(inspired by an onslaught of Harry and David pears)
makes one 9” pie
Classic Pâte Brisée:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 oz. (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
⅓ - ½ cup ice cold water
Combine flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Using a bench scraper, cut in the cold butter pieces until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle in ⅓ cup ice cold water using your fingertips to distribute the liquid. The dough should hold together; if it feels dry, add just enough of the remaining ice water until the dough holds together when pinched. Divide the dough in half, gently flatten into two discs. Wrap in plastic wrap for at least one hour before rolling out. On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out one disc of dough to a circle about 12” in diameter. Gently fit the dough into a 9” pie plate. Fold the edges under and crimp decoratively. Return the bottom crust to the refrigerator. Roll out the second disc of dough on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. The top crust can be cut into lattice strips or cut into holiday shapes with cookie cutters. (NOTE: Cut-outs tend to keep their shape when they have been chilled before baking. I prefer to cut the shapes out ahead of time, set them on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for several hours, or overnight before using them to cover the fruit filling.) Return the top crust (lattice or cut outs) to the refrigerator.
Pear-Cognac spiked Cherry filling: (inspired by Kate Lebo)
Prepare the cherries first-
(You can use frozen cherries but you will need to thaw and drain them first, otherwise you will dilute the Cognac)
1½ cups fresh cherries, rinsed, stemmed and pitted or frozen cherries that have been thawed and well drained
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup Cognac
¼ teaspoon cardamom
Place the cherries, brown sugar, Cognac and cardamom in a glass jar. Stir to combine, cover and let sit for at least 3 hours or better still, overnight.
5 cups of pears, from 3-4 peeled, cored Bartlett or Royal Riviera pears sliced ⅛” thick (pears should be flavorful but not overly ripe)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar (taste the pears, if very sweet, you may want to use a tablespoon or two less sugar)
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
⅛ teaspoon vanilla bean powder or ¼ of a vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped with the tip of a paring knife
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
egg wash made from one egg yolk beaten with two tablespoons of milk or heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the pears and the lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cardamom, vanilla bean powder or scrapings, salt and cornstarch. Add the cherries to the pears then add the sugar/spices/cornstarch. Turn to coat with a rubber spatula. Retrieve the bottom crust from the refrigerator and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a slotted spoon to pour the filling into the bottom crust reserving some of the liquid. (The combination of macerated cherries, ripe pears and sugar gives off an abundance of liquid. I like to reserve a few tablespoons of the liquid so the filling is a bit more sliceable.) Top with either a lattice crust or pastry cut outs. Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. Cover the edges of the pie with strips of aluminum foil. Place the pie on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and move the pie to the middle rack of the oven. Bake for an additional 45-50 minutes, removing the foil strips the last 15 minutes of baking. The fruit should bubble around the edges and in the center of the pie, the crust should be golden. Remove to a rack to cool completely before slicing. Refrigerate any leftovers.
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