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11 May 2009

Pear and Chocolate Tartlets

Last weekend in Italy we found some pear and chocolate pastries, which we just had to get for breakfast because pear and chocolate is one of my favorite unlikely flavor combinations. These pastries had bits of pear inside with chocolate melted all over it, all wrapped up in puff pastry and dusted on the top with powdered sugar mixed with cocoa powder. It was pretty good, but there was (you may not think this is possible...) too much chocolate and it overwhelmed the taste of the pears. I decided to make my own pear and chocolate tartlets to see if I could do as good or better, and this is what I came up with. It is super easy to prepare the elements days ahead of time, then bake when needed. you could even bake just two at a time. It would be simple to increase the amount or vary the size or shape of the tartlets as desired.

Pear and Chocolate Tartlets

Pie crust dough (enough to make a 1 crust 9-inch pie)
3 pears, not too ripe
milk for brushing on pastry crust
granulated sugar, to taste
about 1/2 chocolate sauce recipe

Roll out pie crust dough into a large rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Keep the dough chilled for maximum flakiness. Cut dough into 6 rectangles, each about 5 x 3.5 inches, depending on how large your pears are. Use any excess dough for pie-crust cookies. Place rectangles on a lightly greased baking sheet, and score part of the way through pastry dough with a knife 1/2 inch inside of the edge. Brush a little milk onto each rectangle. Peel the pears, core and cut into 1/2 inch slices (10-12 slices/pear), cover generously with lemon juice to keep them from browning. Place slices of pears on the rectangles of dough, one half of each pear on each rectangle, keeping the pieces within the score marks. Sprinkle a little sugar on each tartlet, only about 1/2 teaspoon on each. Immediately place the baking sheet in the preheated oven at 400 F. Bake for about 20 minutes, till the edges and bottoms of the crusts are brown, and the juices have coagulated. Remove from baking sheet and let cool for at least one hour. Scoop chocolate sauce into a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with a hole in a corner to squeeze through). Squeeze a drizzle of chocolate sauce on top of the tartlets, not too much. Enjoy!

10 May 2009

My Favorite Chocolate Sauce

Here's a good recipe for a multi-purpose chocolate sauce. You can use it for all sorts of things, like dipping strawberries or other fruit, as an ice cream topping, or topping for cake or cheesecake or any other kind of dessert. You can add a little more milk if you need it to be more liquid, or reduce the milk if you need it to harden more, but using the proportions as given will produce a topping that is soft at room temperature, but sets up at cooler temperatures. We used to make this at the cafe that I worked at during high school to smother on top of chocolate pound cake, and even though I couldn't write down the actual recipe, I believe I have recreated the correct proportions. My favorite thing to do with chocolate sauce? Vanilla ice cream with pears and chocolate sauce. Delish!
Chocolate Sauce
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 c. milk (2% or whole milk is best here)
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir every couple of minutes until the chocolate starts melting, once the chocolate is mostly melted remove from heat and stir sauce until smooth.
The sauce can be refrigerated if you have leftovers, and then reheated in the microwave for about 10 seconds to use again.

04 May 2009

Yogurt Gelato

The Lovemuffin took the Pricklypear to Italy this weekend, and it was all so beautiful! We saw some real mountains again (I've missed the mountains) and some extraordiary churches, and of course, we ate some incredible food. I've always known that the most important thing to try in Italy isn't the pizza, it's the ice cream. I'd always heard that Italian gelato is the most amazing ice cream in the world, and so far my experience backs that up. We got gelato at a small dairy near lake Como (that's it, and me, in the picture), made fresh with fresh, whole mountain milk, and it was so, so good! I got chocolate and strawberry, and they were both very good, but Lovemuffin got yogurt (which he let me sample), and man, that was perhaps the best ice cream I have ever tasted! This wasn't like that frozen yogurt garbage that people sometimes eat because it's supposed to be low-fat and healthy, this was definitely full-fat ice-cream with all the tangy flavor of plain yogurt. I tell you what, I am going to try to recreate that taste, and if I am successful, you will know. I'm sure I won't be able to recreate the texture, because I don't have an ice cream maker, either here or back with my stuff in the states. I will just have to be creative. I have found a couple of recipes that seem to have the right idea, including this one, so I'll give it a whirl. I bet it would work well with liquid nitrogen, but since I don't have any of that either...

Oh, and something funny, the people we stayed with have a dog, a boxer, and I guess she loves yogurt, and so they would get the yogurt ice cream in a cup, and let the dog lick out the melty remains.