Last week, Mother-K’s friend from work, L, asked if I would mind making her a dessert to serve at a dinner party she was having. As L always gives me her Delicious magazines once she’s done reading them, I was more than happy to oblige. And so I trawled the internet, looking for something suitable: something sophisticated and impressive. But as I’m not much of a sweets cook, it had to be achievable. Having had luck making pastry not so long ago, I decided I would make a chocolate tart with chocolate pastry, and decorate it with pears cooked in red wine. I found a great recipe on Taste from Notebook, and set to. I’d planned on spreading the cooking over two days: cooking the pears and making the pastry the night before and finishing the rest on the day, but as I found I had the time, I finished the whole thing in one night. From what I’ve been told it was a hit!

4 firm pears, peeled, cored, and cut in half (keep the stems on for presentation)
2 cups (500ml) red wine (I used a whole bottle, 750ml)
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
150g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
300ml thickened cream
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/4 cup (60ml) dark rum (I used whisky as that’s what I had)
whipped cream (for serving) 

1 cup (150g) plain flour (I used a bit more)
1/3 cup (40g) almond meal
1/3 cup (60g) icing sugar mixture
1/4 cup (30g) cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
150g chilled butter, chopped
2 egg yolks

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the pears, red wine, caster sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes until the pears are tender but hold their shape. Remove pears from the pan and set aside to cool. Bring the sauce to the boil and allow to reduce until thick and syrupy (you will have about a cup). Set aside to cool. Refrigerate both the pears and syrup until needed.
  2. In a food processor, process flour, almond meal, icing sugar, cocoa powder, and butter until they resemble bread crumbs. Add egg yolks and process until it all comes together. If your pastry is a bit sticky as mine was, add a little more flour. Form into a ball and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes until firm.
  3. In another saucepan over low heat, combine chocolate and cream and stir until chocolate has melted. Make sure it doesn’t burn! Remove from heat and whisk in the rum. Allow to cool a little before adding egg yolks one at a time, whisking well after each addition to prevent them scrambling.
  4. Preheat oven to 200C. Once rested, roll out pastry to 3-4mm thick. Transfer to a 23cm fluted pastry tin with a removable base and trim edges. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest. Line tart shell with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or dried beans. Bake in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and pastry weights and bake for a further 8-10 minutes or until pastry is cooked through. Remove from oven.
  5. Reduce oven to 150C. Pour cream mix into the pastry shell and bake for 15-20 minutes until jest set (mine needed a little longer, but KEEP AN EYE ON IT as you want it JUST set – any longer and it will bubble). Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove tart from tin before refrigerating for at least an hour or until needed.
  6. To serve, dust tart with a little extra cocoa powder. Arrange pears in the center and drizzle with the red wine syrup. Serve with whipped cream.

Serves 8