If you’ve been following the Bon Vivant Facebook page, you’d know that pears narrowly beat a host of other pie contenders (including berries, rhubarb, chocolate fudge and boeuf bourguignon) to be the lucky filling to inaugurate our new pie dish. Remember last month’s Pecan confusion? Well, no longer. From here on out, pies will be pies and tarts will be tarts, all neatly contained in their appropriate vessels with an order that would make the most fastidious house-keeper blush.
12 comments, five pears and half a can of dulce de leche later, here’s the result of a very long thought process that began as a submission for this month’s Still Life With Photo Remake and resulted in the harvest (ok, purchase) of five Bartlett pears. Without a recipe to reference, I trawled the Internet for inspiration, stopping in my tracks when I saw Jude’s recipe for Poached Pears with Dulce de Leche sauce at Apple Pie, Patis and Paté.
Things started to fall in place; we were recently gifted two cans of this sweet goodness and employing it in a pie filling seemed perfect for its lush consistency. The product of an extended, slow simmer, dulce de leche is a sweetened milk that has been caramelized, and is widely deployed in many South American sweets and desserts. It’s easily recreated at home by pressure-cooking a few cans of condensed milk for 30 minutes. Or, in the absence of a pressure cooker, submerge said cans in a pot of water, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for three hours, as Ashley at Not Without Salt did.
With some lemon zest, a splash of lemon juice and vanilla extract along with a drizzle of sugar, the different elements blended with spoonfuls of luscious dulce de leche to produce a pie that was way better than expected. As a pie novice playing around with flavor pairings in my head there were many things that could have gone wrong and I was fortunate that the flavors melded beautifully, with the pie’s pseudo-circular appearance being the only casualty.
I did, however, omit the cornstarch, which would have come in handy to thicken the filling and avoid an overflow of pear juice. Based on Laura’s Dulce de Leche Apple Pie recipe, I’ve included a third of a cup of cornstarch here to match the quarter-cup of dulce de leche used, although this is yet to be tested. If you have any tips for determining the right cornstarch-to-filling ratio for pies, please do let me know!
2 batches of Dorie’s Good For Everything Pie Dough (note: you can double the quantities of each ingredient in this dough recipe, then divide the dough into two and refrigerate, well-wrapped, for at least an hour before using)
5 Bartlett pears (about 2½ pounds/ 1 kg), peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
¼ cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup dulce de leche
Preheat the oven to 425F/ 220C.
Butter a pie dish then roll out the dough base, trimming the dough to leave a ½-inch overhang over the sides of the pie plate. Refrigerate the dish for at least 20 minutes before using.
Mix the sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest, set aside. In a large bowl, toss the pears with the lemon juice, vanilla extract and dulce de leche with both hands until each cube of pear is thoroughly coated with a thick and velvety dulce de leche and juice mixture. Add the dry ingredients and toss to mix. Leave aside to rest for at least 5 minutes before assembling the pie for baking.
While the filling is sitting, prepare the top crust. Roll out the dough until just a quarter inch thick on a well-floured surface.
Remove the pie dish from the refrigerator and add the filling, then gently transfer the top crust to the pie, trimming the rim of any excess dough. With a few drops of water, press the top and bottom crusts together, folding the two doughs on itself, either wrapping the bottom crust over the top or vice versa. If you like, you could use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges of the plate for a decorative touch.
Cut a few slits on the top of the dough for ventilation, and drizzle some granulated sugar over the top if you wish.
Place the pie dish on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375F/ 190C and cook for another 50 to 60 minutes. The pie is ready when the top crust is golden brown and the juices bubble through the crust. If the top crust browns too quickly after 30 to 40 minutes, cover it loosely with some foil.
When ready, leave the pie to cool over a rack until just warm or at room temperature before serving.