Monday, January 27, 2014

Pushing Daisies: Perfect Pear Pie

Some time in the last two years, I managed to get myself addicted to binge-watching television programmes. I think it starts out with some Japanese tv dramas, then rewatching the first four seasons of the new Doctor Who because I hate the last two seasons so much, and then to other things. I hate to even think about how many hours I have spent in front of my computer screen, watching television. Grey's Anatomy, House, Game of Thrones, Scrubs, the list goes on. Some, like Grey's and GOT, I won't finish - Grey's because it is over-the-top dramatic  and GOT because I've read the A Song of Ice and Fire books and they are just so much better than the television version. In fact, I would go as far as to say the television adaptation is awful in comparison. George RR Martin, you sir are a literary genius. 

On the other hand, there are programmes that are worth continuing watching. House and Scrubs I will put in that category, more for their relevance (however inaccurate) to my chosen career than anything else. The first four seasons of Doctor Who also make it (I can't resist David Tennant), as does Broadchurch for its heart-wrenching brilliance. Even among these, one stands out: Pushing Daisies. A comedy-drama that revolves Ned the pie maker who has the ability to wake the dead, it is the most unassuming and hilarious work I have ever watched. The bright colours and playful acting make it seem like it should be a programme for children, but the sexual innuendos and underlying darker themes of life/love/death (the usual) make it both heartwarming and thought-provoking for adults.  

GIFs from Tumblr

Despite having been cancelled at the end of the second season, Pushing Daisies made such an impact that one of the pies made by Chuck (Ned's one and only with whom he has an extremely unconventional relationship) for her aunts has been accounted for by none other than Martha Stuart. It was as delicious as they made it look on the show and I have now found my go-to pastry crust, as well as a go-to filling should I wish to make a pie. I suppose I just said  I have a go-to pie, which is true. MAKE THIS. And WATCH ALL TWO SEASONS of Pushing Daisies. You will not regret either one.  Especially the latter - Lee Pace's eyebrows are amazing. 

I got in trouble for not wiping down the table before taking this photo... sorry. We don't usually live and eat in filfth. 

Ned and Chuck's Perfect Pear Pie (inspired by Pushing Daisies; recipe from Martha Stewart)


For the crust 

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
225g chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces

¼ to ½ cup ice water

For the filling
1 pie dough for 2 crusts (as per above)
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup packed dark-brown sugar
½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ pounds pears, peeled, cored, cut into medium pieces
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, in pieces
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 large egg
sanding sugar (optional)


To make the crust: Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and combine until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water slowly while mixing, just until the dough holds together (do not over-mix). Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in two. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten, and form two discs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To make the pie: On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of the dough into a 30cm circle, brush off excess flour, and fit the dough to a 23cm pie dish (obviously mine was a bit smaller than this - I halved the recipe). Press the edges down around the inside, trim the dough to 1-1.5cm over the dish. Roll out remaining half of dough and transfer it to a baking sheet. Chill the pie shell and disk of dough. 

In a large bowl, combine the pecans, cinnamon, salt, sugar, cranberries, pears, butter, and corn starch. Mix well and transfer the mixture to the cold pie shell.

Whisk the egg with 2 teaspoons of water and brush the egg glaze around the rim of the dough. Transfer the cold disk of dough on top, press down gently, and press the top and bottom pieces of dough together, around the rim (you can either do this or do what I did and cut strips of dough to make a lattice pattern). Trim the top dough with scissors to about 1.5cm and fold it under. Crimp the edge of the pie as desired. Brush the surface of the pie with the egg wash. If going for the solid topp, make 3 slits in the top for steam to escape. Sprinkle sanding sugar over the top if desired. Freeze the pie for 30 minutes to firm up the butter and heat the oven to 200
°C, with a rack in the lower third. (I didn't freeze the pie so instead heated up the oven before I started assembling the pie - time is money!). 

Bake the pie for around 20 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown. Reduce the heat to 180
°C and continue to bake until the crust is richly golden brown, rotating as needed, for 40 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire cooling rack to cool.

Serving: Cut pie and serve warm with ice cream (this step is mandatory).

- Matilda

P.S. Basically, the facts are these: I need to stop watching television. Well, stop binge-watching it at the very least. Somehow the desire to do such things deserted me during the holidays but I am more than certain that the itch will return come semester one, i.e. today, when this post is published. Here is a public declaration and promise to myself that I will not let myself get sucked into television as I did in 2013! 

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