With another Pi Day on the horizon, it was time to scratch my pie-baking itch. I really wanted to make a fruit pie; and while spring may technically be on the horizon, here in sometimes-it-snows-in-May Toronto we’ve been on a decidedly wintry kick. Ergo, no good looking rhubarb / berries in sight. I did, however, spot some delicious looking pears at the market; and since I haven’t gotten to bake with pears as much as I’d like this pear pie was born.
I adapted this recipe from Yossy Arefi’s Sweeter off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season. Yossy’s recipe uses a homemade creme fraiche salted caramel sauce, which sounds amazing; but I just used some leftover salted caramel sauce from a previous baking project. I decided to add some of the tang back in by using sour cream in my pie crust. A bit of dairy is a lovely addition to a pie crust — it adds depth of flavor and tenderness. You can also use buttermilk or yogurt if you don’t have sour cream.
Speaking of pie crusts, here I detail pretty much how I make all my pie crusts nowadays. The method may seem a bit involved, but it really doesn’t take much more time than a “normal” pie crust and you end up with a lovely, flaky crust that’s a dream to roll out. I credit The Bojon Gourmet for these crust “tricks;” she has an awesome, detailed tutorial that I highly recommend! I typically replace about 1/3 of the flour in my pie crusts with whole grain flour for flavor (health benefits are just a plus!); you could substitute rye or whole wheat for the spelt or use a combination; or just go all AP if you want.
I added one step to the filling, which is to macerate the fruit with the sugar and lemon juice and reduce the resulting liquid down to a syrup. (I frequently do this with other fruit pies to concentrate the flavors and avoid a soggy bottom crust.) My pears didn’t give off a ton of liquid so you can probably skip this step if you’re pressed for time or don’t want to bother.
My friends and I really enjoyed this pie. It’s lightly sweetened and warmly spiced, and the pears keep their texture nicely — they soften, but still retain some body (I personally don’t like an overly goopy filling so this is right up my alley). This is definitely a winning alternative to a typical apple pie and I can see this making an appearance at a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner in the future!
Salted Caramel Pear Pie with a Spelt Sour Cream Crust
Makes one 9-inch Pie | Adapted from Sweeter Off the Vine
For the Spelt Sour Cream Crust:
- 240 g all purpose flour
- 100 g whole spelt flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 255g very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1/4 c sour cream, very cold
- 1/4 c ice water, plus more if needed
For the Salted Caramel Pear Pie Filling:
- 2 1/2 pounds ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I used a mix of d’Anjou and Bosc)
- 50 g / 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 32 g / 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- Juice of 1 small lemon
- 1/2 cup salted caramel sauce, plus extra for drizzling (I like this recipe)
- 1 large egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water or milk
- 1 Tbsp turbinado sugar
- Make the pie crust: Combine the flours and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and toss to coat. Working quickly, press the butter into flat sheets, occasionally tossing with the flour to make sure each piece is coated. The butter pieces should range in size from a dime to a quarter.
- Add the sour cream and 1/4 c ice water and use your hand or a wooden spoon to gently combine. If the dough seems dry, sprinkle more ice water on 1 tsp at a time until the dough just comes together. Your dough is ready if you can pick up a handful and it stays together. At this point the dough will still look quite rough and shaggy.
- Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface (I like to use a Silpat), divide into`12 roughly equal portions, and fraisage each piece across your surface using the heel of your hand or a bench scraper. The idea is to create streaks of butter within your dough. Pile the fraisaged pieces and pat into a rough rectangle. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for about 15 minutes, or until cool but still pliable.
- Using a lightly floured rolling pin and flour on your surface as needed, roll the dough into a rough rectangle about 1/4″ thick. Fold into thirds like a letter, brushing off excess flour before folding. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the rolling and folding. (Refrigerate 10 minutes between turns if the dough feels warm or sticky at all.) At this point the dough should be quite smooth and easy to roll. Then loosely roll the dough up like a jelly roll, starting from a short end. Cut into two equal pieces, wrap each portion in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
- Prepare the filling: Combine pears, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl and stir to combine. Cover and allow to macerate at room temperature for at least half an hour (or up to several hours).
- Grease a 9-inch pie plate. On a lightly floured surface (again, I like a Silpat for this), roll out one portion of your dough into a rough circle about 12 inches in diameter, about 1/8 – 1/4″ thick, working from the center out and rotating a quarter turn with each roll. Flip the dough occasionally and lightly flour to ensure it doesn’t stick. Transfer the dough to your prepared pie plate (if you’ve rolled on a Silpat, this is as easy as flipping the whole thing over your pie plate, peeling off the Silpat, and easing the dough in), trim the overhang to about 1 inch, and refrigerate until needed.
- Roll your other piece of dough as the first. If you’re doing a lattice top, use a ruler and pastry cutter to cut your strips. Refrigerate until needed.
- Put a colander over a saucepan and dump the macerated pears in. Boil the remaining juices until syrupy, pour into a small bowl, and set aside to cool. Combine the flour and spices and toss with the pear slices.
- Neatly arrange about half the pear slices into your bottom pie crust, trying not to leave any gaps. Drizzle with 1/4 c salted caramel sauce. Add the remaining pears and drizzle with the reduced juices and the remaining 1/4 c salted caramel sauce. Top with the other half of the crust as desired, and crimp the edges to seal. Freeze for about 15 minutes, or until pastry is firm.
- Preheat oven to 425F with a rack and baking sheet in the bottom third of the oven. Prepare the egg wash. When the pie is ready to be baked, lightly egg wash the entire surface, being careful not to drag any of the filling onto the top (it will burn). Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Transfer the pie onto the preheated baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 45-60 minutes, or until the crust is well-browned and the filling is bubbling. Rotate the pan halfway through. If the pie is browning too quickly, lower the heat to 375F after half an hour and/or tent with foil to prevent burning. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.