You know what I love about fall? Almost everything. I love how crisp the mornings feel and how cozy evenings are. I love the sound of leaves crunching beneath my boots (yes, I break out the boots in LA) and the way the squirrels scurry with urgency, like they're on a mission to stockpile their fall bounty. I revel in the fact that pie season is finally here, and turning on the oven is a welcome activity instead of one that is accompanied by lots of words that start with F and S and sometimes what the F and holy F'ing S. Basically, fall is bliss. EXCEPT. There's always an except or but right? Except for the fact that fall has stolen the last few hours of daylight. And I NEED those extra couple of hours. The minute the sun goes down, I'm done for the day. Yup, I'm packing up whatever I was working on and whatever else was planned is now being pushed to tomorrow. Because guys, I need the light in order to function like a productive human person. The minute the sun goes down, it's cozy time. Fuzzy socks and sweats come out and I'm ready to cozy up to Homeland, some mac and cheese, and a glass of Chablis or maybe Beaujolais. Basically, I'm calling the day at 4 o'clock now. However, maybe that should actually be added to the love list...
Anyway, somewhere in there I was getting to pie season. And pie season is one of the best parts of fall. It really doesn't get much better than that big, beautiful smell of butter, sugar, and spices baking together to create that magical, almost ethereal scent that can't be bottle or replicated. Ok, that's not true, if you were to pair that scent with a fantasy football win, that'd be better. But that's kinda like IT right. Like THE ultimate day. But hey, baking a pie with or without that fantasy win is pretty epic, so let's stick to that. I wanted to talk about "pie flair" as my friend Billy so aptly named it. Woven lattice top pies look like you worked really, really hard on them. Even when you didn't. And it's really easy to add a little flair to them by varying the width of the strips. Or adding a little side braid, which is honestly as easy as braiding three thin strands of pie dough together then weaving that strand in like you would any other strip.
If you're rolling your eyes right now because I used the words easy and lattice together, stop. Let's talk about it. Here's the trick, you need to start slightly off center, laying a strip vertically, and follow that with a second strip laid perpendicular (aka put that sucker down in the middle, horizontally) to that first vertical strip. Your third strip then is placed vertically, next to the first and over the second. Look down below if I just confused the heck out of you. Sometimes words are just a bunch of letters screwed together and often don't come together the way we'd (I'd) like. Did you look? Ok, good. Cause here comes the part where you need to pay attention. Take that second strip, the one that's laying perpendicular (aka horizontal) to the first and third strip and lift it up and fold it over to allow for a fourth strip to be laid next to the third strip and under that second strip. Yup, lay your fourth strip vertically, right next to the third strip and once you've placed it, fold the second strip back down and over that fourth strip. *Light bulb* moment! It's really that easy! And now you're on your way to weaving the most beautiful lattice pie, ever. Basically, you'll finish off laying all your vertical strips and then weave in the horizontals!! And by varying the size and adding in your flair details like braids and such, you've just made the prettiest pie in all the lands. Happy Pie Day (ok, it's not really pie day but every day in fall is kinda like pie day)!
Nutmeg & Pear Pie
Crust from The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes one 9-inch pie
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1 c. (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 c. cold water
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 c. ice
- 8-9 small pears, (shouldn't be very ripe) (around 5 c., sliced), peeled and thinly sliced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp. allspice
- 2-3 drops blackstrap molasses bitters, or your preferred bitters
- 1 Tbsp. bourbon
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. water
- Turbinado or raw sugar, for sprinkling
- 9-inch pie pan
- Stand mixer
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Rolling pin
- Paring knife
- Baking sheet lined w/parchment and baking sheet lined w/foil
- Plastic wrap
- Pastry brush
- Wire cooling racks
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon together on low.
- Add the butter pieces and turn speed up to medium-low.
- Mix until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
- Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix on low. Add an additional tablespoon or two, one at a time until the dough looks shaggy and begins to come together. Turn off mixer and remove bowl. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring dough together with your hands, squeezing and pinching with your fingertips as necessary. Divide the dough in half and shape into two flat discs. Wrap the discs tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. The dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.
ASSEMBLY AND FILLING
- Preheat oven to 425 °F and position baking racks in the middle and bottom of the oven.
- Toss pear slices in lemon juice, and sprinkle granulated sugar over slices. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- Once dough has chilled, remove one disc from fridge and let rest and warm up for 5 to 10 minutes. Unwrap the first disc and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly sprinkle the top of the disc with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll from center out, lifting and turning the pie dough a quarter turn each time you roll. Roll the dough until it's about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick (you can place your upside down pie pan on it to check the size--you're aiming for 2-3 extra inches).
- Transfer dough to pie pan by folding it half then in quarters and then moving it to the top left quarter of your pie pan and unfolding it. When the dough is in the pan, press it firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough, leaving about 1/2-inch overhang over the rim. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator while rolling out second disc.
- Flour your surface again and roll the second disc of dough into 12 to 13 inch circle. Use a sharp paring knife and ruler to cut strips. (Strips can be any width you want and can vary in widths if you'd like.) Transfer strips to a parchment lined baking sheet, and place in the fridge to chill while you mix the filling together.
- Drain liquid from pear mixture, then add brown sugar, flour, salt, spices, bitters, and bourbon. Toss together with your hands.
- Transfer filling into chilled pie crust lined pan, packing it somewhat tightly, so that the crust does not sink in while baking.
- Remove strips from fridge and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Weave strips into a lattice top (refer to instruction above and visual cues above). Trim strips to fit the pan and roll bottom crust over, pressing and crimping to form a seal.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1 large egg and 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush the crust with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place on foil lined sheet and transfer to lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 375 °F and move pie and sheet to middle rack to back for 25 to 30 more minutes, or until the pears are soft (test with a toothpick). You'll be able to tell if the pie is done because the filling will be bubbling and the crust will be golden brown. If edges are browning too quickly, gently and loosely cover with foil.
- Cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes to an hour before serving.
- Serve (with ice cream or whipped cream) and enjoy!