Monday, September 26, 2011

Easy as Pie: My First Attempt

My pie repertoire prior to this recipe included Swansons' chicken pot pies that you throw in the oven, and quiche using the frozen crust. I did not even dare to mess with pie crust, for I knew it to be a formidable foe. As I prepare for pie-themed dessert club in October, I wanted to do a test pie. I wanted to do a pie that was unconventional. Thus I convened and rallied and chose to make Pear and Gruyere Pie. Note that Gruyere cheese is approximately $1.50 to $3.00 an ounce, so you really want to bring your game face. Also, the bottle of Porto wine from Costco was $15, and I only used 1/3rd of the bottle, and my vino-phyllic neighbor bought the rest off of me. 

I actually had to briefly broil the top to really activate the cheese and make it crisp, and my cute little cut-outs got a bit too dark. But Ivy ate them, and did not protest. The cheesy-buttery crust was incredibly flakey, very rich and palatable. My husband loved the poached pears with the spices and reduced port sauce. It was incredible with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. My only concern was that the cheese crust may have paired better with a combination of pears and apples. Just pears was a bit too bland for me, but I think all apples would be too overwhelming. I think next time I will do a half granny smith and half bartlett pear filling to balance out the cheese flavor with some acidity. I may have a fighting chance to win dessert club! 

Pear Gruyère Pie

This recipe comes from:

Makes one 9 to 10 inch pear pie

Notes from Cat: I don't have a food processor, so I used a good ole-fashioned fork and knife to "cut" the butter into the crust. When you pull the finished crust out of the fridge, you need to let it warm up a bit before you roll it out because it's basically a cold, cheesy brick of butter. I also only put half the recommended amount of sauce into the pie, and used the extra port sauce as a drizzle over the ice cream.

Gruyère Pie Crust:
2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp. sugar
20 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1 in pieces
3 oz. Gruyère, grated finely
6-7 tbsp. ice water

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and grated gruyere in a large mixing bowl. Using a food processor, mix butter and flour/cheese mixture until the largest butter chunks are the size of large peas.

Remove flour/cheese/butter mixture from food processor return it to the large mixing bowl. Sprinkle ice water over flour in increments of one tablespoon, toss with fork after each addition. Be careful not to add too much water. You can get an even water distribution by adding putting the water in one of those spritzer bottles. When dough begins to clump together as you stir, test the dough by squeezing it in your hands, if it forms in a lump then gather the rest of the dough together into two separate disks, leaving one slightly larger than the other. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Or if you are in a rush, toss the dough in the freezer for about an hour, when it's solid yet still gives slightly under your touch, it's ready to go.

Spiced Poached Pear Pie Filling:
3 lbs. Bartlett pears
1/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. port wine
1 1/2 c. water
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
1 cinnamon stick

1 egg, lightly beaten (for crust)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add sugar, wine, water, vanilla, cinnamon stick, ginger, nutmeg and clove into a large stock pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Put an empty medium bowl into the freezer to chill.

Peel and halve pears. Scoop the core and seeds out and then cut the halves in half. Once liquid mixture has come to a boil add cut pears. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the pears are tender.

Using a slotted spoon remove the pear quarters from the poaching liquid and put them into the chilled bowl.

Return the poaching liquid to a boil and reduce until you have about 3/4 of a cup of syrup. Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the syrup to thicken the syrup further. Pour the syrup into a measuring cup and chill.

In the meantime, roll the larger piece of dough into a circle around fourteen inches in diameter. I roll out the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to keep it from sticking. Peel off one side of the plastic wrap and center that side of the dough in the pie plate then remove the other sheet of plastic wrap.

Roll out the slightly smaller dough dish into circle around twelve inches in diameter. Place this dough round on top of the pie. Seal the crusts together using a fork or your fingers. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg, and make three parallel slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Or if you are feeling fancy pantsy, feel free to make decorative cutouts.
Put the pie on a cookie sheet to catch any drips--I like to cover my cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil to minimize the mess. Put the pie in the oven, bake until the crust is golden and you can see the filling bubble up between the slits in the crust, about 30 to 40 minutes. Cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.Remove the pears from the chilled bowl layer them into the bottom of the pie. Pour the syrup on top of the pears.

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