Pear Cranberry Crumble Pie

[My apologies to Karin of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice who hosted this week's SMS recipe - golden almond fruitcake. I didn't have the ingredients on hand & didn't get around to picking them up and making the recipe. If you're interested, Karin posted the recipe on her site - you can also visit my SMS friends to see what they thought of the fruitcake.]

One of my favorite desserts in the world is a fruit crisp. I love warm, baked fruit, particularly when it’s got a sweet, crumbly topping! So, when I saw this pie in the October/November issue of Fine Cooking I knew I’d make it. It takes my love of fruit crisps one step further by adding a buttery, flaky crust to the equation. Plus, it utilizes pears, which are abundant at this time of year so it was the perfect dessert to share at Thanksgiving dinner with our friends a few weeks ago.

Pear Cranberry Crumble Pie

The pie starts with an all-butter crust, which is blind-baked before any filling is added to help avoid a soggy crust. Pie crust is still something I struggle with, but I actually had fairly good luck with this recipe. I had to add a bit more water than the recipe called for but I blame that on the dry winter air in my kitchen. The crust rolled out nicely and I must have avoided stretching it too much because it didn’t shrink when baked. I haven’t reproduced the entire recipe here but have included the link to the recipe on the Fine Cooking site below if you’d like to give it a shot.

The recipe as written called for pears and dried cherries in the filling but I decided to substitute dried cranberries for the cherries because that’s what I had on hand. The most time consuming part of making the filling is peeling and chopping the pears; after that it’s just a matter of tossing the pears with lemon juice, adding a sugar/spice mixture to them and stirring in the cranberries. Be forewarned – there is a TON of filling! You will definitely have to mound it in the pie plate. It bakes down quite a bit so the pie just has a nice domed shape when it’s removed from the oven. Because of the mound of filling you do have to carefully apply the streusel topping and press it down or else it tends to fall off.

Pear Cranberry Crumble Pie

Your hard work will pay off because this pie is terrific! The spices are subtle so the pears really are the star of the show. I liked the contrast (both in color and flavor) provided by the cranberries a lot too. Best of all, my crust was flaky and gorgeous – a rare occurrence for sure around here :) Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. Onward to the Christmas season!

Fresh Pear Pie with Dried Cranberries & Brown Sugar Streusel
from Fine Cooking, October/November 2009 (also available online here)

Streusel
4 1/2 oz (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (8 tablespoons, 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

3 lb. ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears (5 or 6 medium), peeled and cored, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges and then crosswise into 1/2-inch slices (about 7 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/8 oz (1/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup dried tart cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 blind-baked All-Butter Piecrust

Position a rack in the center of the oven, set a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 350 F.

To Make the Streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, blend the butter into the flour mixture. The mixture will be moist. Set aside.

To Make the Filling: In a large bowl, toss the pears with the lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the sugar mixture to the pears and toss well to combine. Stir in the cranberries.

Mound the filling into the piecrust. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the pear mixture, pressing the streusel between your fingers into small lumps as you sprinkle.

Put the pie on the heated baking sheet and bake until the pastry is golden-brown and the filling is bubbly and thickened at the edges, 55 to 65 minutes. Rotate the pie halfway through baking, and if the pastry or streusel browns before the filling has thickened, loosely cover the top or edges of the pie as needed with a pie shield or a sheet of aluminum foil.

Transfer to a rack and cool completely before serving.

The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.