Pear, almond and chocolate. You just know it will be good when the three appear together. Almond marzipan filling sitting on a chocolate pastry shell with sweet pears, bitter chocolate and roasted almonds all around. Mmm.
I had just bought ground almonds because I was planning on making macaroons for my friend, however, my mechanical scale was disappointing me and so I had to settle for something else. Obviously not as impressive or delicate as French macaroons but they're still tasty and perfectly capable of satisfying your friends.
You can make a lot of this ahead of time, like the shortcrust pastry and the marzipan, these can keep in the fridge for a few days. Then when you're ready, the process should take less than 10 minutes (slicing your pears, chopping your chocolate etc).
Chocolate Shortcrust Pastry
100g icing sugar
70g ground almonds
2 tbsp sliced almonds
10g dark chocolate
2 pears (thinly sliced)
Make sure everything's cold. Butter's fridge cold, your bowl's cold and your hands are cold. Nigel Slater's tip for a warm summer day of baking is to run your hands under cold water first. Using your hands, mix the butter with the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the cocoa and the icing sugar. Add a splash of water to your egg yolks and beat briefly, then put it in the mixture. It will be quite crumbly but try your best to form it into a block, wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Once you take it out of the fridge it may still be quite crumbly and so it may be difficult to roll it out into a thin sheet. Nige's tip is to simply cut out thin slices (about 3mm) and with your hands patch them up and place into your buttered moulds. Using a fork, poke holes, this is to make sure that they don't rise too much when you bake them. These will cook quite quick so simply put them in a preheated oven of 180C for 5 minutes. They'll cook through with the filling later.
Cream the butter with the sugar until light and pale, beat in the eggs, one at a time. And finally, add the ground almonds. Put this on the stove over medium heat and stir continuously until it boils. It will very thick, similar to the picture below.
Chop your dark chocolate and place 2/3 of it on the partially-baked pastry before spreading the marzipan on top. Add your thinly sliced pears and put in the oven (180C) for 25 minutes. In the last 5 minutes sprinkle sliced almonds and more chocolate on top.
These smell absolutely divine, as soon as you take them out of the oven you'll have the smell of cocoa and roasted almond rushing up your nose. And once you taste them, mmm. The mellow sweetness of the pears, the bitter notes of the chocolate, and the roasted nuttiness of the marzipan all working harmoniously together, making your belly happy.
Oh feel free to do anything here! Do a hazelnut marzipan instead, change your pears to bananas, change it to white chocolate, make your pastry shell plain, make it with ground almonds. You can do anything, whatever ingredients get your mouth watering.