I was married to a cutie pie. She often baked pies. While she did, I watched, pie-eyed. When her marvellous creation was put before me, I ate humble-pie. It was so good; it could’ve been anyone’s pie in the sky. When she left for the skies, she left me with the recipe.
By Jove, making this wonder is anything but ‘easy as pie’. Perhaps, the phrase applies to eating one. But I plunge into it anyway, knowing fully well that it’s a bit of a mission – a delicious one, nevertheless.
Pears for a fruity filling,
Pistachios for crunch,
Lemon for a tangy twist,
Rosemary for a friendly kick (a bit bittersweet never hurt anybody),
Cocoa because it’s vital to a lush finish,
Flour and Butter and Sugar because life is miserable without these.
This is how you make your 24cm cutie.
Let’s dig these out from wherever they’re hiding:
For the pear filling:
8 pears (4 peeled, 4 unpeeled, cut into a large dice)
1 lemon, slices of half, juice of the other half
2 sprigs of rosemary
60g of butter, diced
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of cornflour
For the cocoa and pistachio pastry:
110g whole peeled pistachios
(If you’d rather have hazelnuts, don’t be hazy, go for them!)
120g icing sugar
150g unsalted butter
200g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
Never without a topping (No, it’s not optional):
2 tablespoons of demerara sugar
20g of pistachios, roughly chopped.
First, make the filling.
Heat the oven to a 180C.
Place the diced pears on a tray, add the remaining ingredients, mix well and put them in the oven to cook for 10 minutes.
Mix and then cook for a further 10 minutes.
Are the pears soft yet? Some are probably breaking up while some are still staying whole.
Take them out of the oven and leave them to cool on the tray.
Once cold, remove the rosemary sprigs and the whole lemon slices.
Time to chill this mix in the fridge.
Next, let’s get to the pastry.
Blitz the pistachios to bits in a food processor until they become crumbs. Poor them.
Add the icing sugar and let this continue its journey to smithereens until the consistency is like fine breadcrumbs.
Add the rest of the ingredients. Proceed with further pounding until the pastry comes together.
Remove and form two dough balls: one roughly weighing about 400g for the base of the pie and the other about 250g.
Wrap them both and let them lie in the fridge for about 30 minutes, to recover from all that pounding.
You could use this time to clean up. Or you could get into the refrigerator and chill a bit yourself.
When you are ready to assemble the pie, heat the oven to 170C.
Roll the heavier dough ball into a large circle between two sheets of baking paper.
Once you peel the top layer, lift the whole thing and place it carefully in the tin.
Push it into place so there’s a layer of paper lining the tin.
Fill in the pear.
Roll the lighter ball of dough between two sheets of baking paper into a circle for the top, just the same as the bottom.
Peel off the top layer of paper.
Flip the pastry so that it forms a lid and peel off the other sheet of paper.
Pinch the edges together.
Sprinkle your pixie dust of demerara sugar.
The chopped pistachios go around the rim.
Punch into the top of the pastry, creating a few teeny vent holes.
That goes straight into the lower shelf of the oven.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Rotate the tin and bake for a further 25 minutes.
And then, it’ll be opaque all over and crisp to touch.
When I open my oven, my sweet is steaming. I’ve never quite been able to decide if butter mingled with cocoa is better smelling or tasting. What I do know is that if you smell it, you’re certainly going to taste it. When lemony pears, fragrant with rosemary, are suitably stewed inside a crispy pastry adorned with roasted pistachios, we have a treat, sweet as (well…) pie.
An afterthought as I bite into this “marriage” of flavours: This is almost as charming as was mine.