pear and gruyère hand pies

Day #12 of 2014 is coming to a close, and I can safely say that I’ve thrown out most of my resolutions. Much of this was a result of list-making – a top OCD tendency of mine, below only washing dishes immediately after I’ve cooked with/eaten in/accidentally touched them – and seeing in print the things that I will not accomplish. Which, you know, I’d usually be upset about, but certain friends have been urging me to be less like April Ludgate and more like a normal, cheerful human being. Not in so many words, of course, but I can tell.

(I mostly blame the pending 2-year hiatus following 4.5 hours of new Sherlock, which, honestly, is just criminal and actively ruining my life.)

Pear_Pies3

As far as the lists go, I wrote out books that I’ve been in the middle of since the start of college (that would be twelve), and those that I want to finish by the year’s end (an additional twenty). Given that this list includes Infinite Jest, it was a lost cause from the start. But Roods was also quick to point out that I seem to read books I feel like I should read, to further perpetuate an image of being a well-rounded, learned individual. Which is kind of true, I guess. I mean, I’m not reading Ayn Rand for my own health. And anyway, some would probably argue that The Fountainhead is a direct contradiction of any resolution to be more optimistic about humanity.

Early on, I also thought I would do a juice cleanse. A real, proper juice cleanse, which would have involved paying for some still-overpriced Groupon deal to have boxes of seaweed water delivered to my door step. And then I realized that a) I don’t have the money to spend on things that would only add to my depressive state of being, and b) why the everloving frak would someone do a juice cleanse?

Needless to say, I decided not to. I then remembered that I’d also previously decided that New Years is underwhelming and that resolutions are an excuse for further procrastination, so I feel distinctly not guilty about it.

Instead, I baked some pies.

Pear_Pies2

The start of 2014 hasn’t been all bad, of course. Language courses begin tomorrow, so I’ve been approaching my first two weeks of the year as a sort of vacation. It makes me feel as though I’m back in uni, and therefore justifies my decision to spend all of my free time watching television.

(Because, you know, what else does a student do while on break.)

Of course, most of this has consisted of Sherlock on loop. At a whopping 9 episodes over a 4-year period, it feels like a second Christmas. I’ve also decided to resolutely deny the inevitable, aforementioned hiatus, because acknowleding it would be a rather unhelpful step toward my transformation into a more cheerful person.

But I’ve also recently gotten into a quirky little show called Pushing Daisies, which has been equal parts charming (it’s like a Disney fairy tale for adults) and incredibly depressing (it was canceled after 2 seasons, and I’m slowly realizing that I really need to select less fleeting series to become emotionally invested in). Primarily, it centers on a 6-foot-4 pie maker named Ned and his aggressively non-physical relationship with his once-dead childhood sweetheart, Chuck. The two work in a bakery called the Pie Hole with Kristin Chenoweth and a very sarcastic Chi McBride, and the four are almost killed/maimed/thrown in jail on an episodic basis.

Among other things, Chuck assists Ned with the pie-baking, though secretly ships a weekly box to her aunts (who think she is dead), laced with homeopathic antidepressants (because they are spinsters).

I enjoy the show for many reasons. One, Ned is played by Lee Pace, and his charming smile warms the coldness of my English basement. Two, Lee Pace bakes pies, which causes me to salivate on numerous accounts. Also, as a single person and future spinster, I can very much understand the woes of having non-physical relationships and also not wanting to leave the house. On the whole, it is a very relatable show, minus the ‘bringing dead people back to life’ bit.

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Anyway, back to the pies. All are stunningly pretty and rustic and make me ravenous, but I find Chuck’s aunts’ ‘happy pies’ most interesting – pear with gruyère cheese baked into the crusts, loaded with extra “vanilla” (see: homeopathic antidepressants). Knowing that cheese is often a pairing of choice for adventurous pie-bakers (brie on the safer side, but I’ve seen many a recipe for apple pies with cheddar cheese crusts), I’ve always been highly skeptical. But, you know, it’s 2014 and Sherlock is back/already over and the weather has been shit and I just felt like trying something crazy. And luckily, crazy paid off in a big way.

I baked a few of these – about 8 in total – and went with hand pies mostly because I am lacking a pie pan here. I kept the addition of gruyère a secret from Roods, and she was quite surprised when I made it known. Also, the revelation did not stop her from finishing it off, so I’m counting it as a roaring success.

The facts are these: the gruyère is incredibly subtle, but pleasantly lovely when it hits the tongue. I spent most of the baking time slicing off pieces of gruyère to eat alongside the leftover pear filling as it was, and the marriage of flavors is really quite wonderful. I think in future I’ll grate some extra to sprinkle on top of the crimped pies before I toss them in the oven. Lucky for me there are a few left, so at least I’ll be able to start tomorrow morning off with a smile to accompany my total Sherlock-having-ended denial.

As a side note: my pies are distinctly not laced with homeopathic antidepressants, but they do the job pretty damn well.

Pear_Pies

Pear and Gruyère Hand Pies
Inspired by Charlotte “Chuck” Charles
Loosely adapted from an edible mosaic and The Rice and Spice Cupboard
Yields 8-10 hand pies

Ingredients for the gruyère pie crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 stick butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 oz grated gruyère cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing
  • few tablespoons granulated sugar, for dusting

Ingredients for the pear filling:

  • 4 medium-sized pears, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • few shakes of nutmeg
  • few drops of vanilla

Method to prepare pie crust:

Mix flour, sugar, and cheese until uniformly blended. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter, or throw all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the dough begins to take shape. Add cold water, a little bit at a time, until dough comes together fully. (You may not need to use all of the water.)

Roll dough together into two discs. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate until using.

Method to prepare filling and pie:

Place chopped pears, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium-high flame. Stir and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add in spices and stir. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Place cooked pears in a sieve over a bowl and let excess water drain until pears are room temperature. Reserve the syrup for drizzling later, or for your own preferred use.

Preheat oven to 375F, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove the dough from fridge. Place one disk between two pieces of cling-film (one on bottom and one on top) and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thickness. Cut circles of dough using a 4″ cookie cutter. Place a tablespoon worth of the pie filling in the center of each disc. Fold discs in half and pinch the sides, and use a fork to crimp the edges. Brush the tops of the pies with a bit of the beaten egg, and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake pies for 25-28 minutes, until tops are golden-brown. Allow pies to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Notes:

  • For one double-crust pie, double the pie crust recipe. As is, pie crust yields enough dough for one single-crust 8-inch pie.
  • I had quite a lot of leftover pear filling after using up my dough. Any leftover fruit freezes well, or makes a lovely topping over plain yogurt or pound cake.
  • The hand pies are not very sweet, and as a result give off a lovely, Parisian aura of sophistication. However, they are really wonderful when a given a few drizzles of honey, or any leftover syrup from cooking the pears.
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