Have you ever been in a bakery and been awed by the beautiful displays of breads, cakes and pastries? Of course you have. You should be. The baker has spent years perfecting his craft because presentation is a big part of the delight we get from a fancy dessert.
This week’s technical challenge from the Great British Baking Show was to turn a simple Pear Pie into a pear sculpture. Like this:
But having made it, I would never do it again. There is an easier way which results in a delicious handheld pie: crisp, flaky puff pastry, delicate poached pear and a luscious almond cream. The pie won’t take forever to make or frustrate you as you try to wrap a sticky, slippery pear in strips of puff pastry!
There are three parts to this.
- Puff pastry
- Poached Pears
- Almond Cream
Everything can be made in advance so you can spread the work out over a day or two if you need to.
I bought mine. For the original wrapped pears I made rough puff pastry but when I decided to make it user-friendly I went straight to the store. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight and remove it about ten minutes before you are going to use it. One package of puff pastry is enough for six hand pies
The pears need to be somewhat firm. Too ripe and they won’t hold their shape. Too firm and they won’t poach well. Each pear will make two pies.
Put sugar, dry rose wine, water, a vanilla bean and some lemon zest in a medium pot and bring it to a boil.
Peel the pears and simmer gently in the syrup until soft to the touch of a fork.
Once done, cut them in half, cut out the core and fill the cavity with a yummy almond cream.
The pears are placed on a pastry circle,
brushed with some of the poaching syrup and topped with some more pastry.
If you like you can cut some decorative shapes out of the remaining pastry and use them to make leaf shapes.
Bake it until it is golden brown.
Just as good (if not better) and a whole lot easier!
PEAR AND ALMOND HAND PIES
For the pastry
- 2 sheets commercial puff pastry 1 box
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp cream
- Demerara sugar
For the Pears
- 3 just ripe pears
- 1 1/3 c sugar
- 2 c dry rose wine
- 1 vanilla bean split in half
- 1 lemon peel zest only
- 1 ¾ cup water
For the almond cream
- 4 oz almond paste see note
- ¼ butter softened
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 2 eggs ½ tsp almond extract
- 3 tbsp flour
Poach the Pears
- Put the sugar, wine, vanilla bean, lemon zest and water in a medium-large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and boil for 3 minutes. Add the pears and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes until a fork will easily pierce the pears.
- Remove the pears and let cool. Cut the pears in half lengthwise and use a melon baller or round teaspoon to cut out the seed core of the pear. Use a knife to remove the stem on top and bottom.
- Strain the poaching syrup and return to the pan. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly until the syrup has reduced by half and is thickened and sticky. Cool.
- Pears can be prepared the day before. After coring the pears, store them in the unreduced syrup in the refrigerator.
Make the Almond Cream
- Beat together the butter, almond paste and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the almond extract. Add the flour, one tablespoon at a time. Beat 1-2 minutes longer until mixture is thick.
- Almond cream can be made a day or two before.
Assemble the Pies
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove the puff pastry from the refrigerator and let soften for 10 minutes until it unfolds easily. On a lightly floured board, roll out one sheet of pastry to ¼” thick. Cut six circles about 2” wider in diameter than your pears. Place the circles on the prepared pan and brush lightly with the poaching syrup.
- Fill the cavities of the poached pears with a teaspoon or more of the almond cream. Place the pears cut side down on the pastry circles.
- Roll out the second sheet of pastry and cut 6 more circles about 1” large in diameter than the first circles.
- Brush the pear backs with the syrup and place the larger circles over each pear half. Stretch as needed to cover and seal the pastry seams with a fork.
- Cut 12 small leaves (optional) out of the remaining pastry. Brush the backs of the leaves and place on top of the pear pies.
- Mix the egg and cream together and brush over the tops of the pies. Sprinkle with a little Demerara sugar.
- Bake the pies in the center of oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and brown.
Note: Almond paste can usually be found in the baking section of the store. It is easy to make if you can’t find it. This is the recipe I used: Easy Almond Paste from thespruceeats.com