For the pears
60g / 2oz caster sugar
Peel of ½ orange
2 dessert pears, peeled, cored and quartered
For the torte
150g / 5 ½ oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
125g /4 ½ oz unsalted butter
2 large eggs, separated
50g / 2 oz caster sugar
100g / 4oz ground almonds
Pinch of sea salt
½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Preheat the oven 170c/fan 150/gas 4
Lightly grease and base line 6-8 holes of a muffin or Yorkshire pudding tin. (I have used the new Lakeland Mary Berry Push Pan with silicone bases so they just need greasing not base lining ).
Put 250ml / 9fl oz water in a saucepan with the sugar and orange peel and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pears, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 2-8 minutes ( depends on ripeness of the pears) until just cooked. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and leave to cool. Continue to simmer the poaching liquid until it is reduced to a thick syrup, then set aside to cool.
To make the torte, melt the butter in a saucepan over a very low heat, add the chopped chocolate and turn the heat off – let the chocolate melt in the hot butter. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy, then using a metal spoon fold in the chocolate mixture along with the almonds, salt and vanilla.
In another bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and carefully fold in a third at a time. Spoon into the prepared tin, coming about a two thirds of the way up each one. (Any fuller and they will come over the top.) Then place a piece of pear rounded side up in to into the cake batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until risen and just soft in the centre and beginning to shrink from the sides
Serve the little tortes just warm but equally can be chilled. Brush with some of the reserved pear juice before serving with thick double cream or crème fraiche.
To get ahead: The torte can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge.
To freeze: The torte can be frozen up to 1 month ahead.