This has definitely been the year of baking experimentation for me (Ginny). In life, I’m a pretty play it safe kind of gal. I am still working at the same university that (for some reason) hired me as a young and dumb 24 year old professor. My hair cut hasn’t changed since…ok…it’s the exact same as it’s been my entire life. I’ve never even dyed it. Even when I bake, I have the same two or three go to recipes that I’ve crafted around my preferences over the years. I’ve never made crust, so I always making apple crisp. Usually with peanut butter and red wine because yum. I don’t really know much about making cake or bread, but I can make banana bread and pumpkin bread. Once again with cardamom and ginger because those are things I like. And that’s about it! My pumpkin bread recipe is the banana bread recipe with pumpkin and a little more sugar! My blackberry crisp? Yep, it’s just the apple crisp.
I’ve really felt like branching out, though, lately. I made gingerbread cookies over Christmas and even beat some egg whites into submission to make royal icing (badly). I saw my mom make an apple pie in my pretty Pioneer Woman pie pans at Thanksgiving, and it looked so appealing that I started getting the itch. Then I started seeing all of these beautiful pies on Pinterest and Facebook with pretty shapes on top, and it really sent me over the edge.
First, a disclaimer: I made this in January when we were going over to a friend’s house. They were making and Indian feast, and we were bringing dessert. I wanted to experiment a little and make something that would be as spicy and rich as Indian food, so that is where this little experiment was born.
I wanted a good winter dish, and I remembered all of a sudden how much I loved a pear crisp made by a woman I’d known with a pear tree in her back yard. The first time I tasted it, I wondered why no one ever cooks with pears. They are really just divine and the perfect winter fruit for baking. The crispness and the sweetness go perfectly with the tart raspberries that I’d found at Aldi and the almond flavoring in the caramel (which I am totally obsessed with). I cheated a little and bought frozen crust from the store, but hey…learning curve, right?!? I made the shapes on the top by cutting out crust with my Christmas cookie cutters. The leaves are actually Christmas trees, that I put slits in and stretched a little. Not bad for a first try if I do say so myself! Looking back, my only regret is not brushing quite enough egg on the top pastry, which inhibited the browning a little. For a perfectly browned top decoration, make sure that egg wash coats every millimeter of crust.
PREP TIME: 30 minutes COOK TIME: 70 minutes SERVINGS: 6-7
- 5 Bosc pears
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 T flour
- 1 cup of brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 2 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Two frozen pie crusts
One egg, beaten
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Slice pears into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Remove the center from the rounds with seeds.
- Pour wine, spices, and flour over pears. Mix together carefully with your hands so that the pears don’t break apart until all pear pieces are evenly coated with the wet spice mix. Refrigerate.
- Roll out the refrigerated pie crusts to fit your pie pan. Or if you bought the kind that comes in its own tin, just use that one! Roll out the second crust and cut with cookie cutter(s) into desired shapes. Refrigerate all the prepped dough.
- Combine brown sugar, cream, and butter in small saucepan then put on burner at medium-high heat. (Make sure your vanilla and almond extracts and measuring spoons are already out and close at hand because you don’t want to stop stirring for very long at all.) Stir constantly 5-7 minutes. It should reach a frothy boil and thicken. Add extracts and continue stirring over heat for another minute. Remove from heat.
- Arrange pears in bottom pie crust. Pour about half the remaining liquid over top of pears. Pour half of the caramel sauce over the pears. Place crust cutouts and raspberries into pretty pattern on the top. Brush top crust pieces with egg wash and bake for 60 minutes.
- Garnish with more raspberries and remaining caramel hot sauce.