As a teenage foreign exchange student in the south of France, I was horribly homesick. Then my host family's Grandmother Miette arrived and asked if I'd like to help her bake this nutty tart from scratch. It turned my trip around and inspired my lifelong passion for baking. Weighing ingredients, roasting nuts, kneading dough—the art of baking transcends language. —Lexi McKeown, Los Angeles, California
Chocolate Pear Hazelnut Tart Recipe photo by Taste of Home
2 tablespoons amaretto or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup ground hazelnuts
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
6 canned pear halves, drained, sliced and patted dry
2 tablespoons honey, warmed
Confectioners' sugar, optional
In a bowl, mix flour, hazelnuts, brown sugar and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add ice water, tossing with a fork until dough holds together when pressed. Shape into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/8-in.-thick circle; transfer dough to a 9-in. fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Trim crust even with edge. Prick bottom of crust with a fork. Refrigerate while preparing filling.
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until blended. Beat in egg yolks and amaretto. Beat in hazelnuts and cocoa.
With clean beaters, beat egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Fold a third of the egg whites into hazelnut mixture, then fold in remaining whites. Spread onto bottom of crust. Arrange pears over top.
Bake on a lower oven rack 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Brush pears with warm honey. Cool on a wire rack. If desired, dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.