When I told folks that I was moving to New York City, I usually got two reactions. The first, usually from friends who either lived in New York or had spent a significant amount of time there, was one of disdain and/or confusion. "Really?" the current residents asked, crossing their arms as if to defend the territory I was clearly about to usurp on. "Why?" The former residents usually smirked at me. "Good luck," they wrinkled their noses, before detailing the many, many reasons why they decided to leave the city, usually involving some combination of steep rents, smelly garbage, extreme weather, and the sight of too many people pooping their pants in public.
The second group, however, was far kinder. Usually these consisted of friends who had visited for a handful of days, or had never been but only seen experienced it through books, TV shows, and movies. "Oooh, you should get a loft like the one in Friends!" one of my acquaintances exclaimed, gleefully oblivious to the very scary reality that is the New York real estate market. Several of these friends promised to visit, forwarding me lists like "The Best Rooftop Bars in New York City" with the words "LET'S GO!" I imagine they saw me traipsing around the city in the style of Sex and the City, running in heels to different events every night with an iPhone in one hand and a cupcake in the other.
But here's the dirty truth: it's all of those things, yet none of those things.
Because mostly it's boring.
Okay, okay, before you guys get all up in arms about me saying that New York City is boring, it's not. Not really. There's a lot to do here. There are so many restaurants, museums, shows, and for the first few months I got here, it definitely seemed that I was going to an event — not a party, but an event — every night.
The reality of New York is that it's somewhere between the two camps of what I described above: there's the glamor, the glitz, and the celebrity alongside the grit and the grime. Because sure, there are comped dinners at Eater 38 restaurants, bike rides along the glittering Manhattan skyline, and random celebrity sightings at Equinox. But there's also getting yelled at by taxi drivers, standing in line in heels for a shitty table in a VERY loud restaurant, and having to haul bags of groceries on the crowded L-train during rush hour. And after several months of juggling work, chores, and events alongside the daily grit of New York City, I've retreated back to my shell, where the jars of flour and sugar are very clean and organized and nobody is yelling or shrieking for any random reason. Days are now spent working, Netflixing, sleeping, and maybe leaving my apartment for an event once a week. IF I feel like it.
So it's me. I'M boring. But I'm okay with that.
This pie is the tenth installment in my #humhipieamonth series (the one where I'm baking a pie a month — you can read about the origin of the project over on this sour cranberry pie recipe). One of the hardest parts about moving out east has been getting used to what produce comes into season and for how long. In California, stone fruits would still be in abundance! In New York, they're long gone and we're in the heart of apples and pears season. To get into the fall spirit, I sweetened this pear pie with maple syrup and brown sugar. I used a cream cheese crust, which added a nice tangy flavor to compliment the maple flavor. Enjoy!
Some baker's notes:
- For this crust, I used Rose Levy Bereanbaum's cream cheese pie crust from The Baking Bible. According to this Food52 article, the cream cheese in the crust makes a tender, flaky, and super forgiving crust. In addition to the cream cheese, it also uses a combination of actual cream and vinegar for the liquid, with the cream serving to tenderize the crust and the vinegar to relax the gluten formation (the Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie crust recipe also uses this trick). There's also a touch of baking powder, which I think helps keep the pie from shrinking. You can read the rest of her notes about the recipe over on Epicurious. I personally didn't find the cream cheese any more forgiving than a lard crust, but I did like the flavor that it brought to the pie. It did come out slightly paler than my usual lard and/or butter crusts, so if you want a deep golden color, I recommend using an all egg-yolk egg wash.
- In this recipe, I use two somewhat specialty ingredients — King Arthur Flour chai spice mix, and dark maple syrup. The chai spice mix is easily replaceable with any of your favorite fall/pumpkin pie spices; if you really need guidelines for flavor ratios, I recommend checking out this pear pie with crème fraîche caramel recipe from earlier this year. As for the maple syrup, maple syrup used to come in grades (A, B, and C) but merged together last year — you want the darkest maple syrup that you can find (formerly known as grades B or C).
(pie crust adapted from The Baking Bible, filling by yours truly)
For the Cream Cheese Crust:
- 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 1/2 ounces very cold full-fat cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks // 6 ounces) frozen unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 1/2 pounds firm but ripe pears
- 1/4 cup (1.85 ounces) dark brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) cornstarch
- 1 heaping teaspoon King Arthur Flour chai spice mix (see baker's notes — in a pinch, use a combination of your favorite pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice!)
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) dark maple syrup (see baker's notes)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- demarara (or other coarse) sugar, for sprinkling
- Combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse for a few seconds to mix well. Add 4 1/2 ounces cream cheese and process for about 20 seconds; the mixture should resemble coarse meal. Add 3/4 cup frozen butter cubes and pulse just until none of them is larger than a pea. Add 3 tablespoons heavy cream and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar; pulse to process the mixture into pea-size pieces. Divide the mixture in half and transfer to 2 separate 1-gallon resealable plastic food storage bags.
- Working with one bag at a time and leaving it unsealed, knead the mixture through the bag by pressing with the heel of your hand to help the dough come together. Remove the dough from the bag and knead it lightly just until it is slightly stretchy when pulled. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.
- When ready to make a pie, remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator. Allow it to sit for up to 10 minutes, if necessary, to become pliable enough to roll.
- Cover the work surface with a large pastry cloth and lightly dust with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to a circle about 1/8 inch thick by 12 inches in diameter. The dough should be smooth and cool. Fold it carefully in half, then again into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Unfold the dough and trim the border just short of the edge of the plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.
- Next, make the lattice top. Roll out the other disk into a 12-inch circle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Cut into strips. Transfer the strips to a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
- Peel and core 2 1/2 pounds of pears and slice them into 1/4-inch slices. Transfer the slices to a large bowl along with 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon King Arthur Flour chai spice mix. Stir gently to combine.
- Add half the pears to the pie shell, and drizzle 1/4 cup of the maple syrup over the top, then add the remaining pears. Drizzle the remaining caramel on top. Lay out the prepared pie dough strips for the lattice and carefully weave a lattice. Trim off any excess lattice too long for the pie plate and fold the edges of the bottom crust up and over the lattice strips. Crimp the edges together. Slide the whole pie into the freezer until the crust is very firm, about 15 minutes, before baking.
- In the meantime, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
- When the pie dough is firm, it's ready to be baked. Beat 1 large egg and 1 teaspoon in a small bowl, then use a pastry brush to brush the top of the pie with egg wash. Sprinkle the egg wash with demarara sugar.
- Bake the pie until it is deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, about 1 hour. If the crust begins to burn before the filling bubbles, tent it with aluminum foil. Cool on a wire rack slightly before serving. The pie is best the day it's made.