Believe it or not, these little tarts started out as Pecan Tassies. While trying to find something to bake for Thanksgiving, I stumbled on this recipe. They were easy to make and incredibly delicious, so I decided to take this bite-sized pie idea a step or two further, combining it with a chocolate pear tart.
If you're looking for something simple to make, stick with the Pecan Tassies. Your family and friends will still love them. On the other hand, if you look forward to the holidays because they provide an excuse to spend all day baking something extra special for your holiday cookie tray, you can't go wrong with these rich Mini Dark Chocolate Pear Tarts.
Dying to know how to whip up a batch of your own? Find the recipe after the jump...
Since these were originally inspired by the Pecan Tassies, I used the same dough recipe. Butter wins over margarine in my house, so I followed the author's instructions to add an extra 1/4 c. of flour. For another batch of dough, I experimented a bit by using a 1 1/2 tsp. of cocoa powder instead of the extra flour. It turned out okay - just a little drier with a hint of chocolate flavor - but the simple butter, cream cheese, and flour dough is flakier and more like a pie dough, so there's really no reason to mess with it.
While the dough is chilling in the freezer for an hour, poach the pears. This can be done in sugar water, but I used a recipe that came from a recipe for a Chocolate Hazelnut Pear Frangipane Tart. Poaching is surprisingly easy. Heat 1 bottle of white wine, 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan on medium-high. Toss in a cinnamon stick and a few strips of orange peel. The liquid is at poaching temperature just before it simmers, about 5-10 minutes before it begins to boil (depending on your stove). Poaching temperature is when the little bubbles start to form and attach themselves to the side of the pan. While you wait, peel, halve, and core two Bosc pears. Once you see the bubbles, add them into the liquid to poach for 10-12 minutes. They're done when they're tender inside but not mushy.
Now to make the chocolate custard filling. This recipe comes from the cookbook Once Upon a Tart. Chop 6 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate. (I always use the 72% baking chocolate from Trader Joe's. It's actually Belgium's Callebaut.) Then in a double boiler (a glass or ceramic bowl over a pot of boiling water) melt together the chocolate with 3/4 cups of heavy cream. This stops the chocolate from burning. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in 1/4 cup of sugar and cook for a few more minutes until smooth and glossy. Set this aside to cool. Whisk one egg and one egg yolk together in a medium-sized bowl. Add 1 tsp. of vanilla extract. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, slowly whisk it into the eggs so that the heat doesn't cook them.
These tarts are baked in a mini muffin pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take out the dough and divide it into 24 parts. This sounds complicated, but I cut mine in half, cut it by 4, and roll them into logs. Then I split each dough log into 3 pieces. Press the dough into the pan so that it forms little cups. Then, slice the poached pears. Cut the pears horizontally into 3/4" slices. Then slice off pieces about 1/4" thick (maybe a little thinner). Place 4 pieces in the bottom, cover with a spoonful of chocolate custard, and then fan out 3 more pieces of pear on top. Be sure not to go overboard with the custard because it will rise in the oven. Bake the tarts for 15-20 minutes, or until the chocolate rises and starts to crack.
When I made these, I only placed pears on the bottom for the first dozen. Then, I only fanned pears on the top for the rest. The final result was delicious, but the dark chocolate overwhelmed the pears. Those poached pears taste like candy because of the flavors infused from the poaching liquid, so be sure to have a good chocolate-pear ratio. With double the pears, these should come out perfectly.
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