I’m by no means an expert baker. I consider myself more of a cook than a baker. I know people who swear they can’t cook but can bake up a storm – and vice versa. While I think I’m capable of both, pie crusts, in particular, intimidate me.
My mom rarely made pies when I was growing up. While I learned much about cooking (and the subsequent cleaning!) from her, I made my first pie under the watchful eye of my grandmother, who was known for her blueberry pies. Using an all-Crisco crust, she baked the crust first. Then added a cooked mixture of blueberries, sugar, and cornstarch. It was a simple combination that consistently led to the best blueberry pie I’ve ever had. It was a staple during my summer visits to my grandparents’ farm in Indiana. I was probably 11 or 12 when my grandmother showed me how to make the pie. Sadly, I’ve never made it since.
This recipe is nothing like my grandmothers, but it still results in a tasty, seasonable pie with a delicious crust – that I MADE. The pie here, from Melissa Clark, originally calls for all pears. I only had a few pears though, so I added some frozen blueberries to my CSA pears to bulk up the fruit filling.
The crust is the real star here – a rich, flavorful crust made of almond paste, butter, and flour is the perfect vehicle for fresh, seasonable pears. While the final result doesn’t look that pretty and was a little burnt, it still tasted pretty great. Although this was not an all-crisco, simple crust, I think my grandmother would have been proud.
Pear-Almond Pie with Blueberries, from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite from Melissa Clark
For the crust
1/2 c. plus 2 T. almond paste (availabe in small cans in the baking aisle of your grocery store)
1/2 c. plus 1 T. unsalted butter
1/4 t. kosher salt
1 large egg yolk
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
For the filling
3 pears (Ms. Clark specifies Bartlett)
1 c. or so of blueberries (frozen are fine)
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 1/2 T.)
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground clovers
1/4 t. ginger
1/4 c. sliced almonds
cream or half and half for brushing the crust
First, make the crust. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment or a food processor, cream together the almond paste, butter, and salt until smooth, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the yolk and combine. Mix in the flour on slow speed in three additions , until just combined. Turn the dough onto a board and press into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Once the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator and allow to sit while you make the filling – allowing for easier roll out.
To make the filling, combine the pears, blueberries, lemon juice, cornstarch, sugar, and spices in a large bowl. Allow to sit while you roll out the dough.
Place the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll out into a 1/4-in. thick round. Line a 9-in. pie pan. there should be about an inch of dough hanging off the sides. Scrape the filling into the pie and pan and sprinkle with almonds. Fold the overhang over the filling. Place the pie in the refrigerator to chill while the oven heats.
Preheat the oven to 375. Brush the top of the crust with heavy cream or half and half and sprinkle with sugar if you’d like. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the edes of the pie are gold and brown and the fruit is tender.
While the pie is baking, make sure to check on it to ensure the crust doesn’t brown too quickly. If it starts to brown too quickly after about 20 minutes or so, cover the crust with foil and allow to continue baking.
My crust definitely browned too quickly. It was still delicious – but would have been even better if I had covered it with foil sooner.