The black pepper gives the pears just enough of an edge to make guests wonder what delightful thing they’re eating.
Paul’s notes for the pie dough: I use lard because I think it yields the flakiest pastry. You can substitute butter or any solidified vegetable shortening. Additionally, I do this by hand, but that’s just me. This same recipe will work in a food processor so long as you’re using the dough blade and not the metal cutting blade. This amount will yield more than enough dough for a two-crust pie.
Paul’s Bartlett Pear and Black Pepper Pie
Paul’s Blue-Ribbon Pie Dough
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 cup cold lard
½ cup ice water
Pie dough for a two-crust pie (recipe above)
⅓ cup brown sugar ((or a mixture of white and dark brown))
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp butter (melted)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp finely ground black pepper
3 pounds Bartlett pears (peeled, cored, and cut into ¾-inch pieces or thinly sliced)
coarse sugar (for sprinkling)
spray bottle filled with water
Paul’s Blue-Ribbon Pie Dough
Put all of the ingredients, including the bowl in which you’ll make the dough, in the refrigerator for 1 hour before you start making it.
After chilling, mix the flour, salt, and sugar together in the cold bowl. Cut the chilled lard into small pieces and work it into the dry mix with a fork. When the lard and the dry mixture are blended, it will have the consistency of coarse meal. Remember to work quickly, because you can’t allow the mixture to warm up.
Add the ice water in small drips and work the dough after every addition of water. After you have ¼ cup of the water worked in, slow down and start to test the dough after each time you add more water. Test the dough by squeezing a pinch between your fingers. If it’s crumbly, then add more water. When it holds its shape and approaches the consistency of modeling clay, stop adding water. Work the dough into a ball with your hands and wrap it in plastic wrap. Put the dough back in the refrigerator.
After an hour or so, cut the ball into two halves.
Making the Pie
Move a rack to the bottom shelf of your oven. Heat the oven to 425°F.
Roll the dough into two crusts, each about ⅛ inch thick. Line a 9-inch pie pan with one crust, leaving at least ½-inch overhang. Keep the crusts refrigerated while you prepare the filling.
In a large bowl, mix the brown sugar, flour, butter, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. Add the pears and mix gently to coat.
Place the pears on top of the bottom crust and spread evenly in the pan. Wet your fingertip with water and run it over the edge of the lower crust. This will help form a seal between the two crusts. Lay the top crust on, then fold the overhang under to make a thick rim around the pie. Crimp the edge with your fingertips or a fork. Cut five or six symmetrical holes in the top crust to allow steam to vent. Spray the top crust with a fine water mist and then sprinkle it with the coarse sugar. The water allows the sugar to stick to the crust.
Set the pie on a baking sheet and bake it for 15 minutes at 425°F. Then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake about 1 hour more.
Stick a thin knife through a slit in the crust to test the pears, which should be very tender. Use a metal pie rim protector (or aluminum foil) around the edges if the crust is browning too fast. Let cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.
— By Paul Anater
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