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Tuesday, January 8

Rounding out 2012 with a Tart

Happy 2013. It came really fast and out of nowhere. I am off my wagon at the moment because for the first time, I believe, jetlag’s gotten the best of me. I am sleepy at 8 and in bed by 9 and worst yet, I am up by 5- 6am. Shocking for someone that loves sleeping in.

Looking back on 2012, we are very grateful for the trips we took, family and friends we saw and good food we ate. To end the year with a bang, we hosted a holiday dinner at our place two days before leaving for our trip. Here, almost all Americans go “home” for the holidays. We did the same last year. This year we chose to stay here for no particular reason, until in October we planned the Philippines trip. There are couple close friends that also decided to stay back. Staying put (during the time when everyone’s with family and friends) is no easy feat so it called for a holiday dinner. And it was a pleasant dinner for 4.

When I obtained my work permit, I started making calls and contacting local businesses to collaborate on food ventures. One of those conversations led me to a café owned by an American. At our meeting, she and I discussed options for me to explore; one of which was to cater a Christmas party she’d plan for her café employees. I accepted.

We collaborated on the menu and came up with American holiday foods with a healthy twist. It included Fig & Onion Crostini and Roasted Smashed potatoes for appetizers. For the main course stuffed Turkey breast, roasted Cauliflower with raisins, Broccoli and Leek casserole, and penne with Butternut Squash sauce. Since it is a café, I had to think hard in coming up with a dessert. The owner and its employees are accustomed to desserts; keeping that in mind, I found a tart that was unusual but also appealing.

Rule number 2 in catering for clients, never make a recipe you haven’t previously tried or tested. I know this. I know this. I promise, I do know this. I always keep this in the back of my mind but putting that rule to practice was overlooked in this instance.

This tart turned out so good I recreated it for our holiday dinner for 4.

Pear and Chocolate Tart
Adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon or 100 grams unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups or 250 grams all purpose flour

4 ounces top-shelf bittersweet chocolate chips, finely chopped bar
3 medium-sized ripe pears, preferably Anjou or Bartlett
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar and salt on low speed until light, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add egg and mix well to combine. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and form into a disk; wrap the dough in plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour up to overnight.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and allow to soften for 15 minutes at room temperature. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11 inch circle, 1/4 inch thick. Fit the rolled dough onto an 11 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Place the dough in the tart pan back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F or 190°C.

Prick the bottom of the chilled tart shell with a fork. Line the bottom of the tart with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill the liner with dried beans or pie weights and place the shell on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are just lightly browned.

Remove the foil and weights and return the shell to the oven for another 10 minutes or until browned. Remove the tart from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile peel and halve the pears, then core them to remove the seeds. Place one half, cut-side down, on a cutting board. Slice the pear into thin slices, keeping the shape intact.

Scatter the chopped chocolate evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Spread the sliced pears in a fanned shape over the chocolate. Repeat with the other halves until the tart shell is full. If the pears do not completely cover the tart, don’t worry.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, and 3/4 cup sugar. Add the cream and vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Pour the custard over the pears and chocolate. Sprinkle the top of the tart with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet to avoid any leaks.

Bake the tart in the center of a preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the custard is just set in the center. Allow tart to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Store any leftovers, if there are any, in the refrigerator.

I am lucky this was a hit because it would’ve been a shame otherwise. I hope you had a wonderful time ringing in the new year. Happy New Year.

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