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No-Pan Pear Pie
From Good Eats: The Early Years, by Alton Brown

One of the things that gets in the way of attaining a flaky/tender equilibrium is the pan itself – so let's get rid of it. This is actually a galette – a freeform tart. In France, a galette can be either sweet or savory.

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

12 ounces all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
2-1/4 ounces stone-ground cornmeal*
1-1/2 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter, diced, chilled, divided
1/2 cup apple juice†, in spritz bottle

For the Filling:

2 Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 ounces sugar
1 pinch nutmeg, freshly grated§
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ounce unsalted butter
5 ounces fresh blueberries (frozen will work in a pinch)
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

For the Pie Construction:

4 ounces pound cake, cubed
1 ounce unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Instructions:

Make the Dough:

1 Pulse the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the room-temperature butter and pulse until the fat completely disappears into the dry ingredients.

2 Add half of the chilled butter and pulse 18 times, or until the flour mixture resembles peasized crumbs. Add the rest of the chilled butter and pulse 3 or 4 times.

3 Transfer this mixture to a medium-size mixing bowl. Spritz with just enough juice to moisten the surface of the proto-dough. Mix with a spatula. Continue spritzing and mixing until a handful of dough, when squeezed, remains compressed. (You may not use all.) When you've got good adhesion, gather the dough into a round disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes so that the flour can absorb the moisture.

Make the Filling:

4 Heat a 12-inch nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the pears and toss for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and continue tossing for another 30 seconds. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook until the pears have softened, about 2 minutes. Kill the heat and add the nutmeg, cinnamon, and butter. When the butter has melted, fold in the blueberries. Sprinkle in the 1 teaspoon flour, and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature.

Construct and Bake the Pie:

5 Crank the hot box to 400°F (205°C). Place the dough on a floured piece of parchment and roll it out to a 1/4-inch-thick disk, rolling the pin from the center out, turning the dough on the paper every few seconds to maintain evenness.

6 Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into a circle with a uniform edge, then transfer (on the parchment) to an inverted half sheet pan.

7 Place the pound cake in the middle of the dough, leaving about a 3-inch margin all the way around. Spoon the pear filling over the cake cubes and top with the cubed butter. Lift the edges of the dough circle and fold over toward the middle, working clockwise. Brush the tart with the egg wash and sprinkle the crust with sugar.

8 Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown and delicious. Remove from the oven, slide off sheet pan (carefully of course) and cool completely before serving.

*"Stone-ground" means that the kernels were cracked and ground on stone rather than steel wheels. This means that the grinding was accomplished at relatively low temperatures, thus preserving more of the corny goodness of the grain.

†Just put the juice and a couple of ice cubes in a spritzer.

§Ground nutmeg should never, ever be found in your kitchen. Whole nutmeg is readily available, keeps forever (literally), and is easily grated as you use it.

Yield: 1 Freeform pie; 6 to 8 servings



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