10″, and the resulting tart is not as pretty.

The tops of the pears should not be covered in chocolate meringue, the tops of the pears should be bare.

You can still see all of the wonderful elements of this tart, and know how good it is, but it’s just not as pretty as it should be. Plus, I slightly undercooked the tart, which accounts for some of the oozing chocolate and raspberry jam. But don’t be discouraged, because I’ve made this before with no issues at all, and I’m no baker!

Ginger Spice Truffle Balls

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By definition, truffles, the chocolate kind not the fungus, are made of chocolate and cream only. These I call truffle balls, which are a throwback to the rum balls of the 1950’s.

I enjoy making truffle balls, because for one thing they’re way easier than real truffles. They’re also more “stable” and less temperamental, because of a cookie or cake base.

When I make truffle balls, I typically make a batch or two, freeze them, and then whip them out for when I have company. You can’t do that with real truffles.

This truffle recipe I came up with when I was doing the food for a charity event benefiting our local SPCA. So many people loved these things and fortunately I kind of remembered what I’d done, and thus, a recipe was born.

Ginger Spice Truffle Balls

6 ounces gingersnap cookies
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 ounces unsalted butter
2 tablespoons strong coffee
2 tablespoons spiced rum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar

Run the cookies though the food processor until fine crumbs. Place them in a large bowl and set aside.

In the top of a double boiler, place the chocolate, butter, coffee, and rum. Over gently simmering water, melt the ingredients completely. Stir in the cinnamon and ginger. Remove from over the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the cookie crumbs. Using a rubber spatula, combine the chocolate and the crumbs completely. Cover the bowl with foil, and place the bowl in the refrigerator for about four hours.

When you are ready to make the truffle balls, get the bowl out of the refrigerator.

In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and powdered sugar well. Have a small spoon and a re-sealable bag handy.

Using the spoon, grab a little of the chocolate-cookie mixture and rub it with both of your hand in a circular motion to make a ball. It shouldn’t be larger than 1″ in diameter. Roll the truffle ball in the coating and place it in the bag. Continue with the remaining chocolate-cookie mixture. You can pour the remaining coating mixture into the bag if you wish.

Refrigerate the truffles or freeze them.

If you freeze them, thaw in the refrigerator first, then put them in a bowl about 30 minutes or so to warm up before serving.

It’s just as easy to double the recipe. Or triple it.

These are really nice for company. Just have some ready to eat at room temperature, and nobody has to eat a slice of cake to please the hostess/host!

Florentine Truffle Balls

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I love to share recipes. I’m not one of those who hides them away, not revealing the “secret” ingredient in my sauce or soup. Which is good, actually, since I have a blog!

But oddly enough, there is one recipe that I’ve held dear to my heart, and I have no idea why. It’s one I copied from one in my mother’s collection. The original recipe was an Italian cake – Segretto della Dama. And it was incredible, with the addition of an buttery coffee icing my mother made.

One day many years ago I decided to turn the cake recipe into rum balls. I made this twist specifically for a Chocolate and Champagne gala in my town. Being a local cateress, I was asked to participate, and ended up winning! They were a big hit.

Truffles, real ones, are made from chocolate and cream, and are best made by a true confectioner. They are named after the fungus known as truffles because of their physical similarity. Sort of lumpy brown spheres.

Rum balls, on the other hand, have a crushed cookie or cake mixed in with the other ingredients. They’re much less delicate and easier to make, but that doesn’t make them less yummy.

The reason I named this confectionery truffle balls because it’s like a rum ball and sort of looks like a truffle! I call them Florentine truffle balls is because my friend, a now retired florist, decorated my table at the Gala with floral fabric and a statue that was Tuscan-inspired. The recipe has Italian heritage, after all.

Normally, these truffle balls are made with ladyfingers – the soft kind – not Savoirdi biscuits, which are the only kind I can find locally, as well as on Amazon. This is a first for Amazon disappointing me.

I could have made ladyfingers from scratch, which I’ve done it before. And if I can do it, anyone can. Just use a baking dish; no need to pipe the batter into “fingers,” when you’re going to be crumbling them up. I’ve always used Julia Child’s recipe from Masters of Cooking.

Another option is to make your favorite pound cake and lighten it by folding a couple whipped egg whites into the batter before baking.

Even though it’s really not like me to take major shortcuts in the kitchen, I picked up a pound cake at the store to substitute for the ladyfingers. It’s a heavier texture than lady fingers, but it works, and has no specific flavor.

