This weekend, my next door neighbour had an Italian-themed dinner party for her birthday.
When I say dinner, what I actually mean is feast – I don’t think I’ve ever seen such food, or had a meal that went on for so long! There was olives, breadsticks, dips and salad, followed by a selection of breads, then two types of amazing pasta with courgettes, tomatoes and more salad and bread, then an amazing tiramisu, raspberries and strawberries, and finally a huge cheeseboard with crackers, apples and grapes – just reading back through the list makes me feel full again!
Everyone was asked to bring something, and I obviously volunteered a dessert to go with the tiramisu.
I scoured some Italian cookbooks at the library for an authentic recipe, and settles on a ‘crostata di pere a cioccolato’ from Italy – Sea to Sky by Ursula Ferrigno (which is a really gorgeous book for both savoury and sweet recipes).
It looked and sounded absolutely beautiful as it was, but it included a layer of marmalade in the bottom, which as my neighbour is allergic to oranges I decided to swap for a layer of almond paste, as I thought chocolate-pear-almond would be a good combination.
The resulting tart was exactly how I wanted it to be – rich enough that you only need a small slice, crisp pastry, subtle almond, super chocolatey, and a nice fruity contrast from the pears. It also smelt amazing when it came out of the oven, and it seemed to go down well with the other guests which is always a good sign!
Chocolate, pear and almond crostata (recipe adapted from Italy – Sea to Sky by Ursula Ferrigno)
For the pastry
- 55g butter
- 115g plain flour
- 25g cocoa powder
- 55g caster sugar
- 1 large egg
For the filling
- 4 small pears, peeled, cored and quartered
- 3/4 cup almond paste (I used a recipe from Technicolor Kitchen)
- 115g dark chocolate
- 55g butter
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 115g caster sugar
To make the pastry, rub together the butter and flour with your fingers until the mixture forms a breadcrumb texture. Sift in the cocoa and sugar, mix in, then add the egg a little at a time until the mixture binds together and can be kneaded into a dough. Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Grease and flour a 10″ fluted flan tin, then roll out the dough thinly and use to line the tin. Press down into the sides, then use a rolling pin to roll over the top to evenly trim the sides of the pastry. Put back in the fridge while you prepare the almond paste, pears and filling.
Spread a thin layer of almond paste all over the base, taking care to not to rip the pastry. Arrange the quartered pears on top in a ring.
To make the filling, melt the chocolate and butter together over a low heat and set aside. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then in a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks, then fold in the eggs whites – add a third of the whites first to loosen the mix, then fold in the rest.
Spread over the pears and the tart base, then bake at 180 degrees for 30 minutes, until firm to the touch. Leave for 10 minutes to cool before removing from the tin, dust with a little icing sugar, then either serve hot or leave to cool completely and serve at room temperature.