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Chocolate Napoleons with Port-Braised Pears

Serves: Makes 8 servings


  • ½ recipe (18 ounces) Quick Puff Pastry
  • 4 teaspoons (scant ½ ounce), plus 5 tablespoons (2¼ ounces), granulated sugar
  • 3 ounces finely chopped semisweet chocolate (up to 64 percent cacao)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) heavy whipping cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ½cup (4 ounces) ruby port
  • 1 tablespoon (½ ounce) water
  • 1 recipe Port-Braised Pears
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


    Roll and cut the dough: Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust your work surface with flour. Place the dough in the center and dust the top with flour. Roll into an 11 by 17-inch rectangle. Position the dough so that one of the long edges is parallel to the edge of your work surface. Use a dough docker or 2 forks to poke holes all over the surface of the dough. These holes will inhibit the rise of the dough, creating a compact layered pastry more able to stand up to the weight of the napoleon filling. Brush any flour from the surface of the dough. Using the ruler and the back of a chef's knife, trim the dough to a 10 by 16-inch rectangle. Mark the dough at 2½-inch intervals along both short sides and draw lines connecting the marks. Mark the dough at 4-inch intervals along both long sides and connect those marks as well. Cut the dough into 16 (2½by 4-inch) rectangles. Transfer 8 rectangles to each prepared baking sheet, being careful to keep their shape intact. Sprinkle each piece of dough with ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar and chill while you preheat the oven.

    Bake the pastries: Preheat the oven to 375°F and position 2 racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven. Cover each sheet of dough rectangles with a piece of parchment paper and top with a second baking sheet. (If you only have 2 baking sheets and must bake one batch at a time, make sure to cool the pans completely before using them to bake the second batch of dough.) Bake for 15 minutes, then switch the pans between the racks and rotate each 180 degrees. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes longer, until golden brown, checking after 8 minutes to be sure dough is not getting too brown (which would make it taste bitter). Set the sheets on a cooling rack and immediately remove the top baking sheet and parchment and allow the rectangles to cool completely. Once cool, wrap in plastic or store airtight at room temperature until needed.

    Make the chocolate sabayon: Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of the double boiler. Place the chocolate, 2 tablespoons of the cream, and the salt in a medium bowl just large enough to fit over double boiler. Turn off the heat and place the chocolate-cream mixture over the steaming water. Stir occasionally with the spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth and blended with the cream. Remove the bowl and set aside in a warm spot to keep the chocolate fluid. Whip the remaining cream until it holds soft peaks; refrigerate while you finish cooking the sabayon.

    Fill the large bowl halfway with ice and water and set it aside. Return the water in the bottom of the double boiler to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Place the egg yolks and 5 tablespoons granulated sugar in the top of the double boiler (off the heat) and whisk until well blended and slightly lightened in color. Add the port and water and blend well. Set the top of the double boiler with the egg mixture over the simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until light and fluffy, resembling whipped cream in texture, and registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer. Do not exceed 165°F or the eggs could scramble. This may take anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes, depending upon on the heat of the water and your whisking vigor. Remove from the heat and add the melted chocolate mixture to the sabayon. Whisk to blend completely. Set the sabayon into the bowl with ice water and whisk constantly until the mixture is just cool to the touch-don't let it get too cold; you don't want the chocolate to set. Remove from the ice bath and fold in the whipped cream. The sabayon may be made up to 24 hours in advance and kept, airtight, in the refrigerator.

  1. Assemble the napoleons: Just before serving, set a rectangle of pastry on each of eight plates. Top with 3 or 4 pieces of braised pear. Spoon the sabayon over the pear pieces, dividing evenly. Generously dust each remaining rectangle with confectioners' sugar and place on top of a sabayon-and-pear-topped rectangle. Spoon additional braised pears around the napoleons. Serve immediately.

Storing: This dessert must be served as soon as it is assembled, because eventually the pastry softens from the pear juices and the dessert loses the lovely contrast of textures.

Napoleons with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

This version is closer to the classic pastry cream–filled bakery favorite. Prepare the puff pastry rectangles as directed above. Prepare 1 recipe Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream. Spoon 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam into a resealable plastic bag and snip off one of the corners to form a ¼-inch hole. Pipe a thick line of jam down the center of each of 8 rectangles, leaving a ½-inch border at both ends. Whip ½ cup heavy whipping cream into firm peaks and fold it into the pastry cream. Transfer this filling to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip. Pipe a thick layer of filling over each jam-lined rectangle, completely covering the pastry. Generously dust the remaining 8 rectangles with confectioners' sugar and set each on top of a pastry cream–topped rectangle. Serve immediately.

by Sur La Table & Andrews McMeel Publishing

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