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A Buttery & Flaky Minced Pear Pie + Giveaway

by Kristina Gill

Who doesn’t dream of a homemade pie — or a small bakery that makes pies with quality ingredients that taste as good as homemade? I know I do and a good bakery, for me, is an essential part of my ideal neighborhood. Growing up in Nashville, my favorite was Becker’s Bakery on 12th Avenue South for the little pastel-colored cookies they made. The neighborhood bakery sharing a recipe with us this week is , a little corner shop in a former beauty salon on Detroit’s west side. bakes up rustic pies that are nontraditional in flavor combinations, drawing on the native produce from Michigan, owner Lisa Ludwinski’s home state.

I chose the Minced Pear Pie recipe from Lisa’s cookbook, . It’s pear season, so you have this wonderful, pear-derived minced meat-style filling enclosed between two buttery, flaky crusts. What you’ll see below are the recipes for both the filling (which you could use to make hand pies or gift jars or whatever you like!) and also the crust (which you can file away as your go-to crust). A quick note about the recipe — the filling must age for three days before using to develop the flavors, and the pie crust must sit for two hours in the refrigerator. Factor these times into your baking plans! —

Image above: Detroit seen from the air.

For a chance to win a copy of Sister Pie, respond to the following question in the comments section below by November 7th, 5PM: What is the most unlikely pie filling combination you’ve encountered that you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving? If there’s a pie shop that regularly serves this recipe up, include the name in your response. The winner will be announced in the comments section, so be sure to check in again.

About Lisa: Lisa Ludwinski was born and raised in Michigan and is the owner of , which she started as a pie stand at Detroit’s Eastern Market. Before opening the shop, she trained at New York’s Milk Bar and Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Sister Pie has been featured in Bon Appétit and the New York Times, among other publications. You can find Sister Pie on Instagram .

Image above: Sister Pie cover. All photography by

Portrait of Sister Pie owner Lisa Ludwinski

Image above: Portioning the pie dough

Image above: Rolling out pie dough

Image above: Minced Pear Pie fresh out of the oven

Minced Pear Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

A mincemeat pie at Christmastime has been on the long list of customer requests since before we even opened the bakery doors. At its inception in Britain back in the seventeenth century, mincemeat pie was traditionally filled with minced meat, beef suet, dried fruit, and spices. Over time, the pie became sweeter, lost the meat, and kept the beef suet. Like fruitcake, mincemeat filling is aged to allow the flavors to blend and mellow. A quick three-day rest suits this pie well, but you’re welcome to age it longer, depending on your appetite for risk!

We’re a vegetarian bakery 99 percent of the time, so our take on mincemeat pie is certainly not traditional and features no beef suet. Instead, we combine chopped pears—we prefer Bosc or D’Anjou for baking—and nuts, with dried fruits, spices, booze, and maple to Sister Pie it up.

Ingredients

  • For the filling
  • 3 pears, peeled, cored, and diced into 1⁄2-inch chunks
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1⁄2 cup golden raisins
  • 1⁄2 cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts (see page 35)
  • 1⁄2 cup roughly chopped toasted pistachios
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped candied ginger
  • Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 cup apple brandy
  • 1⁄2 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 1⁄4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 disc All-Butter Pie Dough, rolled out into a 10-inch circle and laid flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerated
  • 1 disc All-Butter Pie Dough, rolled out and fitted into a 9-inch pie pan but uncrimped and refrigerated
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (1⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • For the pie dough
  • 2 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted European-style butter, straight from the fridge
  • 1⁄2 cup ice-cold water-vinegar mixture (see note, below), or more if needed

Preparation

1

Make the filling: Combine the pears, apricots, raisins, walnuts, pistachios, candied ginger, lemon juice and zest, cardamom, ground ginger, cloves, allspice, salt, and brandy in a large bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the maple syrup and tapioca starch, then pour it over the pear mixture. Use your hands or a spoon to toss until thoroughly combined. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, or transfer to an airtight container, and age the filling in the refrigerator for at least 3 days and up to a year.

