Monday, October 19, 2009

Pear Butterscotch Pie from Gourmet, Sept. 2009


Thank you everyone who took part in the celebrate Gourmet blog event! It has been so cool to receive all your photos and read your posts. I'm working on getting the links up here for the official round up, which should be done tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a tribute from Tom, a reader in the Washington, D.C. area who doesn't have a blog, but still wanted to participate.

He made this very appealing pear butterscotch pie, which I think is perfect for any fall weekend, or a holiday meal. Thanks for all your pie-making tips, Tom. Enjoy, everyone!

Pear Butterscotch Farewell

I actually became a Gourmet subscriber by accident over a year ago… The subscription was a free gift from another website when I ordered a housewarming gift for a friend. I started receiving the magazine, and after two months called Gourmet to investigate and make sure I hadn’t paid for something that I hadn’t known about. Obviously, there was no harm done and I’ve been hooked every since… So of course, I was VERY disappointed to hear that the magazine is being canceled… I couldn’t help but join in this blog event as a tribute.

I picked the Pear Butterscotch Pie on page 61 of the September 2009 issue. I hadn’t done the particular recipe before, but I’ve been working on my pie technique pretty much all year and thought this would make a good addition. Pies are also great to bring into the office to share with co-workers and spread the calories around so I’m not stuck with a whole pie to eat by myself!

For the pie crust, the recipe referred to an all-butter pie crust on page 35 of the same issue – I couldn’t agree more with Gourmet’s assertion that the all-butter crust is the way to go! The butter just gives an amazing flavor that folks rave about. I actually use a little more salt and add a touch of sugar to my pie crust, most inspired by another website. Another key to pie crusts is the proper handling of butter. Never let it get too warm… The whole art of the pie is the crust. Generally the filling doesn’t take long at all and doesn’t require too many cooking tricks, but the pie will live or die depending on your handling of the crust! So this has been the focus of my ‘pie studies’ the past year.

I chop the butter into smaller pieces then refreeze while I sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Once it’s ice cold, I cut the butter together with the dry ingredients by hand using a pastry blender. I suppose I could buy a food processor to do this, but I never feel like spending the money and using my hands just feels so much more natural. Once it’s mixed together you splash cold water onto the mixture one tablespoon at a time. Lately I’ve noticed that it has taken more water than I’ve expected to hold the crust together – as many as 7 tablespoons! Once it all starts sticking, I divide the dough in half and form into disks, wrapping in saran wrap, and putting back in the fridge for at least another 20 minutes.

I use the time the dough is chilling to make the filling. Whisking together the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar and chopping the pears – good knives are SO important to good preparation no matter what the task. Not only that, good knives make it more fun because the cutting goes so smoothly and everything looks smooth and professional when you’re done. Following the directions for the filling, here, I also freshly juiced half a lemon – the bottled stuff just never has the same zest as freshly squeezed. (I did, however, use pre-ground nutmeg, rather than grating my own; but it’s from Penzey’s and pretty fresh so I didn’t mind.)

Once the filling is ready, I take out the pie dough for rolling. I warm the crust in my hands while starting to press it out thinner on the rolling mat. This way I can also make any adjustments with extra flour or water to help with early cracks in the dough. Once the dough is properly flattened, I put it between two pieces of parchment paper and roll it out. The parchment paper makes sticking much less of a problem (still flouring the surface) and makes putting the crust into the pie pan SO much easier.

The cute part of this recipe is the bit about using the excess dough to make leaves. Admittedly, I don’t have leaf cookie cutters so I tried my hand at doing them with a knife. They turned out OK, but in general, making the pie crust truly pretty with clean edging and decorations is still something I have to work on. I think Gourmet’s tip about pressing the two crusts together and “folding under” maybe kept this pie from boiling out more than others past. (Still, cooking with a sheet underneath is critical to avoiding HUGE oven messes.)

Anyway, out of the oven the pie smells and looks amazing! The cinnamon and nutmeg really come through. Can’t wait to bring it into work.

Thank you Gourmet magazine! You will be missed.

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