Here are two tasty facts:
Pears are awesome in pies. As a teenager, we had a pear tree in our backyard and Mom would come up with different ways to use them all up. I loved the pear pies. Thinking back, I believe they might be the pies that turned me into a pie lover from a kid who would just eat the filling and leave the crust.
Ginger is awesome with pears. These two flavours go together like gin and juice. I was bummed that when I made this pie I had less ginger on hand than I had hoped (about half of what I wanted put in the recipe). So if you only like a bit of ginger, use less than what I wrote and just up the cinnamon to a full teaspoon.
Since rolling out pie crust was going to literally drive me to drink, how appropriate that the recipe I was going to try contained vodka. The reasoning behind the vodka is that it allows you to add the extra moisture to the crust, making it easier to handle. The alcohol in the vodka will evaporate during baking though, leaving less moisture in the crust... like it had never been added to the first place. For more of the science behind the recipe, check out the ATK Cookbook... they are an endless source of kitchen knowledge.
My Apple, Pear & Ginger Pie
Pastry enough for a double crust 9" pie (see below)
2 1/2 to 3 lbs total of Gravenstein Apples and Bartlett Pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (about 2/3 apple, 1/3 pear ratio is what I personally like best)
3 slices crystallized ginger, chopped fine (about 3 tbsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Squeeze of lemon or lime juice (I normally use lemon, but only had a lime and it was really good and did the trick)
1 egg white, slightly beaten
2-3 tbsp turbinado (coarse) sugar for top of pie
Roll out half of the dough and fit into 9" pie plate (I prefer Pyrex), leaving edges as is for now. In a large bowl, toss the apples, pears, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, sugars and lime juice. Pour fruit mixture into pie shell and roll out top of pie and lay it over the top. Press edges together and then trim to within half an inch. Fold crust under and crimp with fingers or fork. Cut a few fairly large vents in the top of the pie and then brush with egg white and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake on the lower middle rack of a preheated 375 degree oven for 70 minutes or until well browned and bubbling (you might want to put a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drips).
Foolproof Pie Dough (really, trust me... I've been made a fool of a lot until this one)
Adapted from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt (1 tsp if you use unsalted butter)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cold
1/2 cup lard (original recipe called for shortening, but I'm on 'Team Lard' since there are no vegetarians in the family since I converted back)
1/4 cup ice water
1/4 cup vodka, fresh out of the freezer
In a food processor, pulse together 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar and salt. Cut the butter and lard into small pieces and scatter on top of the flour mixture. Process for approximately 15 seconds or until a thick paste forms and no loose flour bits remain (I know, crazzzzzzzy!). Scrape down the blades and sides of the food processor and pour the remaining one cup of flour over the mixture. Pulse approximately 5 times until uneven clumps form. Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl and pour the water and vodka on top. Bring together with a fork just until a soft dough forms. Divide dough in two and form into a disc about 4 inches in diameter and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for 45 minutes to an hour before rolling out. The dough will appear way wetter than it should when you put it in the fridge, but will firm up. Because it is soft, make sure you have ample flour on your board and pin when you roll it out.
Do you have any favourite apple/pear flavour combos for pies? I have plenty more that need to be used up...