It was my second pie. And my third, fourth, and fifth. Maybe sixth too, I can't remember. And I was never even really happy with it.
I didn't know all the things I know now. I believed that I couldn't par bake with a top crust. I had never even heard of using tapioca as a thickener. I simply didn't know how to prevent a soggy bottom.
To top it off, all the recipes I found were for “apple-tasting” pear pie. And it didn't make much sense to me to try so hard to make a pear pie if it was just going to taste like apple, which came out better with a lot less effort if I just used apples. So I hit a point where I couldn't improve it anymore and moved on.
But in a year of pie baking I had learned a lot. So I thought about trying again this year. I was pretty sure I knew how to get it to thicken up right this time. But I put it off for awhile because it still seemed pretty silly to put so much effort into a pear pie if it was just going to taste like apple.
I looked thru different recipes but they all seemed to be similar to the first one I tried or be combination pies that included a lot of other things I expected might overpower the pears and what I wanted was a pear pie that tasted like pear.
Finally, it dawned on me that the reason so many pear pies taste like apple is because they are flavored just like an apple pie. Cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon, and butter. I decided it would be better to make a pie that was seasoned to bring out and accent the pear flavor, instead of overpowering it. So I thought probably just cinnamon and vanilla would be best.
(This attempt was pretty much futile. I knew I needed to thicken this pie with tapioca, but I was out and feeling too lazy to go get it, so I went without. Talk about setting yourself up.)
6 cups Bosc pears, peeled and sliced (about 6 pears)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
Mix together sugar, cinnamon, flour. Toss with pear slices. Sprinkle vanilla over top, and mix to better combine the flavor.
Roll-out and par bake bottom crust until inside starts to turn golden.
Fill with pear mixture.
Cover with top crust.
Bake at 425 for 20 min, then lower to 375 and continue baking until thick and bubbly.
Results: I could tell during the baking process that the filling was not thickening as much as I had hoped, and the final product did have a soggier-then-desirable bottom crust. The filling wasn't too loose and liquidy though.
On the bright side, I was pretty happy with the flavor. It certainly tasted like pear.
Attempt #2 – Final version
6 cups peeled and cubed Bosc pear (about 6 pears) (peeling is optional)
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp instant tapioca
1 Tbsp flour
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Milk to glaze top crust
Roll out bottom crust and line pie plate. Refrigerate for 15 min before baking.
Poke holes throughout crust with a fork. Line with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake at 375 for 15 min. Remove foil and weights, continue baking until the inside starts to turn golden.
Meanwhile, toss pear cubes with tapioca, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and vanilla. I prefer cubes to slices when baking with tapioca because the pearls will blend in better then it does with slices. Let the mixture sit for at least 15min before baking to soften the tapioca.
This much sugar produces a mildly sweet pie. If you prefer a sweeter pie, use a whole cup.
Fill par baked crust with pear mixture. It's best to work quickly once fruit is in the crust so it stays crisp.
Roll out top crust.
I find a good strategy for when you want to par bake the bottom but still have a top crust is to cut out shapes and then lay them decoratively over the filling. This method doesn't require sealing the two crust halves at the edge.
In this case I cut out circles. Placed them on a plate to re-chill in the fridge before covering the pie; this makes them easier to work with.
I arranged the circles in a decorative pattern over the fruit, sealing overlapping edges with a little milk.
Brush milk over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. (I've really been starting to get fancy, huh).
Make decorative venting slits in top.
Bake at 425 degrees on the bottom oven rack for 20 min. Lower to 375 and continue baking until filling is thick and bubbling, about 30 more min.
This pie came out fabulous. The filling was perfectly thickened and the bottom crust didn't get soggy. I made some minor adjustment to the filling spices and I was happy with the flavor. I really love how it actually tastes like pears!