Two of a Pear

21 09 2009

Last week I teased you a bit with the mention of a tarte Belle-Hélène.  Of course it isn’t much of a tease if you don’t know what a tarte Belle-Hélène is.  Just to get everyone up to speed, Belle-Hélène on a French menu signifies pears and chocolate, be it a simple sundae or a fancy entremet.  A tarte Belle-Hélène is basically a variation on the classic pear-frangipane (almond cream) tart, with thick chocolate ganache spread over the pears on the baked tart.  It is one of those great desserts that manages to be both rustic and elegant at the same time.  So that’s what I wanted to make with my first batch of CSA pears.

Docking the dough

It turned out that we had a last-minute dinner invite that weekend, and, as usual, I volunteered to bring dessert.  (Nobody ever seems to mind being a dessert guinea pig.)  I started with a sweet version of the whole wheat pastry crust I raved about earlier this summer.  I parbaked it while poaching some pears in a mixture of white wine, water, sugar, lemon, and vanilla bean.

This smelled absolutely divine!

Prior to the pear prep, I was wishing I had a melon baller (ironic other name: Parisian scoop) for coring the pear halves.  After a few days searching came up fruitless, I realized that with pears as juicy and ripe as these, I could probably get away with using my teaspoon to core them.  And I was right.  Yay for multitasking kitchen tools!  The peeled and cored pear halves were then gently simmered for about 5 minutes, until they were completely tender.  I carefully removed them to a rack to drain.  (I saved the poaching liquid to use again.)

Poached pears all in a row.

Then I set about making the filling for the tart.  Traditionally, it is made with almond frangipane, but I thought that hazelnuts would be a delicious twist on the classic.  So I made hazelnut cream – a straightforward ratio of equal parts butter, sugar, hazelnut meal, and egg – instead.  I spread it into my baked, cooled tart shell, and sliced up the pears in order to fan them out in an attractive manner over the tart.  Like so:

Tarte Belle-Hélène, pre-oven

As the tart baked, the hazelnut filling puffed up around the edges of the pears, welcoming them in and holding them securely in place.  Meanwhile, I was making a ganache with some 70% chocolate, cream, butter, and a bit of poaching liquid.  I wanted the ganache to have ample time to cool down before I tried to smooth it over the pears on the tart.  But it had too much time, and just when we were supposed to be leaving for our friends’ place, I was having a ganache crisis.  I heated it up for a few seconds in the microwave, but that was too much, so I had to pop it in the freezer, and somewhere along the line it broke, so I had to bust out the immersion blenderto try to fix it which fortunately worked and finally I could put the ganache on the tart like I do every morning at work – I mean this shouldn’t have been a big deal – whew!  I topped the ganache with a sprinkling of crushed, toasted hazelnuts, and we were out the door.

The gorgeous pear tart of my dreams.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




16 responses

22 09 2009
Jen @ MaplenCornbread

GORGEOUS!!! This looks soooo good! The chocolate ganache really makes everything pop!

22 09 2009
Reuben Morningchilde

Wonderful combination. Thanks so much for this inspiring post!

22 09 2009

Wow that sounds like a wonderful combination of flavors! Were the guinea pigs happy? Ok, but what I want to know is how do you crimp your pie crust edges so perfectly?!

22 09 2009

oh my goodness, this looks incredible.

22 09 2009

This looks mouthwatering! What a great combination of flavours and so beautifully presented too..

22 09 2009
Ann Mah

Really stunningly beautiful! Truly the work of a professional. Pear and chocolate is one of my favorite combinations!

22 09 2009

That sounds amazing! I love pears and hazelnuts, so I’ve added this to my wishlist of things to bake.

22 09 2009
hungry dog

Wow. I am so impressed with this. The crust looks gorgeous. I don’t even care for fruit and chocolate together but I would eat this, no questions asked.

22 09 2009

Jen – Thank you! Fortunately, the ganache decided to cooperate at the last minute. 🙂

Reuben – It’s my pleasure.

Hopie – They were very happy. When you’ve made as many Thanksgiving pies as I have, you get a feel for crimping the dough. I’d be happy to show you sometime!

woods4 and TheWoman – Thanks!

Ann – Mine, too. I was skeptical to begin with, but my first bite of a tarte Belle-Hélène made me an instant convert.

meaghanking – Sounds like you can’t go wrong, then! It’s especially good at this time of year, when the pears are at their peak.

hungrydog – It may even change your mind on the subject. 🙂

23 09 2009

This looks amazing! And I love yours pics too:)

Thanks for sharing!

24 09 2009

Karine – Thank you!

27 09 2009
5 10 2009

Camille, this looks amazing. Now that it is fall and I am settled in my new home I am going to start baking more. I think this tarte will be perfect for antidote to rainy days.

7 10 2009

Katherine – Thank you! It would be an excellent rainy day project!

27 11 2009
Serge Lescouarnec

Nice blog
Gave your recipe a try
With a Couple of Twists
For Thanksgiving 2009
The result of the experiment is cooling off right now.
A bientot
Serge the Concierge
‘The French Guy from New Jersey’

28 11 2009

Serge – Excellent! I’d love to hear how you liked it!

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