It was the year 2000, in the month of November, when my then boyfriend, now husband, came from the United States to Italy to visit me and my city, Milan, for a few days.
One of those evenings he met some of my close friends at a local restaurant in Porta Romana, and for dessert he tasted for the first time a Pear and Chocolate Tart. He fell in love with it, so much so that a few days after he left, I went to buy a version of the same tart at a local bakery – I didn’t have much time to bake back then – and I planned to mail it to him for his birthday.
Well, as it turned out, that wasn’t so easy. First I called all the major courier services. DHL, FedEx, UPS… they all told me that a perishable item would not be accepted in the United States even if it made it through customs. “One of the custom dogs would eat the cake, Miss. It would not get there intact!” I told them that I didn’t care if the dog ate the cake, but that I needed to try. One of the staff – out of either pity or exasperation – suggested that I would have better luck with a minor courier whose packages might go under less scrutiny. So, after repeating the same story to a little known Italian company, and reassuring them that I would not hold them responsible for any damage, my birthday tart was shipped to the United States and landed on my boyfriend’s porch a couple of days later. It looked a little tired, but to this day he says that it was delicious.
Eleven years later, when I was creating a menu for my baking business, I added my gluten-free version of that tart. And now I am sharing it with you. It takes a few steps, but believe me when I say that it’s worth it. ENJOY!
For the Pears
- Pears 4 – rises but still firm
- granulated sugar 1 cup (7 oz)
- water 3 cups (1lb 8 oz)
- lemon juice 2 Tablespoons
- cinnamon stick 1
Combine water, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon stick, lemon juice and salt in a sauce pan large enough to hold the pears. Peel and cut the pears in half, remove the seed core and fibrous cores. Place the pears in the boiling syrup, and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Take them out when ready and let them cool. Slice them at a 1/4 inch thickness.
Don’t discard the syrup, you’ll use some of it with cornstarch to make the glaze for the tart.
For the Gluten-free Shortbread Crust
- Softened Butter 3/4 cup (6 oz)
- Confectioners Sugar 1/3 cup and 2 Tablespoons (50 gr)
- Simona’s Flour Mix 1 1/2 cups 234 gr
- Salt 1/2 teaspoon
- Vanilla ½ teaspoon
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line the bottom of a 9 inch removable bottom tart pan.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, the confectioners’ sugar, the salt and the vanilla. Add the butter and mix until well combined.
Use the dough to line the tart pan. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Blind bake for 15 minutes. Let it cool before filling.
For the Chocolate Filling
- Bittersweet Chocolate 6 oz, in small pieces
- heavy cream 1 cup (250 ml)
- granulated sugar 1/4 cup (50gr) plus some to sprinkle on the crust
- 2 egg yolks
Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat just until the edges begin to bubble. Add the chocolate and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Stir until a smooth chocolate ganache forms. Stir in the sugar, and let it cool. Lastly add add the yolks, mixing until smooth.
To assemble the tart
Sprinkle some granulated sugar on the cooled crust so that it won’t become soggy from the pears. Line it with the sliced pears to cover the whole surface and slightly overlap them. Cover the pears with the chocolate filling.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Let is cool on a cooling rack and in the meanwhile prepare the glaze. Use approximately 1/2 cup of pear syrup and mix it with a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch. Warm it up in the microwave until hot. The consistency should be spreadable. Use a brush to cover the tart with the glaze. Let the tart cool completely before removing it from the pan – the shortbread crust is quite fragile, so be careful!