Salted Caramel Pear Pie

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It may still be a solid 90 degrees here in Texas, but this girl is ready for fall. As soon as October hits I’m inevitably that person at the grocery store with a cart full of pumpkin spice this, and pumpkin spice that. Full disclosure: I bought several pounds of pumpkin spice coffee in one trip last week. But even more so than pumpkin spice lattes, fall is pie season at my house.

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Apples have long dominated my pie itinerary this time of year: when it’s technically fall, but it’s still hot enough in Texas to reasonably top everything, including warm pie, with ice cream. I updated my go to apple pie recipe by swapping out the apples with Bartlett pears, and adding a bold salted caramel sauce which pairs brilliantly with the subtle, aromatic pear. So in reality I changed everything except for the pie crust.

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Pie crust is fickle. It seems like one day a recipe works like a flaky dream, and the next that same recipe yields a stretchy mess that sticks to the counter, rolling pin, knife and dog. It seems like everyone has their tricks to stay one step ahead of its shenanigans. Some people freeze their butter, use a mixture of butter and shortening, add vodka to it, sing it lullabies…

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My go to pie crust recipe is all butter all the time, ice water, no vodka, though I’m not above singing it lullabies. This is a recipe that works for me. If you have one that you’ve perfected, by all means use that. I can already tell it’s delicious.

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The pear slices are tossed in flour, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon before they’re arranged in the crust. You can change this to taste but don’t skip the flour! The flour helps prevents a soggy bottom, as Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would say (If you haven’t binge watched The Great British Baking Show yet on Netflix, I highly recommend you do so immediately.) It’s even more necessary in this case because we’re adding a liquid sauce to the fruit.

Arrange the pears so that they lie flat, minimizing air pockets. Air pockets give steam a place to get trapped and puff up your top crust, leaving a gap between the crust and filling.

Speaking of the sauce, it will be thick and gloopy once it cools. This is due to the higher butter to cream ratio than you would use in a caramel sauce that’s used as a topping. As it cools, the butter will cause the sauce to thicken and as the pie bakes, the sauce will melt and evenly distribute inside the pie. When the pie cools the sauce will thicken up again so that when you slice the pie it holds it’s shape instead oozing out.

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Start the pie off in the oven at 400°F for about 20 minutes, and then turn it back down to 350°F until the pears are cooked and the filling starts bubbling, about another 30 minutes. The higher temperature will jump start the chemical process that leads to a crispy golden crust (the so called Maillard reaction) and then once the temperature is turned down, the filling can finish cooking without over baking the crust. Cooking the pie at 350°F the entire time would lead to an over baked, mushy filling before the crust is nice and golden brown. If the crust starts getting too dark, cover the affected bits in aluminum foil while the pie finishes baking.

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Let the pie cool completely before slicing. I pop mine in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, and top it with vanilla ice cream. Also, turns out bringing 7/8 of a pie to work is a great way to make friends. Okay, it was more like 3/4. Okay, 5/8… final answer.

Salted Caramel Pear Pie

Ingredients

For the crust:

-1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes

-315 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)

-1 tablespoon granulated sugar

-3/4 teaspoons salt

-1/4 cup ice water¹

 

For the salted caramel sauce²:

-1/2 cup granulated sugar

-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

-1/4 cup cream, room temperature

-1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt

For the pear filling:

-6 Bartlett pears, washed, pealed and cored

-1/4 cup all-purpose flour

-2 tablespoons granulated sugar

-1 teaspoon cinnamon

-Zest of one lemon

 

Directions

  1. For the crust place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 10-20 times until the butter is roughly pea sized. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to overnight.
  2. Once chilled, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Place one half back in the refrigerator, and on a clean, floured surface roll out the second half in a circle until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the bottom of the pie dish³. Place pie dish in the refrigerator until you’re ready to fill it.
  3. For the salted caramel sauce melt the sugar on medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is completely melted. It should be a dark amber color.
  4. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly.
  5. Drizzle cream in very slowly, stirring constantly. Continue heating the boiling mixture for about a minute. Remove from heat, and stir in the salt and allow to cool.
  6. For the pear filling place the pear slices in a large bowl, and toss with flour, sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. Arrange the pears so that they lie flat, minimizing any air pockets.
  7. Pour the cooled caramel sauce as evenly as possible over the pears. It may be a little thick.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the dough for the top crust, and arrange on top of the filling as desired, making sure that there are spaces for the steam to escape as the pie bakes.
  9. Bake the pie at 400°F for 20 minutes, and then lower the temperature to 350°F for an additional 25-35 minutes until the filling begins to bubble. If the crust gets too dark cover the affected areas with aluminum foil while it finishes baking.

¹This is approximate. The amount of water used will vary depending on a number of factors. Add the water one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together when pressed, but crumbles easily.

²The salted caramel sauce was adapted from Homemade Salted Caramel Recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

³I used a deep pie dish for this recipe. You may need less pears for a standard dish.

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