Lacing a pear pie with rosemary

pear01[B]e wary entering the pages of Southern Living magazine. You may be entranced to the point of pie-making.

image (3)Take me, for example. A couple years ago, I was given a copy of the Thanksgiving issue of Southern Living by a colleague. A year hence, I was not only a subscriber but rolling out a cheddar crust for a latticed pear-rosemary pie not just once, but twice.

Pie and Thanksgiving, of course, are synonymous, though everyone talks turkey. And each year we amble about with pie recipe variations to extend our reach beyond pumpkin and apple. I’m fine with either of those but when faced with pears (!), cheddar cheese (!), rosemary (!), how could I not?

pear04Pears are one of the fruits I crave on occasion, but with qualifications. The pear must be crisp — hard, even. To me, an overripe Bartlett is bordering on bland mush and one step away from browning and becoming aswarm with fruit flies. I like a good green or red pear, like Bosc or D’Anjou or even new Bartlett, snappingly crunchy and juicy. Here is where a pear’s full pear flavor sings. I sometimes make a snack of a beauty of a pear, some sharp cheese and a handful of nuts.

pear05When I make apple pie, I have long followed the advice to use at least two different kinds of apples. So when selecting the pears for making this Pear-Rosemary Pie with Cheddar Crust, I chose a few of my favorite firm pear varieties, despite the recipe calling for Barletts.

I also defied the recipe in one more way upon the first making: I added chopped rosemary to the cheddar crust, even though the herb was only called for in the filling.

pear03Those leery of lattice tops, take heart: this crust is made with very wide strips that are quite easy to handle. By following the process of gently pulling back every other strip and laying the others crosswise, all comes together in such a way you will surprise yourself.

I was well-pleased with the pie on the first round, but felt compelled to change a couple more things the second time I made it. Despite the full pear flavor, it was universally sweet. I was wanting some tart flavor, so I added some slices of Granny Smith apple and some dried cranberries to the filling.pear02

I do believe I made improvements to the recipe (dare I say it). That tangy cheddar crust complemented both the sweet and tart of the pears, apples and cranberries. The earthy touch of rosemary was also extended by having it in the crust as well as the filling. It made a deep and sumptuous pie. And the magazine, at my fingertips again, calls me back to that recipe and the seven or more also featured. Sliced Sweet Potato Pie? Stand by ‘til next year…if not sooner!

Pear-Rosemary Pie with Cheddar Crust
From Southern Living magazine
Makes 8 servings

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 cup finely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons cold heavy cream
4 to 5 Tbsp. ice-cold water
3 1/4 pounds Bartlett pears, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Pulse first 2 ingredients and 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar in a food processor 3 or 4 times or until combined. Add cheese and butter; pulse 10 to 12 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle cream and water over mixture; pulse 4 or 5 times or just until moist clumps form. Divide dough in half, and flatten into disks. Wrap disks in plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together pears, next 6 ingredients, and remaining 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar in a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 400°. Roll 1 dough disk into a 12 1/2-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Fit piecrust into a 10-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp. Spoon pear mixture into crust.

Roll remaining dough disk to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface, and cut into 6 (2 1/2-inch) strips. Arrange strips in a lattice design over filling; press ends of strips into crust, sealing to bottom crust, and crimp. (Reroll scraps if you do not have enough strips to cover pie.) Whisk together egg and 2 Tbsp. water. Brush lattice with egg mixture.

Bake at 400° for 55 minutes to 1 hour, shielding with aluminum foil after 30 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour.

Pear-Cherry Pie with Cheddar Crust: Prepare as directed, adding 1 cup dried cherries to pear mixture and increasing cornstarch to 1/4 cup.

Blogger’s Note: I added about 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary to the crust when the cheese was added. I used a few different kinds pears, along with a few Granny Smith apples to make 3-1/4 pounds of fruit. I also added a couple of pinches of cinnamon to the filling, as well as about 1/3 cup of dried cranberries.

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