Friday, April 22, 2011

Pear, Fig, and Walnut Pie

Dear Pear, Fig, and Walnut Pie,

You are truly a wondrous thing. Encased in your flaky and delicious golden crust I have found true nirvana. Dried Black Mission figs steeped in sweet wine and spices offer a truly unique flavor profile to what could otherwise be a Plain Jane pie. The texture of the toasted walnuts adds a lovely crunch, while the fresh Anjou pears bring this perfectly balanced pie filling together. As spring and summer take over, abound in fresh pie-friendly produce, I will sadly miss you. You will temporarily be replaced with others like you, filled with things like peaches and berries, but I will think of you fondly and look forward to the day when we shall meet again...

All my love,

Pear, Fig, and Walnut Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
(Adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts)

Pâte Brisée:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

3/4 cup Marsala or Madeira wine
5 oz. soft, dried Black Mission figs (scant 2/3 cup), stemmed and quartered
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
All-purpose flour, for dusting
3 lbs. ripe, firm Anjou pears
3/4 cup walnuts, broken into small pieces, toasted and cooled
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 T. cornstarch
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 T. heavy cream
Fine sanding sugar (or granulated sugar), for sprinkling

Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle 1/4 cup water over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together. If dough is too dry, add water 1 T. at a time and pulse, until desired texture is reached.

Pat dough onto a lightly floured board and cut it in half, forming 2 equal-sized balls. Flatten each into a disc and wrap individually with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, 1 hour or up to 1 day (dough can be frozen up to 3 months, then thawed in refrigerator before using).

Bring wine, figs, cinnamon, and cloves to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer until figs are softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer figs to a large bowl (be careful to avoid small whole cloves). Cook reserved liquid over medium-high heat until reduced to a syrup, about 3 minutes. Discard cinnamon and cloves. Pour syrup over figs.

Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disc of dough to a 13-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Roll out second disc to a 13-inch round. Cut out a steam vent in center with a small cookie cutter. Lay dough round on a sheet pan and refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Peel and core pears, slice into 1/4-inch thick wedges. Add pears, walnuts, lemon juice, granulated sugar, salt, and cornstarch to figs and syrup and stir until combined. Spoon into dough-lined pie plate, piling high in center. Dot with butter, and lightly brush the edge of the dough with water. Drape second disc of dough over rolling pin, center over the filling, and gently press the dough around the filling to fit. Trim the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold the edge of the top crust under the bottom one, and crimp to seal. Brush the heavy cream all over the dough, and sprinkle the pie generously with sanding sugar. Freeze the pie until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with rack on lower third.

Transfer pie plate to a parchment or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, and bake until just golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Bake until juices are bubbling and crust is deep golden brown, about 1 hour (if edges brown too quickly, cover with a foil ring*). Let pie cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving (otherwise the juices will not set up enough and ooze everywhere when the pie is sliced).

*To make a foil ring: Cut out a square piece of foil, at least 2-inches wider than the diameter of the pie plate. Fold it in half, then in half again, making note of which corner is the center of the foil. Fold again once more into a wedge shape, then hold the folded up foil over the pie (remove it from the oven first), with the center point at the center of the pie. Use scissors to cut the foil at a radius of 1-inch greater than the pie's (cut it slightly curved so it's round with unfolded), and then cut again about 2-inches closer to the center of the pie (so you have about a 2-inch hollow ring when you unfold the foil. Gently press the foil ring over the pie crust edge. This is a similar technique to making a cartouche or parchment lid, but this one is with foil, and hollow in the middle.


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