I’m delighted that several people have requested the recipe for our non-traditional Thanksgiving pie But before I get into it, a quick back story on its origin:
Charlotte “Chuck” Charles was murdered and then resurrected by her childhood neighbor Ned, a piemaker, who can bring the dead back to life with one touch. Ned’s power is not a gift, though, because the second touch brings death again.
Ned and Chuck work side by side at his pie shop, the Pie Hole, solving murder mysteries on the side, waking the dead for one minute to ask who killed them. And, as ironic writers would have it, the pair are deeply in love with each another.
Sounds silly, and partly it’s meant to be, but oh that wit, those images, the pies and an adorable piemaker. It’s both macabre and fantastic, quirky yet relatable, with a cast of characters (including the thimble-sized Kristin Chenoweth, as Olive Snook) who pull it all off with ease.
In the premiere episode of season two, Chuck’s aunts continue to mourn her death, unbeknownst to them the casket they buried is empty. Hoping to cheer up her gourmet cheese-loving aunts, Chuck bakes them a pie to be delivered by Olive: deep dish pear with Gruyère baked into the crust. The marriage between fruit and cheese is classic; why not combine the two in a pie — or a pie crust for that matter?
I searched out a recipe and kept it until last Thursday. Try to resist sitting in front of the oven as the alluring aromas of baking pastry, spiced pears and melting cheese fills the kitchen. I couldn’t. That’s not all… Once the agonizing twenty-minute cooling period elapses, you’ll have to resist multiple, swoon-worthy slices. Each bite is as intriguing and complex as the name would have you imagine.
With that in mind, please don’t judge a pie by its cover. It’s ugly, but ugly never tasted so good.
Ugly is a strong word. I actually think it’s oddly handsome. A rough-around-the-edges pie.
I have to admit to failing twice at this recipe: 1) Using a straight-sided springform instead of pie dish (Santa is rectifying this kitchen oversight); and 2) Forgetting to decrease the oven temperature from 400° to 375° F. I also should’ve kept an eye on the pie as it baked and, noticing the edges were rapidly browning, covered them with foil.
Scrub this terrifying image from your brain, and bake your own. Odds are high that yours will be prettier.
Deep Dish Pear Gruyère Pie [makes one 9″ deep dish pie]
For the Gruyère Pie Crust:
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t salt
1 T sugar
13 T cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces and chilled in the refrigerator
7 T trans fat-free vegetable shortening or lard (or more butter)
2 oz Gruyère, grated with a microplane rasp grater
6 to 7 T ice water
+ + + +
For the Filling:
1/4 c Turbinado sugar (or granulated)
1 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/8 t cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
5 t cornstarch or flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 to 3 lbs Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
To prepare the crust: Mix flour, salt, sugar and Gruyere in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a food processor. Add butter pieces and, using a pastry blender or food processor, cut into the flour until largest pieces of flour are the size of peas.
Remove flour-butter mixture from the food processor, if using, and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle ice water over flour in 1 T increments, tossing with a fork after each addition. When dough clumps together when squeezed in your palm, gather dough together into two disks, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To prepare the filling and pie: Preheat oven to 400° F. Take dough out of refrigerator.
Mix together first five filling ingredients (sugar through cornstarch/flour). Add pear wedges and toss gently to coat evenly.
Flour either a counter-top or large piece of parchment paper well. Roll out the larger disk of dough to about 14″ in diameter. Roll dough loosely around the rolling pin and transfer to a 9″ deep dish or 10″ pie plate, easing dough in the bottom and up the sides. (If using the parchment method, you can just flip the paper and dough over the pie plate.)
Roll out the smaller disk of dough to about 12″ in diameter. Pile pear into the pie plate, scraping any juice from the bowl over the filling. Place the smaller round of dough on top of the pears. Seal two crusts together, brush lightly with the beaten egg, and make three parallel slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.
Place pie on a jelly roll pan to catch any drips, put in oven and reduce temperature to 375° F. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until you can see the filling bubbling up between the slits in the crust. Cool on a rack at least 20 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Blondie and Brownie