by Judy Kim
Salted Caramel Pear Pie
Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie
Happy Pi Day 2016. A Springtime Garden Wreath pie design to celebrate the occasion. I like to make my pies with a fancy crust, but it's absolutely not required to enjoy this delicious pie. I’m all about the pie itself, so never let beauty overshadow taste. But hopefully you can enjoy them both. Let the pie eating begin.
See my pie demo below.
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsalted butter (preferably European butter)
1/2 cup heavy cream, extra for egg wash
1/2 tsp almond extract
flaky sea salt
all-purpose flour, for rollling dough
4 Anjou Pears - peeled, cored and thinly sliced on mandoline
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and frozen
- To make the salted almond caramel, heat a large sauce pan over medium heat. Combine 1/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar, swirl the pan to help it dissolve and melt. Add 1/2 cup butter cut into slices, bring to a boil and simmer until golden brown, about 10 minutes. At this stage, stir occasionally using a wooden spoon. Watch the mixture carefully as it can burn. Turn off heat and add heavy cream carefully as it will bubble intensely. While continuing to stir, add almond extract (if you want a stronger almond flavor, add 1 tsp) and 1 tsp sea salt. Set aside to cool.
- Let the Vodka Pie Crust or Vodka Pâte Brisée Pie Crust come to room temperature, about 5 minutes before rolling out. On a lightly floured surface, roll out round disk to 1/8-inch thickness and larger than the circumference of your pie dish. Gently roll onto rolling pin and transfer to pie dish. Trim excess with scissors or a knife along the rim and place pie dish in the fridge. Note: Be careful not to stretch the dough or it will shrink.
- Leftover dough can be used for decorative cut outsin the shape of leaves and flowers. Dip pie cutters or cookie cutters in flour and cut out shapes. Lay them evenly on a quarter sheet pan and layer between parchment paper. Place in the freezer.
- Roll out remaining pie dough (preferably rectangular shaped in advance) to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a ruler to cut long strips for the lattice work. To re-create my design, you will need a mix of braids and narrow or wide strips. Work quickly to prevent the dough from getting warm and avoid breakage during assembly. As needed, place dough in fridge to firm up during the process. Again, leftover dough can be used for cut outs; transfer to freezer with others, repeating the same process. Place lattice strips and braids in the fridge until you are ready for final assembly; avoid the freezer as it will be too stiff to handle later.
- In a large mixing bowl, fold in pears, 1 tbsp lemon zest (sometimes I zest the entire lemon for extra flavor), juice of 1 lemon, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla extract and 1/8 tsp sea salt. In a small bowl beat 1 egg with 1 tbsp heavy cream. Set aside.
- For the final assembly, alternate layers of room temperature salted caramel and pears in the pie shell starting with 1/4 cup caramel. If caramel is too thick to handle, heat on low for less than a minute, just enough to loosen but not too hot it will melt the pastry. Layer half of the pear mixture evenly, top with 1/4 cup caramel, layer remaining pears and drizzle about 1/8 cup caramel. Scatter frozen butter cubes evenly all over the top layer. NOTE: There will be some leftover caramel, keep in fridge for up to a week or drizzle warm caramel over each slice when serving.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Apply a very thin layer of egg wash around the rim of the pie using a pastry brush, it will act as glue. Begin lattice work by lightly arranging each element to create your design. When you're satisfied, trim the edges. Begin to lift each piece alternatively to create the lattice and press down lightly along the rim to seal edges. For a traditional lattice layout, create 90 degree angles, but for an argyle arrangement try 45 degree angles.
- To complete the design, add a leaf and floral wreath border. I prefer to use two different leaf shapes, but one is fine. Brush the back of the leaves with egg wash to secure and place in a random pattern or alternate directions. Use a variety of flower shapes and nestle them into the leaves trying not to cover up too much of the lattice work. For visual interest stack different sized flowers on top of each other. Place pie in fridge to chill pastry, about 15 minutes or longer.
- Just before baking, gently brush the pastry with a thin layer of egg wash, avoid pooling. Place pie on a sheet pan and bake on the middle rack until golden brown, about 45 to 60 minutes. Watch the pie carefully, rotate if necessary and if the crust begins to burn, cover with a pie crust shield or with aluminum foil around the edge. Test doneness using a sharp knife, pears should be tender. Let pie cool completely before serving, minimum of 3 hours.
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