Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pear, Brandy, & Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Slab Pie

I saved the best pie for last, of course.  It doesn't need much explanation.  Butter gets browned with a vanilla bean.  This vanilla scented brown butter gets tossed with pears, brown sugar, and some brandy.  This boozey and sweet pear mixture gets enveloped in between layers of rich, buttery, flaky pie crust.  There's no way a pie with this kind of filling and this crust could be anything short of delicious!

I'm keeping this a short, picture filled post because as always, I'm running late on all the things I have to do in preparation for tomorrow.  I'm in charge of bringing dessert, and I don't even have my dessert options finalized yet!  I do know that I'm definitely bringing a Pumpkin and Maple Bundt Cake, and an apple version of this slab pie, but aside from that, I'm not exactly sure what I'm making.  Cookie tray perhaps?  Cream Puffs?  I'll have to get back to doing some more thinking.  On top of all that, today is my dad's birthday, so I've also been busy baking up a couple of his favorite loaves of bread.  Busy busy day I've been having!

This pear pie is such a great alternative to traditional apple pie.  There's nothing wrong with apple pie, but sometimes it's nice to break the mold and do something a little more unexpected.  Pears have such a nice mellow flavor, and when paired with a little brandy and vanilla bean brown butter, you just cannot go wrong. This slab pie is really simple to make once you have your dough mixed up, as the other remaining steps are to just mix together the filling ingredients in a bowl and pour them into the rolled out pie crust.  So simple!

I love a good slab pie because there of the crust to filling ratio.  There's so much more crust in every single bite! This is the perfect pie for crust-lovers, and because the pie is really just a large rectangle, you can easily get double the servings of pie when compared to a traditional 9-inch round pie, making it the ideal pie for feeding large crowds on Thanksgiving.  

I promised to leave this post short on words, and I'm keeping to my promise.  I'm sure everyone, including myself, has a lot to do before tomorrow's big meal!  Make sure you don't eat too much turkey and stuffing, because you have to save room for dessert!  Enjoy the holiday and spend time with those you love.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Pear, Brandy, and Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Slab Pie
pie crust recipe from Martha Stewart


For the Pie Crust

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
3/4 cup ice water (approximately)

For the Pear Filling

1 vanilla bean
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

8 cups diced pears (I used Bartlett pears)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons brandy
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
splash lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream
coarse sugar (for sprinkling)


Begin by preparing the pie crust.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in the bottom of a large, wide bowl.  Using a pastry blender, work the very cold butter into the flour until it begins to form crumbles that are the size of small peas.  Add 1/4 cup water and begin to combine the dough together with a rubber spatula, mixing until a shaggy mass of dough forms.  You will need to add more ice water, but do so a tablespoon at a time, adding only enough water to bring the dough together.  Use your hands to bring the dough together, just until the dough is able to form a ball.  Try not to overwork the dough.  Roughly divide the dough in half (ideally, one portion will be slightly larger than the other).  Shape each half into a log and flatten slightly, and then tightly wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.  If all this is freaking you out, or you just want a more detailed explanation, check out this post!

To prepare the filling, begin by splitting the vanilla bean down the middle, and scrape the seeds into a saucepan or skillet.  Add the butter and vanilla bean pod, and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, so that the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty scent.  Remove the butter from the heat once it is a deep brown, taking care not to burn it.  Discard the pod, and allow the brown butter to cool slightly. 

In a large bowl, combine the diced pears, cornstarch, brandy, brown sugar, granulated sugar, splash of lemon juice, and the cooled vanilla brown butter.  Stir together, and set aside.  

To assemble the pie, begin by lining a 15x10-inch sheet pan with waxed paper.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the larger dough portion into an 18x13-inch rectangle.  This can be kind of annoying, because it's so big, but try to work as quickly as you can to keep the dough cold, and use just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your work surface.  Transfer the dough to the prepared sheet pan, and gently drape some of the overhang in towards the pan so that it fills the inner corners and edges. Trim any remaining overhang to about 3/4 inch. 

Pour the pear mixture into the pan and spread evenly.  

Roll out the remaining dough into a 16x11-inch rectangle, and drape over the filling.  Fold the overhang from the bottom crust over the edges of the top crust, press to seal them together, and crimp with a fork.  Cut a few slits into the top of the pie to allow for ventilation as the pie cooks.  Brush the top of the pie with heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  While the oven is preheating, place the finished pie in the fridge to chill.  Bake the pie for 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and allow to cool for several hours until cool enough to slice.  Serve slightly warm with ice cream, and enjoy!

Makes 1 15x10-inch pie, or about 18 servings


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