Let’s hear it for vanilla, the all-around MVP of the baker’s kitchen! This humble pod contains a magical flavor that enhances desserts from all walks of life, all around the world. Whether you’re employing famous varietals from Madagascar, Tahiti, Tonga, India, Mexico or elsewhere, you’re in for a treat. Baker, blogger and all-around confectionist Sarah Kieffer’s new cookbook features this must-have ingredient in recipes like this pear hard cider pie.
Nigel Slater describes an apple in his book Ripe as a “quick hit,” but the pear as “something to take our time over.” I would have to agree and have always been partial to pears over apples, especially when it comes to pies. Here, however, I’ve combined them; this pie is chock-full of fresh pears, and their juice is cooked down with a good splash of hard apple cider. It’s a fantastic combination, a perfect pie for crisp autumn evenings and then for breakfast the following morning.
Notes: Your favorite hard cider will work here. I prefer a dry hard cider (Crispin makes a tasty one) in this pie. Regular apple cider will work just fine, too.
All-Butter Pie Crust
- 18 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 16 to 24 pieces
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 8 cups sliced Bartlett pears, ripe, but still firm (peeled, cored and sliced into 1-inch pieces), 7 to 8 pears
- 1 cup peeled and grated Gala apple, about 2 small apples
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/3 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup hard apple cider (regular apple cider will work, too)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- Egg wash
For the crust
Put the butter in a small bowl and place it in the freezer. Fill a medium liquid measuring cup up with water and add plenty of ice. Let both the butter and the ice water sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
In a small liquid measuring cup, combine the egg yolk and sour cream. Pour in some of the very cold water, until all the liquid ingredients together measure ⅓ cup. Whisk together until combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, and salt on low until combined. Add half of the chilled butter and mix on low, until the butter is just starting to break down, about 1 minute. Add the rest of the butter and continue mixing, until the butter is broken down and in various sizes (some butter will be incorporated into the dough, some will still be a bit large, but most should be about the size of small peas). Stop the mixer and use your hands to check for any large pieces of butter that didn’t get mixed or any dry patches of dough on the bottom of the bowl; break up the butter and incorporate the dry flour as best you can. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the cream-water mixture and mix until the dough starts to come together but still is quite shaggy (if the dough is not coming together, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until it does).
Dump the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and flatten it slightly into a square. Gather any loose/dry pieces that won’t stick to the dough and place them on top of the square. Gently fold the dough over onto itself and flatten again. Repeat this process 3 or 4 more times, until all the loose pieces are worked into the dough. Be very gentle with your movements, being careful not to overwork the dough. Flatten the dough one last time into a rectangle and cut into 2 equal pieces. Form the pieces into 6-inch discs and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
For the pies
Combine the pears, apple, lemon juice, ⅓ cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Let sit 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature. Strain the sugary juice from the fruit into a medium saucepan (you should have ½ to ¾ cup of juice). Return the fruit to the large bowl.
While the fruit is macerating, take the All-Butter Pie Crust out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and cider to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until reduced to a scant ½ cup, 5 to 6 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to stir. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Add the vanilla and stir gently. Set aside to cool slightly.
Sprinkle the cornstarch over the fruit and toss to coat. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and toss to combine. Pour the apple-pear juice mixture over the fruit and stir gently.
Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle about ¼ inch thick and place it into a 9-inch pie pan. Transfer the plate in the fridge and let chill while you roll out the second piece of dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the second piece of dough into a 12-inch circle about ¼ inch thick. Set aside.
Fill the prepared pie shell with the pear mixture. It will be juicy, and if some of the filling starts to ooze over the edge, use a measuring cup to scoop ½ cup or so out, and omit it. Top with the second crust. Trim the dough overhang to 1 inch past the lip of the pie plate. Pinch the dough together and tuck it under itself so it’s resting on the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the edges of the dough and cut at least 4 vents in the top, each about 2 inches long. Transfer the pie plate to the freezer for about 20 minutes while the oven is preheating. The crust should be nice and firm before you bake it.
Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a baking sheet on the oven rack (the preheated baking sheet helps crisp the bottom of the pie crust and catches any leaks and drips).
When ready to bake, brush the top of the pie with egg wash and sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Place the pie plate on the preheated baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Lower the oven to 375ºF and bake 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices bubble.
Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hours before serving.