I have too much chocolate. I never thought I would say it, but there you go. Easter happened and I received many of those super-sized dinosaur eggs that are all the rage over here. Seriously, there is nothing subtle about an Italian Easter egg. You could invade a home with one of them and the prizes inside are always so stupid. This year, I had one with a plastic dreidel inside. Not sure who the target audience was…
After two solid weeks of shoving shard after shard of dark chocolate into my gob, I said to myself, “Elisa, you need a pseudo-healthy way of getting through this chocolate” and voilà this tart was born. It’s inspired by the stracciatella gelato and combines two of my great Tuscan loves, William pears from my father-in-law’s tree and ricotta. Ricotta in Italy is nothing like that compressed-into-a-tub version you find in most Anglo-Saxon countries. It’s fresh and luscious and crumbly in all the right places. It’s also made with sheep’s milk, which sounds unsettling to the uninitiated, but you need that tart (almost sour) sheepy note to contrast the huge chunks of dark chocolate and cinnamon flecks that are folded through my filling.
I haven’t included a recipe for the chocolate tart base just because I think everyone has their own signature shortcrust pastry base. Mine is basically half butter to plain flour, a tablespoon of sugar and enough cold milk to bring it all together in a food processor. I’ve added 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder for colour and bitterness and blind baked for 10 minutes before spooning the mixture in.
There is a decidedly autumnal feel to this tart, but the weather hasn’t been particularly kind recently in Tuscany and there is no reason why you can’t substitute the pears for a more summery fruit, say peaches or blackberries. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the crumble topping. It’s what takes this tart from blah Sunday dessert to the sort of thing that definitely impresses those hard to impress friends. It’s based around a frangipane (the classic French almond filling) except it’s a million times easier to make and is not as sweet. It adds a beautiful crunch to each mouthful and everyone knows almonds and pears are best friends!
pear and dark chocolate tart
100g blanched almonds
100g caster sugar
1 x chocolate shortcrust pastry tart base, blind baked
2 William pears, peeled, cored and sliced into eighths.
300g fresh sheep’s milk ricotta
100g dark chocolate, chopped
zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2
1 teaspoon cinnamon
20g plain flour
10g butter, chopped
cocoa powder, for dusting
Preheat oven to 180°C. Chop the almonds into smallish chunks and combine with the sugar. Reserve 2/3 of almond mixture for the crumble and combine the rest with the ricotta, dark chocolate, cinnamon and egg. Stir in the zest and juice and pour into your pastry case. Arrange the pear slices on top in a circular pattern.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining almond mixture with the flour and butter and mix with your fingers until you get a crumble-like texture. Sprinkle over the tart and bake for 40 minutes or until the filling is set but still jiggles when you shake it. Leave to cool and dust over cocoa powder just before serving. This tart will keep in the fridge for 3 days, but is best served on the day of making.
There is so much melty-chocolately goodness in this picture alone that I wish I still had some tart left!!