When you’re ready to assemble the pie, remove the unbaked crusts from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the bottom of the pie shell with the turbinado sugar–flour mixture and spread the aged pear mixture on top. Dot the mixture with the butter cubes. Place the second crust on top.

Here is a brief description of the crimping process: Roll the dough overhang of the bottom crust toward the center of the pie, creating a ring of dough, as though you were rolling a poster tightly. Roll the dough with one thumb while the other thumb presses the dough down into the tin’s edge to seal. Then form a “C” with the thumb and index finger of one hand and use those fingers to pinch and lift the rim of the dough up and away from the pan, simultaneously pressing the thumb of your other hand into the “C” to make a crimp. Continue until the entire ring of dough is crimped. Put the assembled pie in the freezer for a 15-minute rest.

Preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the pie from the freezer, place on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush the top and crimped edge with the beaten egg. Use a paring knife to cut steam vents in whatever design you like. Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is evenly golden brown. Lower the temperature to 325°F and continue to bake for 50 to 70 minutes, until the pie juices are bubbling in the center.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. When the pie is at room temperature, slice it into 6 to 8 pieces and serve.
Store leftover pie, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Getting Fancy With Steam Vents

Steam vents are decorations with a purpose — they dress-up your double-crust pie and let out the steam that juicy fruit pies create while baking, ensuring your top crust stays crisp all the way through. Make designs with a knife tip or cutter: Once you’ve placed the top crust on a pie and completed the crimping, take a sharp paring knife and insert the tip through the crust to make your design. Think about sewing stitches for inspiration. If you want to get fancier, use a small cutter to make punch-outs right after you roll and cut the top crust — any small shape, such as a tiny cookie cutter, will work. And then place it on the pie and crimp.

 

2

All-butter pie dough

Makes 2 discs, enough for one 9-inch double-crust lattice-topped or full-top pie or two 9-inch single-crust pies

This is our go-to dough, and it’s how each pie begins. Every pie baker, professional or at home, seems to have an opinion on the best combination of fats for the flakiest crust — is it lard, shortening, butter, or a mix? Our basic dough is a pure and simple ode to unsalted butter and all-purpose flour — we think it produces the best-tasting, lightest, flakiest pie crust. 

In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and stir to mix well. Place the sticks of butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with the flour mixture. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes. Work quickly to separate the cubes with your hands until they are all lightly coated in flour. Grab that bench scraper once again and cut each cube in half. I always tell my pie dough students that it’s unnecessary to actually cut each cube perfectly in half, but it’s a good idea to break up the butter enough so that you can be super-efficient when it’s pastry blender time.

It’s pastry blender time! Switch to the pastry blender and begin to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each stroke of the pastry blender, but to actually slice through butter every time to maximize efficiency. When the pastry blender clogs up, carefully clean it out with your fingers (watch out, it bites!) or a butter knife and use your hands to toss the ingredients a bit. Continue to blend and turn until the largest pieces are the size and shape of peas and the rest of the mixture feels and looks freakishly similar to canned Parmesan cheese.

At this point, add the water-vinegar mixture all at once, and switch back to the bench scraper. Scrape as much of the mixture as you can from one side of the bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore. Now it’s hand time. Scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers (and a whole lot of pressure) to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Scoop, press, and turn. With each fold, your intention is to be quickly forming the mixture into one cohesive mass. Remember to incorporate any dry, floury bits that have congregated at the bottom of the bowl, and once those are completely gone and the dough is formed, it’s time to stop.

Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured counter, and use your bench scraper to divide it into two equal pieces. Gently pat each into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges before wrapping them tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. If you’re portioning for a lattice-topped pie, shape one half into a 2-inch-thick disc and the other half into a 6 by 3-inch rectangle. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. When you go to roll out the crust, you want the discs to feel as hard and cold as the butter did when you removed it from the fridge to make the dough. This will make the roll-out way easier.