So here’s the recipe for my truffle balls. I think you’ll find them exquisite, in spite of the purchased pound cake! Since I know how good they are, I doubled the recipe!

Florentine Truffles
Makes about 2 dozen balls

1/2 cup of whole almonds, approximately 2 1/2 ounces
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 ounces ladyfingers or pound cake, broken up
1 tablespoon cognac, or to taste
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

First, toast the almonds in a skillet on the stove. Let them cool completely. Or, do this the day before. Place them in the food processor and process them until coarsely ground.

Add the chocolate chips and process until the chocolate is a similar texture to the almonds.

Add the pieces of pound cake and process again.

Add the tablespoon of cognac and sprinkle it into the food processor. If you want these to taste strongly of cognac, add more. I didn’t. Then add the butter and powdered sugar.

Process until a “dough” is formed.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, sieve a mixture of 2 parts cocoa powder and 1 part powdered sugar in a small bowl. You will only need about a total of 3-4 tablespoons total for this batch of truffles.

Roll teaspoon-sized balls of the dough with your hands, or use a small cookie scoop, and them place them in the cocoa mixture.

Toss a few balls at a time in the cocoa mixture to coat completely, then place in a ziploc bag.

These truffle ball aren’t stable at room temperature for long because of the butter. I wouldn’t serve them at a party that lasted hours, unless I kept replenishing with chilled ones.

Also, these truffles freeze really well. I’ve made multiple batches of them for the holidays in previous years, and just pull them out of the freezer before guests come over. They’re a nice little treat.

What you taste when you eat one of these is buttery chocolatey goodness, along with some almond and cognac flavor. They’re quite lovely!

If you make these, be prepared to want to triple the recipe next time!

Fruit and Chocolate

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I have a thing for the combination of dried fruits and chocolate, like dried apricots dipped in chocolate. Every holiday season I plan on dipping some variety of dried fruit or candied fruit in chocolate, but I know, in the end, I will be the only one who eats them.

photo from Windy City Sweets

Then I came across a recipe that combines chocolate and dried fruit – figs, to be specific – with nuts thrown in. And these bars seemed like something everyone would love.

The original recipe is in the book shown below, and it combines bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, macadamia nuts, and figs. Doesn’t that sound spectacular? I made the switch to hazelnuts just because I happen to have a lot left over from the holidays; plus they’re my favorite nut.

downloajjd

I typically would have added different fruits to the mixture as well, but I held back, limiting it to the nuts and figs like in the actual recipe.

This batch was made last week, and what my husband didn’t eat went into a freezer bag. Maybe I’ll pull them out on Valentine’s Day. But what is funny, is that he wouldn’t eat a chocolate-dipped fig, yet he gobbled up these bars.

And that’s life cooking for people, isn’t it?!!

So here’s the recipe as printed in the cookbook.

choc78

No-Bake Chocolate, Macadamia and Fig Slices

100 grams/6 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons clear honey
300 grams/10 ounces dark/bittersweet chocolate
100 grams/3 1/2 ounces milk chocolate
6 digestive or other sweetmeal biscuits/graham crackers
100 grams/2/3 cup shelled macadamia nuts
100 grams/2/3 cup ready-to-eat dried figs, chopped

Place the butter and chocolates in a double boiler and slowly begin melting the chocolate. I omitted the honey.

Meanwhile, grind the graham crackers, or whatever biscuit/cookie you’re using, in a food processor until smooth.

Measure out the hazelnuts, or whatever nut you’re using, as well as the figs. Add them to the graham crackers.

By now the chocolate should have begun melting. You want to be patient and wait until it’s smooth and shiny.

Mix together the chocolate and the goodies, then immediately spread into a foil-lined baking dish. The recipe suggested a 7″ square pan, I used a 5″ x 9″ rectangular pan. No greasing of the foil is necessary.

chocc9

Let the mixture cool, then cover the pan tightly and refrigerate for a few hours.

To serve, slice in the shape of biscotti, and top with a light dusting of cocoa.

As you can imagine, these are a wonderful chocolatey treat. I like their rustic appearance as well.

I enjoyed one with an afternoon coffee, though it was hard limiting myself to one.

choc6

I wasn’t kidding when I said my husband finished off all of the bars that didn’t fit into the freezer bag, which I think totaled six. Well, he’s not on a diet.

verdict: These are fabulous. I’m really glad I omitted the honey. My only complaint is that these could be heavier on the dried fruit and nuts. Next time I’ll include dried cherries and apricots.