Every once in a millennium (hyperbole) the sprawling pear tree that lives in the backyard of the people responsible for my presence in this world likes to blossom and bear fruit.
The arbitrary – or should I say arbor-trary – nature of this woody perennial to emit fruit made every summer of childhood either incredibly thrilling or sadly dispiriting, that is if you based your entire summer on the presence of pears. Which we did not, though when it happened, it existed as a major highlight, especially regarding the make-believe endeavors of my sister and I (specifically when this entailed “being” the daughters of a mean farmer who wanted to marry us off to someone evil).
It also enabled one of my first forays into baking – pear cobbler studded with raisins engulfed in a batter made lovingly with Bisquick pancake mix.
It truly does feel as though years have gone by since this tree graced us with the presence of pears. This summer; however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the waifish silver branches of good ol’ Peary were not only festooned with Spanish moss, but hung heavily with hard round green baubles.
The pears on this tree never get soft – unless they are rotten – and they never turn into that classic “pear” shape that we are used to seeing in the grocery store. They are primarily spherical, though a little misshapen. When ripe, they are sweet and juicy, yet leave a dry taste in your mouth. Squirrels like to tug them off and nibble at a small portion before abandoning them on the ground to turn into golden brown mush.
Best of all, these pears are perfect for baking.
Disclaimer: I made the filling and pie crust the night before I intended to bake the pie and I believe letting the pear filling sit overnight made a difference for the better!
8-10 Hard Pears
1 Can Hard Apple Cider (I used Homemade Apple Pie Cider from Cigar City)
¼ Cup Minute Tapioca
2 Tbs. Flour
½ Cup Vanilla Sugar
2 Tbs. Honey
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
Dash of Salt
Generally I am a fan of leaving peels on fruit because a) delicious and b) lazy, but in the case of these hard pears, the filling turns out better sans peel.
Peel, core, and thinly slice the pears – this is a great time to turn on some music and let your mind wander
Place in a large container and douse with the cider
Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so, you can start on the pie crust now if you feel so inclined
Drain out about half of the liquid
Add sugar, honey, flour, tapioca, and salt
Combine to coat each pear slice
Cover and allow to sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight
Barefoot Contessa’s Perfect Pie Crust #Inaforanhour
The Barefoot Contessa uses her food processor to make this dough, which I have done in the past, but this time, I just used my KitchenAid mixer and the dough came together really nicely and turned out just as delicious! I also used vanilla sugar instead of regular sugar.
Milk Wash – 2 Tbs. Milk with a Splash of water (Egg wash is also good, I just had milk so why not?)
Large Granule Sugar for Topping (optional)
Time to bake?
Preheat oven to 400°F
Roll out the bottom crust of the pie and place in the pie plate
Roll out the top pie crust
Now you have a choice – you can cover the filing and make a classic looking pie, OR, you can take a cookie cutter to cut fun shapes out of the pie crust and arrange them on the top of the pie
Follow your heart!
Either way, cover the filling then brush the top with the milk wash
If you cut out smaller shapes to go over the larger shapes, apply those after the first brushing, then go over those with the milk wash
Sprinkle the top with large granule sugar
Place the pie plate on a pan to prevent pie juices from dripping to the bottom of the oven
Cover with Aluminum Foil and bake for 15 minutes
Lower the oven to 375°F, remove the foil, and bake for 45 minutes
Allow to cool, if you can, then enjoy this sweet summer treat!
This particular pear pie travelled back to the source, essentially, to the little brick house that shares a yard with the aged pear tree. Several generations gathered in honour of visiting family, my sister and her brood to be exact, and we shovelled pie into our mouths.
My niece and nephew climbed the pear tree and pulled down more weighty fruit and presented it to us – a pear, a prize, and now a new memory.