120g granulated sugar
1 litre water
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
6 ripe but firm pears (Comice are good)
200g Peruvian San Martin 70% chocolate, roughly chopped
5 large egg whites
300g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp lemon juice
300ml double cream
Equipment: Baking tray about 36cm square
- Heat the granulated sugar with the water in a large saucepan over a moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring just to the boil, lower the heat and add the vanilla pod. Leave to simmer gently while you prepare the fruit.
- Peel the pears, leaving the stalks on. Stand them in the syrup, then cover and poach very gently for about 1 hour, until soft but still holding their shape. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lift out the pears and set aside to cool. Turn up the heat under the syrup in the pan and reduce to about 150ml. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted, then beat until smooth and well blended. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius. Line the baking tray with baking paper.
- Make a meringue mixture by whisking the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add a quarter of the caster sugar and beat again until stiff. Continue adding the sugar in this way until it is all used and the mixture is stiff. Carefully fold in the cornflour, vanilla essence and lemon juice until well combined.
- Pile the meringue mixture onto the prepared baking tray, shaping it into a circular mound about 5cm from the edge of the tray: this gives it space to expand while cooking. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 ¼ hours, or until the meringue is a very pale biscuit colour. Remove from the oven and set aside on a baking tray to cool completely.
- When cold, very carefully turn the meringue mixture over and peel off the baking paper. Turn it back over and place on a serving plate.
- Lightly whip the cream until just stiff and spread it over the meringue, leaving about a 3-cm margin around the edge. Place the poached pears on top of the cream. Transfer to the fridge to chill for at least an hour, preferably longer. Just before serving, pour over about half of the cooled chocolate sauce, offering the remainder in a jug on the side.
These recipes are taken from Willie’s Chocolate Bible, published by Hodder & Stoughton (£25), to accompany my review here.
You can buy the book on Amazon.