For the amazing dinner party my lovely husband threw for my birthday, I made a tart. The best tart I have ever made or had the privilege to eat. And let me tell you, I have made many a tart. MANY.
In fact, tarts were all I made for years, before I owned a rolling pin, and refused to make pie with its rolled-out crust. No, the tart was the perfect lazy-woman's dessert--all the joy of crust, but none of the rolling. (For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about--let's just say this: when you make a sweet tart crust, you can just push the crust into the pan with your fingers. Yes, that means that I touched every part of that tart you just ate. You'll get over it.)
I've since mastered pie crust, but I still love a tart. And for some reason, in my many years of tart making, I never made this one. This chocolate pear custard tart with a pate sucre crust that had me feeding my husband (who was up to his elbows making three kinds of salsa) globs of the raw dough in order to keep myself from eating all of the extra. Sweet, creamy, amazing dough (and I think the secret here is not just butter and flour but confectioner's sugar) that's so soft you have to chill it in the pan for an hour before you can blind bake it.
Once you blind bake the crust, you chop unsweetened chocolate--if you are me you use a mix of super dark and dark--and then fan out the pears in lovely succession. Add to that a brilliant mix of custard--complete with a vanilla bean--and sprinkle with white sugar. Bake again until the whole thing is brown and crisp and screaming to be eaten. But don't eat it just yet. Let it cool a bit first, lest the whole thing doesn't set up correctly and/or someone burns his or her mouth and you have a lawsuit on your hands.
But I digress. I can't even explain to you how good this is. Get thee to a bookstore and buy In the Sweet Kitchen*. Make this tart. It will change your life.
*If you are a baker, you must go buy this book. The first half of the book is a compendium of sweet baking reference, of chemistry and explication you will find in no other recipe book. And the second half is filled with the most amazingly complex, but not difficult, recipes, including the one for this tart.