Monday, April 5, 2010

Caramel Pear Pie

It is a victory to be able to bake a perfectly delicious pie after two glasses of wine. But after eight it's bound to be a disaster. Don't jump to conclusions and assume that i'm a wine sponge, it's very unusual that I drink eight glasses of wine on a normal wednesday night, but this occasion was waaaayy out of the ordinary. My boss invited my Dad and I to an eight course food and wine matching dinner at Neil Perry's Sydney Rockpool restaurant, hosted by Peter Bourne The Wine Man (working at a wine magazine has excellent benefits.)

We each sat down to a place setting that looked like this...

I was a little shocked to see so many wine glasses surrounding our plate. Were we really going to be drinking this much wine? On a school night? My boss seems to do this at least twice a week so I was seriously excited to see what we were going to be indulging in. The food was matched with the wine on this occasion, rather than the wine to the food. It was so interesting tasting each dish, sipping each glass and really tasting the harmony between the two that had each been individually hand picked by Peter Bourne and matched by the Rockpool head chef. The zucchini and parmesan tart was nothing like what I was expecting. The pastry case was paper thin and impossibly crisp, filled with a thick, airy zucchini soup and topped with a parmesan (foam?) It was extraordinary. I was also served my first taste of wagyu beef tartare, which didn't taste like a bloody, raw mess at all! It was meltingly tender with a tang of sourness courtesy of the marinade. The wine slipped down seamlessly throughout each dish. There was no harsh bite from a wrong partnership of liquid and food. Everything was matched perfectly.

Anyway Dad and I stumbled home clutching our three complementary bottles of South Australian Riesling and Shiraz, and when we got home I decided to make a pie, forcing Ed to cut out star shaped cookies with the left over vanilla pastry. My sister had given me Donna Hay's recipe compendium; "Seasons" for my birthday and I had bookmarked so many pages that I couldn't resist giving something in those pages a whirl. The easter long weekend away with some friends was the perfect excuse.

After finally placing the pie in the oven at 10.30pm and heading up to bed for a "quick nap" (not quick and definitely not a nap, more of a deep wine-induced coma) before dragging myself from under the covers to take it out, I was thankful that it had all worked out. The pie is sweet, chewy and gooey. The pears make their Autumn debut oozing within a caramel bed. It's dead easy and the pastry is super quick thanks to no blind baking. Plus it looks pretty doesn't it! Warm, inviting and cosy.

Caramel Pear Pie:
Adapted, barely, from Donna Hay's "Seasons" cookbook

Serves 6-8

Basic vanilla pastry:
1 2/3 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
180g cold unsalted butter, chopped
1/3 cup iced water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the flour, sugar and baking powder in a food processor and process to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, gradually add the water and vanilla and process until the mixture comes together to form a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes before using.

Pie filling:
3 firm pears, peeled, halved and cored
2 tablespoons water (depending on how hard your pears are, the harder they are the more water you will need)
1 eggwhite, lightly beaten, for brushing
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup golden syrup
40g butter, melted
3 eggs
1/4 cup single pouring cream

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Place the pears and water in a large deep frying pan over medium heat. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes or until pears are just tender. Set aside to cool. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick. Line the base of a lightly greased 28cm shallow metal scalloped pie tin and trim the excess pastry. Gently press the edges with the back of a teaspoon and brush with eggwhite. Place on a baking tray.

Place sugar, golden syrup, butter, eggs and cream in a bowl and whisk to combine. Arrange pears in the base of the pastry shell and pour over the caramel mixture. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until just set. Allow to cool in tin. Best served immediately but is also nice cold.

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