Pear Pie with an Almond Crust and Brown Sugar Crumb Topping.
Until this week I had never made – or eaten – a pear pie. Which is complete craziness because as it turns out, pear pie is amazing. Delicious. So, soooo good. Lick your plate clean and then get another piece good.
The flavor of this pear pie is both mild and complex.
When you think about it, pears are a pretty mild tasting fruit. They are polite. Reserved. Classy. Pears don’t really like to be the center of attention. Which makes them extremely versatile. When used in desserts, pears are the perfect background for stronger flavors. In this pear pie recipe, pears are, of course, the staring role. But they are also the perfect background for sorghum syrup, almonds, brown sugar, and pear brandy.
As I was developing this recipe, I first thought that I might add a bit of cognac to the pear pie filling. Then, I considered brandy. I was out of both, so off to my local liquor store I went.
Perusing the brandy isle, this gorgeous bottle of pear brandy caught my eye…
There is an entire fresh pear in there. How cool is that? And how in the world do they get the pear in that glass bottle? Thankfully, there was a little tag tied around the stopper that answered that question…. They wire the bottles up in pear trees so that the pears actually grow inside the bottles. Amazing.
I bought it, brought it home, and perplexed my family with the puzzle of how they got the pear in the bottle before telling them. Then I placed the bottle front and center in our living room bar, and of course, sampled the pear brandy inside. It’s delicious. And absolutely perfect in this pear pie.
Options: You could certainly omit the pear brandy altogether and this pear pie would still be delicious. Or, substitute regular brandy or cognac. You could also bake this pie with a double crust instead of the crumb topping. I used almonds for the nut crust in this pear pie recipe, but walnuts or pecans would be equally delicious. The roasted nuts really compliment the pear flavor, but feel free to use a more traditional pie crust if you like, such as this recipe for fool proof pie crust.
You’ll also notice this pear pie recipe contains sorghum syrup. You could certainly substitute maple syrup if you like, but if you’ve never used sorghum syrup, I beg you to give it a try. If you can’t find it at your local grocery store, you can order it from Amazon. I first used sorghum syrup in pecan pie, and loved its deep, complex caramel flavor so much that I’ve used it in all sorts of desserts, including apple pie and chocolate ginger cookies. And, it’s sublime in this pear pie.
Serve the pear pie warm or cold, unadorned or a la mode. If you really want to spoil your guests, served it alongside glasses of whatever liquor you’ve added to the filling.
- ½ cup dry roasted almonds (or, roast raw almonds on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes)
- 1½ tbsp granulated sugar
- 1½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 stick butter, cut into ½ inch chunks
- 1½ tbsp vegetable shorting
- 4 tbsp cold water
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- The grated zest from 1 large lemon
- 7 cups (about 6 large) ripe bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch slices
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 tbsp quick cooking tapioca
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ cup sorghum syrup
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp pear brandy
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 6 tbsp butter, melted
- Put the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until almost, but not quite, the consistency of flour.
- Add the flour and salt and pulse briefly to blend. Add the butter and shortening and pulse a few times just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Dump the mixture into a medium size bowl and sprinkle the water over the mixture. Gently mix with your hands, tossing and squeezing the mixture between your fingers just until all the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough holds together. Do not knead. Add an additional teaspoon or two of cold water if necessary to form a cohesive dough.
- Transfer the dough to a ziplock bag or wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (You can leave the dough in the refrigerator longer than 30 minutes, up to 1 week, but it will very cold and difficult to work with. Let it sit out on the counter for 30-45 minutes before rolling out.)
- Roll out the dough into a 12 inch circle between two pieces of wax paper. Gently peel off the top sheet of wax paper and invert the bottom sheet of wax paper, with the dough, into a pie plate.
- Partially bake the pie shell according to these instructions.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Put the lemon juice and zest into a medium heavy bottom sauce pan, add the sliced pears and toss to combine. Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, tapioca and cornstarch over the pears and toss gently to combine. Pour the sorghum syrup over the mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly (but gently) until the mixture thickens and boils.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and pear brandy. Pour into the partially baked pie shell. Place the pie onto a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes. While the pie is baking, make the crumb topping.
- In a medium size bowl, add all the topping ingredients except the butter and stir to combine. Pour in the melted butter and mix with your hands just until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Cover until ready to use.
- After the pie has baked for 35 minutes, remove from the oven and cover the pear pie filling with the crumb topping, squeezing the topping with your hands as you do so to create some large chunks.
- Return the pie to the oven and bake for an additional 35 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden brown and the pear pie filling is bubbling slightly.
- Remove the pear pie from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.