Autumn in New England penetrates the air at an ideal rate. Each day the mean temperature drops by roughly one degree, so that by the time mid-October rolls around we are all well acclimated to the brisk, rosy-cheek inducing temperatures. As a person and eater moved by the seasons I call this phase-into-fall period the “hunker down and beef up” time of year. This is a time when I know my bathing suit has un-reluctantly migrated to the bottom of the drawer and with that so dissipates the upkeep to actually look good in it.
I begin to feel less satisfied by a light salad and summer fruits and veggies during this transition into fall, and conversely begin craving meatier, heartier meals by instinct. The cold of winter calls for more insulation and thus I won’t deny the temptation to fatten up for a long winters nap (or rather for the coming months of skiing the brutally frigid Northeast mountains). I find that the two best-suited ingredients to achieve such an essential goal are butter and chocolate!
(Dark) Chocolate & Pear Mini Pies with Thyme Mascarpone
For the Pie Crust:
2 Sticks of butter, very cold or frozen
2 2/3 Cup flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ Cup ice water
For the Filling:
4 Seckle pears or 2 Bosch pears
1/8 Teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon flour
2-3 oz quality dark chocolate (I used 70% cacao), broken into small pieces
For the Thyme Mascarpone:
½ cup Mascarpone
2 springs of thyme, removed from stem and minced
To make the Crust: In a food processor combine butter, flour, and sugar. Pulse until butter is about the size of peas. Slowly and gradually pour ice water into the mixture while continuing to pulse. Continue to pulse until the mixture comes together into a ball, or becomes a dough consistency. Empty dough onto a lightly flour surface. Handling the dough as little as possible, form two equal-sized disks, cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Dough can also be saved in the fridge for up to two weeks.
While the dough is cooling, slice the pears into ¾ inch slices, removing core. (I cut the seckle pears into eighths). Toss in a bowl with nutmeg, flour, and sugar.
Preheat oven to 425˚
Once dough is chilled, place one disk on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using your ramekin as a guide, cut out a circle of dough that is 1 inch larger on all sides than the ramekin’s width. (I used a 4-inch ramekin, so my circle was 6 inches in width). Make a slice in the dough from the center to the edge of the circle (this will help you line the ramekin with your dough). Line the inside of the ramekin with the dough; there should be about 1 inch of dough folding over the lip.
Alternating layers of chocolate and the pear mixture, fill the ramekin until you have used half of the pear mixture. Cut another circle from the dough large enough to cover the top of your pie. Place this circle on top of your pear mixture, and seal the edges of the dough by pinching both layers together all the way around the circumference of the pie’s edge. Make slits on the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Repeat this process for your second pie.
Place both pies in the oven and set the timer for 45 minutes. After 15 minutes, loosely cover the tops of pies with a piece of aluminum foil. Cook for 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 375˚. Bake for the remaining time. Remove, cool, and serve with thyme mascarpone.
For the Thyme Mascarpone: In a small bowlstir the minced thyme into the mascarpone until combined. Refrigerate until use.