Pear pie – On baking pears and their texture

Ever wondered why there’s ample recipes for apple pies and barely any for pear pies? I did for sure, and guess it has to do something with the availability of apples vs. pears and the way they cook. The last has to do with the difference in texture of apples and pears.

That said, I do eat and make apple pie a lot more often than pear pie as well. nevertheless, time for another pear pie recipe on the world wide web. And let’s have a closer look at those difference between apples and pears.

Pear pie recipe

The recipe I used was inspired by one from the ‘Zilveren Lepel’ a great Italian cookbook. You will see that it uses a short crust pastry recipe which is very similar to my own savoury version. For these types of pies you don’t need a very sweet dough, so only a little sugar is enough.

Preventing that soggy crust

A recipe with a crunchy crust and moist filling is always prone to ‘soggy crusts’. This recipe uses two tricks to prevent that as much as possible:

  1. By baking the crust that extra 5 minutes without the baking beans it has a chance to dry out further and become extra crunchy. Some extra moisture will not immediately ruin the texture now.
  2. Leaving out part of the pear liquids and mixing these with butter and chocolate. That way these liquids don’t get a chance to seep into the crust and make it soggy. Instead, it will be caught in the chocolate and will form a nice soft topping.
Pear pie
Recipe type: Pie
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 pie
Ingredients
Pie crust
  • 200g flour
  • 100g butter
  • 6 tbsp ice water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
Pie filling
  • 80g sugar
  • 4 pears
  • 4 tbsp Grand Marnier
Topping
  • 130g dark chocolate
  • 60g butter
  • 25g almonds (white or brown, both work fine)
Instructions
Pie crust
  1. Mix the butter with the flour until you have a crumble consistency.
  2. Add the ice water, salt and sugar and mix quickly until you have a firm dough. Dont knead too long, stop as soon as it has come together.
  3. Leave the dough to rest in the fridge for about 15-30 minutes (if it's warm outside, keep it in a little longer).
  4. Take the dough out of fridge and roll out until it is about 0,5 cm thick.
  5. Cover a baking tin with the dough.
  6. Cover the dough with aluminium foil or baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake in the oven at 180C for 15 minutes.
  7. Take off the aluminium foil and baking beans and bake for an extra 5 minutes to make it extra crunchy.
Pie filling
  1. Peel the pears and cut into thick slices, aim for approx. 16 slices out of one pear.
  2. Mix the pears with the sugar and grand marnier and leave to set.
  3. Once the crust has baked, spread the pears over the crust. Take care not to add all liquid as well or else the crust will become soggy.
  4. Put back in the oven and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the pears have turned slightly brown.
  5. Leave to cool.
Topping
  1. Melt the chocolate and mix with butter and the remaining liquids from the pears. Mix until homogeneous and pour over the cooled down pie.
  2. Brown some almonds in a frying pan and sprinkle over the top.

Pear texture & grittiness

As mentioned at the top, pears have quite a different texture from their popular colleagues the apple. Apples can get dry and mushy, but in general it’s a little easier to keep them good. On the other hand, more people might have had issues with mushy or gritty pears.

This grittyness especially is caused by improper harvest. Pears shouldn’t ripen on the tree. When that happens the pear plant will start protecting its pears by creating a woody structure in the pear. It’s this woody structure that tastes gritty.

When pears ripen off the tree they will not form this woody texture. Instead they’ll turn soft even mushy if kept for too long (and super moist). For eating and using pears it is therefore often better to buy slightly unripe pears and let them ripen at home.

Softening pears during baking

Pears are a lot denser than apples. Apples have a lot more air cells. These air cells collasp when the apples are baked. Also, apples have a lot of pectins in their cell walls which contributes to their smoothness and puree structure in an apple pie. Pears on the other hand don’t have as much of these pectins, nor do they have as many air pockets. Therefore they don’t fall apart in the same way. Instead, they will remain slightly firm (Source: Harold McGee, On Food & Cooking, p.356).

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