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White Chocolate Custard Tarts with Honey & Thyme Roasted Pears

From Chocolate for Beginners, by Kate Shaffer

This elegant, sophisticatedly-flavored dessert is a show-stopper. Serve these tarts at an autumn dinner party and prepare for the abrupt halt in conversation when your guests take their first bite. 

  • Difficulty Level Easy
  • Prep Time 45 minutes
  • Set Time 3 hours in the refrigerator
  • Techniques Emulsifying
  • Yield 6 4” tarts
  • Storage Store tarts in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Ingredients

  • 3 Bosc pears
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons pinenuts
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Spray oil
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 8 ounces white chocolate
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Equipment

  • 9” x 13” baking pan
  • 6 4” tart pans with a removable bottom
  • Several small sauce pans
  • Several metal bowls
  • 2 half sheet pans

Instructions

  1. Prepare the pears. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray the baking pan with oil. Give the pine nuts a rough chop. Peel the pears carefully, leaving the stem intact. Cut the pears in half lengthwise (leaving the stem on one of the halves), and core the pear (this includes removing the fibrous inner stem). Thinly slice the pears crosswise in hassleback style (1/8”-1/4”), being careful not to cut all the way through to the cutting board. Transfer the pears to the baking pan. 
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat the honey, thyme sprigs, and butter until the butter is just melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pinenuts. Pour the honey mixture over the pears, making sure each pear has been thoroughly coated. 
  3. Bake the pears for 30 minutes, spooning the honey mixture over them intermittently. Remove them from the oven when they are fairly soft, but still firm enough to hold together (in other words, don’t make pear sauce). Set the pan aside.
  4. While the pears are baking, make the crust. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat. While the butter is melting, mix together the sugar, almond extract, and sea salt in a small metal bowl. Pour the melted butter over the sugar mixture in the bowl and mix well. Add the flour all at once and stir until you have a soft dough. 
  5. Line the tart pans. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, and press each piece over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pans. Place the tart pans on the two sheet pans (three to a pan). 
  6. Prebake the crusts. When you’ve removed the pears from the oven, put the tarts in and bake for 12 minutes, rotating the sheet pans once. The crusts should puff a little and turn a very light golden color. Remove them from the oven and set aside.
  7. Make the filling. While the crusts are baking, chop the white chocolate and place it in a small metal bowl. In separate bowl, beat the egg well. Heat the milk in a small sauce pan until it boils, then pour it immediately over the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for one full minute, then stir until the ganache is emulsified. Beat in the egg and the orange zest. 
  8. When the crusts are out of the oven, place 1/2 pear in each of the tart pans, spooning some caramel-y pine nuts on top of them. Pour in the filling, being careful to pour around, not over, the pears. Bake the tarts for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven when the filling is just slightly puffed and just little wiggly still. Don’t let them brown. When you’ve removed the tarts from the oven, spoon a little remaining honey mixture from the pears over the top. Don’t drown them, just lightly dress them.
  9. Cool the tarts completely at room temperature, then release them from their rings before serving.

Tip: If you’re not a fan of honey, roast the pears in maple syrup instead!

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