There are more troubles yet on the horizon (and I’m not even talking about the physical horror of moving), but we keep telling ourselves that this time next month we’ll be lounging around on cardboard boxes in our very own¹ backyard. And that goes a lot towards maintaining sanity, let me tell you. In the meantime, there’s Victory Pie.
That would be my mom’s pear and almond pie, an almost-cake, almost-custard torte that always seems like its going to fail but always works out in the end – a suitable metaphor for our first-world dramas.
The crust is nothing more than a basic sugar cookie dough, and the frosting-like texture requires it to be smeared into place rather than rolled or pressed. I personally prefer to use my fingers rather than a utensil, patting up the sides and using a final swoop around the top edge to lightly clean it up. The only part that needs care is the inner corner – it can get too thick very easily, making that edge-end bite of the finished pie a bit dry and doughy.
The filling couldn’t be much easier, particularly if you have a food processor. But the other twist of the recipe is that my mom always used canned pears, the highest quality you can find (lately, that would be Trader Joe’s).
It bakes until set like a custard. The fragrance of it is painful, like a giant almond cookie. Which it is, I guess.
The trick with cutting it is to slice down the center of each pear so that everyone gets an exposed piece. The pie is much, much better if allowed to sit at room temperature for a few hours so that the crust softens a little and the pear weeps a little and every ingredient has a chance to share its feelings with the other ingredients and before long becomes a hippie commune of flavor.
I used to love this pie when I was younger, but these days I find it a little too sweet and one-note. I still love it, but with more of an edge of nostalgia than I used to have. On the other hand, the Viking finds the pie to be pure, unadulterated ambrosia. To reflect these tastes, the recipe has some options for tweaking the flavors.
it seems a little tricky, but it’s an easy and impressive dessert to make. the only finicky part is that you must use a 10″ pie or tart pan – any smaller and the pie will be too thick and the crust will overbrown before the middle sets. if you don’t have a 10″ pan, don’t fear – set aside a small quantity of both the crust and the filling and make a little single-serving pie on the side. remember, then, to make the main pie shallower in the pan.
for the crust:
1 1/4 C flour
3/4 C confectioners sugar
5.5 oz (1 stick plus 3 Tbsp) butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
for the almond filling:
4 oz (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 C sugar (this can be reduced to 1/3 C)
4.5 oz almond paste/marzipan (I highly recommend Stramondo)
3 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 – 8 canned pear halves (usually 2-3 cans of pears or 1 TJ’s jar)
for alternate pears:
3 large, ripe but firm Bosc pears
the juice of one lemon
(also, consider adding flavoring agents like orange or lemon peel, earl gray tea, chai spices or anything else that would go nicely with almond)
- First, if you want the pears to be less sweet or do not like the idea of using canned pears, you can poach your own in a little bit of water and lemon juice. Peel and cut the pears in half and then do your best to core them out. A spoon works well if the knifework seems scary to you. In medium saucepan, fill halfway with water and add the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, add the pears (adding more water if there isn’t enough to cover them), and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, taking care to gently push the pears around to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat, drain, and set out on paper towels to cool while you make the rest of the pie.
- Heat oven to 350°.
- To make the crust, place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until it is a smooth dough the texture of thick frosting. If you do not have a processor, a hand-blender or stand mixer works just fine. (Don’t clean the processor, just set it aside.)
- Smear the dough into a 10″ pie or tart pan, using your fingers to evenly spread around the edges. If it seems way too sticky and goopy and you’re going nuts, refrigerate the whole thing for about 10 minutes (or freeze for 5) and then try again.
- In the same dirty food processor bowl (or a blender, if you do not have a processor), add these ingredients for the filling: the butter, the sugar and the marzipan cut or broken into smaller pieces. Blitz until smooth. This may take a little while since the marzipan will fight it, but keep going until it’s all broken down. Then add the remaining filling ingredients and blitz until just mixed.
- In the bottom of the pie, pour about 1/3 of the filling and shake and tilt to evenly spread. Over this filling, place the pears cut side down in a circle, butt ends toward the edge of the pie, necks towards the center. Pour the rest of the filling around them, using a spoon to encourage the filling to settle evenly.
- Bake in middle of oven for 35-60 minutes, depending on your oven. Place a tinfoil-covered baking sheet in the rack under your pie because sometimes the butter oil bubbles out and drips from the pie which is very smoky and very hard to clean from the bottom of your oven. When the pie is done, the middle may not brown even though the filling is set, so keep testing the middle with a sharp knife tip – it will be done when the knife leaves a clear slit in the middle with no filling flowing back in to the cut (a little filling may stick to the knife, but not a lot).
- If you want the middle nicely browned, place pie under the broiler for ABOUT ONE MINUTE, NEVER TAKING YOUR EYES FROM IT.
- Allow to cool at room temperature before serving. Will be best if left for 5 or 6 hours before serving.
- Because of the nature of this pie, it should really be eaten up in 24 hours. Otherwise, it should be refrigerated and won’t be nearly as tasty.
¹ And of course by “very own” I mean “rental”.October 12th, 2010 | Make It So