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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Pies II: Pear and Ginger Pie with Streusel Topping

Okay, I don't think pies should weigh more than about 5 pounds.  I can't believe how heavy this thing is!  I had to weight it -- 8 pounds.  It calls for eight (8!!) whole pears!  And then there's crust, and topping...  That's a lot of pie.

This recipe was requested by the hostess of my Thanksgiving dinner -- a big pear fan -- so I wanted to get it right.  Of course, that makes the preparation nerve wracking.

I honestly didn't think I'd get all those pear slices into the shell, but it happened.  What it took was individually, slice by slice, fitting all the pieces together.  The Monterey Fish Packing Company would be proud.  There was a lot of juice left over, and since it seemed to contain a lot of the tapioca that would be holding the pie together, I decided it was a necessary component and dumped it in.

I'd been concerned about using a decorative stoneware pie tin -- I wondered whether I'd have trouble getting the slices out, what with all the edges.  But they came out without a problem.  The pan was a good choice because it's actually a 10" semi-deep-dish pan.  This never would have worked in a regular 9" pan that the recipe called for.  My leaf edges burned at the tips while I was blind baking the shell, so I covered the edges completely during the bake with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Melted "streusel" ...  What now???

During the hour that the pie bakes, I started writing this blog entry.  It was there that I saw "1 cup flour" as the very last ingredient in the list.  Flour?  What flour?  Gah!  I'd forgotten to put the flour into the streusel!  I'd wondered why it was so gooey, but I have an apple pie recipe that uses a butter and brown sugar crusty topping, so I figured it must be something like that.  The fact is I just never noticed the flour in this recipe.  There was only 18 minutes left on the oven timer, but I took the pie out of the oven and quickly threw together 5 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup sugar, some salt, and 3/4 cup flour.  It was very dry, and there was a lot, but I dumped it on and shoved the pie back in the oven.  I didn't keep track of how much in excess of an hour I baked the pie -- I just kept checking the color on the streusel.  I even stuck it under the broiler to see if that would help, but it only darkened the very center.  It probably baked an extra 30 minutes or so.  And it's a good thing I had a catchment tray under the pie!

Here's what I used:

For the crust:
1⅓ cups flour
⅓ cup cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
¼ cup, plus 1 tbsp. lard, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup ice-cold water

For the filling and topping:
8 medium Bartlett pears, cored and thinly sliced (about 4-4.5 pounds)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar, divided
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
½ teaspoon ground mace
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1"-piece ginger, peeled and grated
½ teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour

For the crust, pulse flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt briefly in a food processor to mix, then add the butter and lard, and pulse into pea-size crumbles. Add water; pulse until dough comes together. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in waxed paper and seal in a plastic bag; chill 1 hour.

Heat oven to 450°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 13-14" round. Fit into a 10" pie plate. Trim edges and crimp; chill 30 minutes. Using a fork, prick dough all over. Line dough with parchment paper that's been crumpled to soften and fill with pie weights or dried beans.   Protect any overhanging decorations with foil or edge protectors; bake 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights and gently press closed any open prick marks.  Return to the oven and bake another 5-10 minutes, until it looks dry; allow to cool while you start the filling.

For the filling, toss pear slices in a very large bowl with lemon juice; let sit, uncovered, 30 minutes, then drain, discarding liquid. In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup sugar and the tapioca.  Sprinkle over the pears and mix gently to coat. For the topping, stir remaining ½ cup sugar with the mace, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in a bowl; blend in the butter.  Using your fingers or a fork, mix in flour until small crumbles form; set both filling and topping aside.

Reduce oven to 375°. Tightly arrange pears over dough and sprinkle with topping; bake until the topping is golden and filling is bubbling, about 1 hour.  (Recommend baking pie on another sheet to guard against bubbling over.)  Let pie cool to room temperature before serving.

I think my problems with this pie all started with pears that were too large and slightly over-ripe. The last time I made a pear pie, the pears were under ripe, so I purchased them in advance this time, thinking I was ahead of the game.  They were wonderfully, fragrantly floral about two days before I used them.  Maybe third time's the charm.  Note to self:  for a pie, the pears should be fully ripe -- at the peak of their fragrance -- and firm, but not crunchy.  That should produce less juice, but plenty of flavor.

The original recipe didn't give a total weight of the pears either, and I think what I purchased might have been considered large pears rather than medium.  They weighed 5 pounds total, so I've recommended a slightly lesser amount by weight.   Between have too much pear to start with, and their being excessively juicy from being overripe, all that pear juice made the pie crust soggy.  Curiously, the crust sort of disappeared into the filling, texture and taste being similar, and wasn't that noticeable.  On the up side, I never peel my fruit because, well, it's really not necessary, and I think the peel adds flavor.  In this case, it also added lovely golden and rosy-colored ribbons throughout the interior.

Conclusion:  In the end, after all the errors, the pie was delicious.  I would give it another go, but with caution regarding the amount of pear filling and how the whole thing was put together. I might also go ahead and mix the spices with some butter and dot it on the top so that it drips down throughout the pie during baking, as happened accidentally this time.  (I would still add the proper streusel, but without the spices.)  Regardless, it was not a spicy pie -- the ginger didn't stand out at all, but I'm sure added to the overall flavor.

Recipe:  Pear and Ginger Pie with Streusel Topping via Saveur

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