Terrine de poires au chocolat

Chocolate-pear terrine

This elegant dessert is perfect for special occasions. The recipe comes from my friend and neighbor, chef Rodolphe Paquin of Le Repaire de Cartouche.

The terrine is built by layering a rich chocolate ganache and caramelized pears into a loaf pan or rectangular terrine dish. Preparation time is about 90 minutes, plus several hours for the terrine to chill. If the dessert isn’t fully set, slicing it can prove difficut — popping it into the freezer for a few minutes solves this problem. If you’re making the terrine for a Christmas meal, you can bring it to the table before slicing for a Yule log effect.

The original recipe calls for a pinch of ground piment d’Espelette, a mildly hot chili pepper grown in the French Basque country. If this is not available where you live, substitute a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. And although the original recipe does not include alcohol, I find that a spoonful of Cognac or another brandy adds a pleasant bite.

You will need a 6-cup (1.5 liter) loaf pan or terrine dish, a large skillet, a wire whip and some parchment paper. The dessert will serve 8-10 people.

6 pears, ripe but firm
3-1/2 tbsp. (50 g) salted butter
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1 pound 2 ounces (500 g) high-quality dark chocolate
3 cups (7 dl) heavy cream (crème liquide)
1/4 cup high-quality unsweetened cocoa (such as Van Houten)
1 pinch piment d’Espelette or freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp. Cognac or another brandy (optional)
sea salt flakes (fleur de sel, Maldon) (optional)

Cut the pears in half, core and peel them.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar, then the pears.

Cook until the pears caramelize, gently turning them over from time to time. This takes a while — around 45 minutes. The trick is to keep the heat high enough to cook the pears without burning the caramel. The pears are done when they’re a golden brown and a knife inserted into the middle offers no resistance.

Set the pears aside and rinse out the skillet.

Line the long sides and bottom of your loaf pan with parchment paper. You can use a little butter to help the paper adhere smoothly.

Break the chocolate into pieces.

Heat the cream in the skillet. Add the cocoa. When the cream is simmering, stir or whisk to blend. Add the chocolate and piment d’Espelette or pepper.

Whisk gently as the chocolate melts. When you have a smooth, unctuous chocolate cream, turn off the heat. If using Cognac or brandy, stir it in now.

Spoon a layer of chocolate cream into the loaf pan. Use about a quarter of the cream — it should be about 3/4 inch (2 cm) deep. Distribute four pear halves on the cream, cut side up. Add another layer of cream, another of pears, and repeat one more time so that you’ve used up all the pears. Top with the remaning chocolate.

Refrigerate for 6-12 hours (or longer).

When ready to serve, run a knife inside the edges of your loaf pan to separate the parchment paper from the sides. Place a large board over the pan. Invert. Remove the pan and gently peel off the paper.

Slice the terrine (if the terrine isn’t fully set, pop it into the freezer for 15-30 minutes for easier slicing). Distribute the slices on a pretty plate or as individual servings — or take the terrine to the table whole, decorated with pine or holly, for a Yule log effect. If you like, you can bring a small dish of sea salt to the table for sprinkling over the slices. Serves 8-10.

This recipe is adapted from ‘Terrines’ by Rodolphe Paquin (Keribus Editions, 2012).

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