You can keep the pie dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 year. If frozen, remove the dough and place it in the refrigerator to thaw one full day before you intend to use it. If you’re planning to make only one single-crust pie, wrap the discs separately and place one in the freezer.

Note – Icy water, now improved and with tang:

While working at Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds for a summer, I learned a number of good tricks that considerably changed my pie dough-making experience. Here’s one of my favorites: Fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup with about 1 inch of water and freeze until completely frozen. Just after you mix your dry ingredients, grab it from the freezer and fill with water 2 tablespoons or so of apple cider vinegar. The ice-cold water-vinegar mixture should look just like apple juice. Let it chill on your counter while you mix the other ingredients for the dough.

The addition of vinegar to pie dough was originally thought to tenderize the gluten (thus avoiding a tough crust), but there isn’t any good scientific evidence proving that it makes a difference. We keep it in our recipe for its tangy flavor and our respect for tradition.

Not the pie-baking plan-ahead type? That’s okay! When you’re ready to make the dough, simply fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup about halfway with ice, then add water and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

 

Reprinted with permission from Sister Pie, copyright © 2018. Photography by E. E. Berger. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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Comments

  • There was a fig-pecan pie at the High Hat Cafe in New Orleans that was unexpectedly magical. I hadn’t imagined how the complexity of the figs would change the single-note sweetness that tends to go with traditional pecan pie. Add to that the joy of a scoop of Creole cream cheese ice cream (from Creole creamery, naturally)… amazing.

  • Haupia (coconut pudding) and Okinawan sweet potato! This is not a terribly unusual pie in my hometown but it does look weird with the purple sweet potato layer at the bottom. The one I ate (and enjoyed) was made by Ted’s Pies, which is located on the North Shore of Oahu. :-)

  • I tried an apple and green chile pie from Showboat’s Drive-by Pie (in Gransby, Colorado). It was unexpectedly savory!

  • Apple pie with roasted green chile. Found just about anywhere in New Mexico this time of year. Also great with a cheddar-cheese crust.

  • I love the comments of the other readers as their pies sound so good! I don’t think I have ever had anything unusual but my favorite was my grandma’s huckleberry pie!

  • Pear! Totally new filling to me that my in laws introduced to me! Your recipe of it sounds interesting too!

  • I’ve been drooling over Sister Pie on Instagram for so long, I’m excited they have a book out! I just had the “munchies” pie at The Pie Hole in Hollywood and I didn’t expect the pretzel crust and custard filling to be so fantastic but it was (ok, the crust isn’t a pie filling but it was so integral to the effect…)

  • I was pretty perplexed by the inclusion of paprika in the peach pie recipe from Four & Twenty Blackbirds. How foolish of me! Their pies are magic and now I make this pie when I go home to visit my family every summer.

  • My family’s go-to holiday pie is pear-cranberry (born of a father who doesn’t eat cooked apples, a mother who doesn’t eat nutmeg, and a backyard pear tree). I have never seen or experienced it outside of family gatherings, and folks are often initially skeptical but soon won over! But there’s something about the contrast of the (very) sweet pear and the tart cranberry that’s a real winner.

  • A friend brought pumpkin pie with bacon in the crust to our Thanksgiving dinner. I tried it to be polite, but didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did! The smoky/salty bacon was a wonderful addition to pumpkin.

  • This pie certainly looks well worth digging into. I never had a sweet potato pie until I met my husband. I thought a potato pie? Now there is no other pie I prefer over his recipe of sweet potato pie. Happy Feasting.

  • For Americans, pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple. But for this non-American, pumpkins are never used in desserts, so when I first heard of it I was a bit skeptical. While still not in my top ten, I can certainly enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie during the holidays.
    Thanks for this giveaway!

  • My friend made me a grape pie that I thought was definitely going to be too tart and sweet but it was lovely, especially with a chunk of hard cheese.

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