mealie meal and pilchards of the previous two weeks, last week’s Freshly Blogged ingredient list was a joy to read through. Who wouldn’t be happy to cook with Amarula, dark chocolate, almonds and pears? But in a way this made it all the harder – how to decide on just one dish with so many mouth-watering possibilities beckoning. One proviso was that we had to make a custard as part of the dish. With that thought, my (and many others’) mind turned to ice cream, skipping over profiteroles and upside-down cakes and picturing an exquisite piece of layered French patisserie with a luscious blob of Amarula ice cream.
At this point reality set in. The weekend already involved cooking a Sunday lunch for 12 to celebrate my husband’s birthday and we were spending Saturday out on an excursion to Noordhoek (the other side of the world from us, tucked behind Table Mountain) to meet a puppy that we hoped would be joining the family. I down-scaled my pastry-cook ambitions to something that would fit in with Sunday lunch. It had to be easy and made in advance, as the oven would be groaning with two legs of lamb and trays of roast potatoes. But it also had to be scrumptious and celebratory to fit the birthday occasion.
I had a brainwave – why not make individual versions of this awesome chocolate tart and use the pears in the tart, to create a home-spun pastry re-working of pears in chocolate sauce. In the end I made the ice-cream and the pastry the night before, poached the pears and made the chocolate tarts first thing in the morning and snatched 10 minutes to photograph them for the challenge once the roast was safely into the oven and before our guests arrived.
Both the tarts and the Amarula ice-cream were a big hit, in fact I ‘d go so far as to recommend making a batch or three of the ice-cream to keep in the freezer for emergencies all year round, but especially for Christmas – there is something about its rich creaminess that spells luxury, comfort and sheer deliciousness.
I can hear my non-South African friends screaming at me in frustration, wanting to know what on earth is Amarula? It's a rich creamy liqueur made from the fruit of the Marula tree, nothing like Baileys but with that genre of creaminess and alcoholic kick. Here's Cooksister's explanation of Amarula.
Once again, if you’d like to vote for this recipe in the Freshly Blogged challenge, I’d be very grateful. And go and see what everyone else made – I think there are several more versions of Amarula ice cream to be found out there!
Edited to add: Unfortunately, however lovely I think it is, this recipe wasn't enough to keep me in the competition - I got chopped today along with two others... so you've only got my spice, chicken liver and white chocolate recipes (don't worry, two separate dishes!) to look forward to!
My recipe as posted for the competition:
Chocolate Pear Tarts with Amarula Ice Cream
Chocolate, Amarula, pears and almonds, this week’s ingredients list sent me swirling off in visions of elegant French patisserie... until reality and practicality kicked in. I was already cooking a Sunday lunch for 12 and wanted a delicious dessert that wasn’t too fiddly. Perhaps with a more rustic patisserie feel that wouldn’t demand any last-minute fancy footwork. One which would wow kids and adults without me tearing my hair out just as the guests arrived. I decided to interpret the custard element as a lusciously sophisticated Amarula ice-cream, which I could make in advance. The pears would sit snugly in a bed of rich chocolate individual tarts, with the pear heart shapes adding a quirky touch of visual interest. The toasted almonds scattered on top give an extra textural crunch and contrasting depth of flavour. A definite wow with both kids and adults... one to add to the Christmas dessert list!
Amarula Ice cream
6 egg yolks
100 g caster sugar
Easy Sweet Pastry
120g cake flour
30g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
Iced water to mix
Chocolate pear tart
1 cup water
80ml white sugar
80g dark chocolate
1 egg beaten
50g blanched almonds
Amarula Ice cream
Beat egg yolks with sugar until pale and fluffy. Heat cream, milk and Amarula, until almost simmering. Do not let boil. Pour cream mixture over eggs, whisking. Put into a double boiler (or a bowl over a simmering pot of water). Cook stirring continuously until the mixture has thickened to a pouring custard. Cool, stirring occasionally to avoid skin forming. Freeze for at least 8 hours. This worked without an ice-cream maker, beating once after 2 hours in the freezer.
Easy Sweet Pastry
Sift together flour and sugar. Add butter cut into small cubes. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes. Beat egg with salt and a little iced water. Put flour and butter into food processor and blitz to breadcrumb consistency. Add egg and blitz. Add just enough iced water to bring together in a soft dough. Wrap pastry and chill for ½ hour. Roll out on floured board to 2mm. Cut 12 circles to fit a muffin tin and line tin with them. No need to blind bake, it works better without.
Chocolate pear tart
Pre-heat oven to 180C.
Peel pears. Cut into quarters and remove cores. (If your pears are very ripe and juicy you won’t need to poach them, so omit next step)
Boil together sugar and water for 2 minutes to make a thin syrup. Put pear quarters in and simmer gently for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Cool in syrup.
Cut each quarter in half and fashion into rough/rustic heart shapes with the outer curve of pear upwards
Break chocolate into small pieces in a bowl. Heat cream to simmering point. Pour over chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Stir a little chocolate mixture into egg, then mix egg into the chocolate and stir well.
Put whole almonds into a bag and crush roughly with a rolling pin into uneven pieces and chunks. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes until golden. Cool.
Assemble the tarts
Put a tablespoon of chocolate mixture into base of each tart. Put one piece of pear into each, heart shaped outer curve upwards. Carefully spoon chocolate mixture around pear. Don’t fill cases right to top, as pastry shrinks a little as it cooks.
Bake for 20 minutes until pastry is golden and chocolate custard is lightly set. Cool in tin for 2 minutes before removing carefully onto cooling rack.
Serve two tarts with a generous scoop of Amarula ice cream. Sprinkle toasted almonds lavishly over ice cream.
Prep time 1 hour
Total time 8 hours
Please go and see and vote for my recipe here on the Freshly Blogged site. Voting is open until 11am Monday 12th August.
Another extra challenge, for this particular challenge, was resisting the appeal of playing with our new puppy, George, who did decide to come and join our family the day before. We've had him a week now and he's settling in well, playing with Bracken, the kitten and trying to persuade the older dogs to tussle and romp.