It’s fall and the pears are ripe. Time for a pear pie from Italy, from the Piedmont sitting next to the Alps. The abundance of crust here will remind you of apple pie but that succulent, delicate pear flavor will convince you that this, too, should be in your personal pie portfolio.
The best news here is that the pears should be “firm” so you don’t have to do the dance of getting pears at “just the right moment.”
The filling will surprise you: pears + cocoa powder? I guess the cinnamon and red wine are mitigating components!
Yield: serves 6
For the filling:
- 2 pounds firm cooking pears
- 4 ½ tablespoons sugar
- 1 ¼ cups good quality dry red wine
- Dash of ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 10 amaretti cookies, coarsely crushed
For the sweet pastry:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup very fine yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup superfine sugar
- Dash of salt
- ⅔ cup butter, at room temperature, cut in tiny flakes or slivers
- 3 egg yolks
Peel the pears. Cut lengthwise into quarters, and core. Then cut each quarter lengthwise into 3 slices.
Place the slices of pear in a saucepan in which they will just fit comfortably. Add the sugar, wine, and cinnamon, and cook gently over a moderate heat for 10 minutes.
Pour off the cooking liquid, then sprinkle the pears with the cocoa. Set aside to cool.
To make the pastry, begin by mixing the two types of flour thoroughly in a bowl. Stir in the sugar and salt.
Using a fork, stir in the butter, followed by the egg yolks. Work the ingredients quickly together to form a mixture which resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gather these together by hand and combine (do not knead) to form a soft ball of pastry dough which is not in the least elastic.
Use two thirds of the pastry to line the bottom and sides of an ungreased 8½ in/22 cm diameter flan or pie pan (at least 1 ½ inch). Do this by placing the pastry in the pie pan and gradually working it into a lining of even thickness using your fingertips.
Chill the uncooked pie shell (flan case) in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Wrap the remaining pastry dough in plastic wrap (cling film) and put in a cool place, preferably not in the refrigerator as it still has to be rolled out.
Take the pie shell out of the refrigerator. Sprinkle evenly with the crumbled amaretti cookies and arrange the pears on top.
Roll out the remaining pastry dough into a round slightly larger than the diameter of the pie pan. Place this on top of the pears, pinching the pas edges together to seal. Pierce a few little holes in the pie lid with a fine skewer.
Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly in the pan before transferring to a serving plate. Leave to completely before serving.
Source: Piedmont, Traditional Cuisine form the Piedmontese Provinces [Flavors of Italy Series], 2000