Friday, November 27, 2015

Boozy Pear Slab Pie

While we're still contemplating fall desserts, let me share this recipe: heaps of juicy pear chunks baked with pear brandy and vanilla bean in a flaky butter crust. The original recipe called for a sheet pan, but I used a 9 by 13 Pyrex dish for a fatter pastry that could envelop even more fruity goodness. I added some lemon zest to tart up the filling, and the result was a late-fall delight.


Pie Crust

3 3/4 cups pastry flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 sticks cubed cold butter
3/4 cups ice water
splash vinegar


6 tablespoons butter
1 vanilla bean
8 diced pears (I like green pears such as comice and bartlett)
4 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp pear brandy (a nice, cheapish brand is Mathilde)
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Your pie will end up looking like this, after hungry guests have gobbled most of it.


Pie Crust

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then dredge the butter cubes in the flour and crumble with your fingers until small, pebble-sized bits are uniformly distributed. Add vinegar and then ice water 1/4 cup at a time. Combine with the dough using either a rubber spatula (for weaklings) or your hands (for true chefs, who don't mind scraping clumps of batter off their digits).

When the dough is just able to form a ball, divide it into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. Place each on a sheet of plastic wrap (for your own sake, lay out the plastic wrap BEFORE making the dough, or else risk touching everything in your kitchen with buttery flour-encrusted hands). Flatten each dough piece into a flat, rectangular shape. Wrap with plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Filling and Assembly

Place the butter in a small saucepan.

Carefully split your vanilla bean down the middle with a knife. Scrape out the seeds using either that knife or your finger (messy! Go for the knife). Add the seeds and the whole pod to the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. The butter will begin to darken.

I'm not fond of the flavor of truly browned butter, so I let the mixture darken for a minute or so until it turned a muddy gold color and then took the pan off the heat. You may heat the butter until it's a nut-brown color if you wish.

Procure a large bowl and fill it with the diced pears, the cornstarch, the brandy, the lemon juice and zest, the sugars, and the extracts. 

Remove the vanilla pod from the butter and pour the butter mixture in as well. The pod at this point must be abandoned. 

Mix the filling. I like to use my hands to make sure everything is well-integrated and to have as much tactile contact with the pie as possible. I like to think that I'm adding good vibes.

It's time for assembly!

Roll out the larger rectangle of pie dough on a floured surface. I used to cover the dough with plastic wrap before rolling, but that turned out to be too messy and difficult. A little flour does the job just as well. 

The moment of truth: see if that rectangle fits in your 9 by 13 pie pan, creating a nice ledge around the edge.

If it does, fantastic! Carefully pour in the pie filling.

You're nearly done!
Stick this lovely, juicy mess into the refrigerator while you roll out the other dough rectangle.

Lay the top over the filling and crimp the edges or otherwise seal and style them. Prick holes in the top with a fork or do something artsy such as slash lines in it with a knife. I slashed crossed diagonal lines into my crust, which produces a lattice-type effect without the labor.

If you feel like adding even more fat to this monster, brush the top with the heavy cream. Some people at this point would sprinkle sugar on top. I'm of the opinion that a good pie needs as little sweetener as possible; hence, you will find no sugar dotting a Tipsy Crumpet creation.

Line the upper rack of your oven with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

While the oven is preheating, set the pie in the refrigerator. Let it sit there for 20 to 30 minutes.

Now, place the pie in the oven, on top of the foil. If your pie is as bubbly as mine, you'll be glad you did. 

Let the pie bake at 425 for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 350.

Bake another 30 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and the filling is simmering away.

Remove and place on a wire rack. Let cool for at least an hour before serving. Because of all the butter, I would avoid serving this with ice cream. It doesn't need it, and the flavors will come out better without it.


  • This recipe has heaps of butter. I tried omitting some the second time I made it, but the results were not as sensual and the filling not as velvety.
  • For me, the more lemon, the better. I'd be inclined to tempt fate next time by zesting two lemons into the pears rather than one.
  • Along those lines, I'd be tempted to see what two vanilla beans would do to this recipe. I adore the black specks created by the bean, but find the flavor to be milder than I would like.
  • The first time I made this, the pie crust was as crunchy as a cracker. The second time, it was nearly perfect. I can't explain why this was, but I've found again and again that pie crust has its own mind. In the second case, the vinegar appeared to have helped. I added it out of fear that I had overworked the dough, and the crust baked up nicely.
  • I would go for a tart green pear rather than a soft and sweet bosc. You need all the tartness you can get to counter the mellowing effects of the brandy and the heat.


A tasty pie and a crowd-pleaser.

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