For the pastry- (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)
6 ounces cold, unsalted butter cut into ½” pieces, placed in the freezer for 30 min.
4½ ounces Philadelphia brand cream cheese, cold cut into cubes and placed in the freezer for 30 min.
1 cup pastry flour
½ cup rye flour
½ cup cornmeal
1½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons ice water combined with 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
In a medium bowl, whisk together the pastry and rye flour with the cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Transfer the mixture to a large zip-loc bag and freeze for 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse the dry ingredients. Add the cream cheese to the flour mixture, pulsing just until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the butter is no larger than the size of a pea. Transfer the flour/cream cheese/butter mixture to a large bowl. Gradually drizzle the ice water/cider mixture over the flour (start around the outer edge of the bowl) tossing the mixture with a fork. The pastry will be shaggy; continue to toss the mixture using your fingertips, until the liquid is absorbed and you can gather the dough together. Divide the dough in half, knead each half a few times until the mixture feels slightly stretchy. Shape each half into a disc and flatten slightly. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight, before rolling out. On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out one circle of dough to a diameter of about 12”. Ease the dough into a 9” glass pie plate. Turn the edges under and crimp decoratively. Place the pie plate in the refrigerator. Roll out the top crust (on the same sheet parchment paper, lightly dusted with flour) into a circle about 10” in diameter. Place the top crust (still on the parchment) on a baking sheet, cover with plastic and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
For the filling-
3½ pounds ripe/firm pears (preferably Bosc or Anjou) rinsed, peeled, halved, cored
2 tablespoons pear eau-de-vie, orange liqueur, or fresh orange juice
3-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup, depending on the sweetness of the pears
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
⅔ cup walnut pieces
3 tablespoons candied ginger, diced
⅓ cup golden raisins (optional, but they are a lovely addition)
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped with tip of a paring knife
2 tablespoons Minute tapioca, finely ground in a food processor
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
egg wash made from 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon milk or cream
coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the pears in chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the liqueur (or juice), maple syrup, zest, cardamom, walnuts, ginger, raisins, vanilla bean seeds, tapioca, and salt. Toss well to coat using a rubber spatula. Retrieve the pie shell and top crust from the refrigerator and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Turn the pear mixture into the pie shell and dot with the butter pieces. Drape the top crust over the fruit, tuck the edges of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust, pressing together to seal. Crimp decoratively. Apply egg wash to the top crust (not the edges)
and sprinkle with sugar. Use a paring knife to cut several slashes on the top crust to allow steam to escape. Place the pie in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set the crust. Just before baking, cover the edges of the pie with strips of aluminum foil to prevent the crust from getting too dark.
Bake the pie on a parchment lined baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, move the pie to the middle rack of the oven and back for an additional 45-50 minutes, until the crust is deeply golden and the pie bubbles around the edges and from the center. Set the pie on a rack to cool completely before slicing. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.