by Judy Kim
Salted Caramel Pear Pie
Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie
Happy Pi Day 2016. A Springtime Garden Wreath pie design to celebrate the occasion. I like to make my pies with a fancy crust, but it's absolutely not required to enjoy this delicious pie. I’m all about the pie itself, so never let beauty overshadow taste. But hopefully you can enjoy them both. Let the pie eating begin.
See my pie demo below.
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsalted butter (preferably European butter)
1/2 cup heavy cream, extra for egg wash
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Flaky sea salt
1 double crust, Buttermilk Pie Crust
All-purpose flour, for rollling dough
4 Anjou Pears - peeled, cored and thinly sliced on mandoline
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons tapioca flour (or cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and frozen
To make the salted almond caramel, heat a large sauce pan over medium heat. Combine 1/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar, swirl the pan to help it dissolve and melt. Add 1/2 cup butter cut into slices, bring to a boil and simmer until golden brown, about 10 minutes. At this stage, stir occasionally using a wooden spoon. Watch the mixture carefully as it can burn. Turn off heat and add heavy cream carefully as it will bubble intensely. While continuing to stir, add almond extract (for stronger add 1 teaspoon almond extract instead) and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Set aside to cool.
Let the Buttermilk Pie Crust come to room temperature, about 5 minutes before rolling out. On a lightly floured surface, roll out round disk to 1/8-inch thickness and larger than the circumference of your pie dish. Gently fold into quarters and transfer to pie dish. Trim excess with scissors or a knife along the rim and place pie dish in the fridge. Note: Be careful not to stretch the dough or it will shrink.
Leftover dough can be used for decorative cut outs in the shape of leaves and flowers. Dip pie cutters or cookie cutters in flour and cut out shapes. Lay them evenly on a quarter sheet pan and layer between parchment paper. Place in the freezer.
Roll out remaining pie dough (preferably rectangular shaped in advance) to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a ruler to cut long strips for the lattice work. To re-create my design, you will need a mix of braids and narrow or wide strips. Work quickly to prevent the dough from getting warm and avoid breakage during assembly. As needed, place dough in fridge to firm up during the process. Again, leftover dough can be used for cut outs; transfer to the freezer with others, repeating the same process. Place lattice strips and braids in the fridge until you are ready for final assembly; avoid the freezer as it will be too stiff to handle later.
In a large mixing bowl, fold in pears, 1 tablespoon lemon zest (sometimes I zest the entire lemon for extra flavor), juice of 1 lemon, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, tapioca flour, cinnamon, vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. In a small bowl beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Set aside.
For the final assembly, alternate layers of room temperature salted caramel and pears in the pie shell starting with 1/4 cup caramel. If caramel is too thick to handle, warm on low heat, just enough to loosen but not too hot that it will melt the pastry. Layer half of the pear mixture evenly, top with 1/4 cup caramel, layer remaining pears and drizzle about 1/8 cup caramel. Scatter frozen butter cubes evenly all over the top layer. NOTE: There will be some leftover caramel, keep in fridge for up to a week or drizzle warm caramel over each slice when serving.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Apply a very thin layer of egg wash around the rim of the pie using a pastry brush, it will act as glue. Begin lattice work by lightly arranging each element to create your design. When you're satisfied, trim the edges. Begin to lift each piece alternatively to create the lattice and press down lightly along the rim to seal edges. For a traditional lattice layout, create 90° angles, but for an argyle arrangement try 45° angles.
To complete the design, add a leaf and floral wreath border. I prefer to use two different leaf shapes, but one is fine. Brush the back of the leaves with egg wash to secure and place in a random pattern or alternate directions. Use a variety of flower shapes and nestle them into the leaves trying not to cover up too much of the lattice work. For visual interest stack different sized flowers on top of each other. Place pie in fridge or freezer to chill pastry, about 15 or 20 minutes.
Just before baking, gently brush the pastry with a thin even layer of egg wash all over, avoid pooling. Place pie on a rimmed sheet pan and loosely cover with foil. Bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes and remove foil. Finish baking until golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 60 minutes. Watch the pie carefully, rotate if necessary. Test doneness using a sharp knife, pears should be tender. Let pie cool completely before serving, minimum of 4 hours.
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