How good was Stein's pie? (Plus, an Apple/Pear Galette recipe)

Nov 30, 2011

I was so proud of my brilliant Thanksgiving pecan pie innovation.  And then I learned the awful truth.

My big idea:  Use walnuts instead of  pecans. 

The walnuts are way cheaper and their slight bitterness would balance the cloying sweetness of the brown sugar and corn syrup filling.  It worked beautifully, except as it turned out I didn't invent it after all.

Not so new after all

One of our guests, Trace, who's from North Carolina pointed out that they've been making that exact pie down in Dixie for many a year. 

The moment she told me, I thought of the time in college when I showed our fencing coach – the terminally cool Sicilian, Maestro Saro LaRocca – a new move I'd "invented." He took a drag on his ivory cigarette holder and pointed out "Atsa nice but you're three hundred years-a too late."

Now for the pie

Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson, my Food for Thought pard, recently took a  pie making class from Barbara Schwartz, an OB/GYN who got tired of taking buns from the oven and started putting pies in instead. Hear some of the tips she got there by clicking "listen" above.

Here's  the recipe she sent me for Barbara's Apple/Pear Galette, a pie she claims is easy to make, beautiful to see and delicious to stuff into your ... well, pie-hole.

                                Apple and Pear Galette

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

Pastry

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4  lb (one stick) unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup ice water

Filling

1 large tart apple (like Granny Smith)

1 large pear (any variety), slightly under-ripe

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)

1 egg white

1 teaspoon sugar

Instructions:

Prepare crust. Mix flour, sugar and salt in food processor by pulsing a few times. Chop butter into half-inch dice (be sure to keep cold). Add butter to flour mixture and pulse 5 times (1 1/2 seconds each pulse) until butter is in pea-size lumps.  Do not over-mix! Pulse in ice water a little at a time and mix together only until the mixture looks moistened throughout.  Again, do not overmix. Turn mixture out onto plastic wrap and press together into a ball.  Flatten into a disc.  Rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or as long as 24-48 hours). 

After the crust has rested, roll out into 11-inch round, 1/8 inch thick. Place in refrigerator while mixing the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel and slice the apple and pear into 1/4-inch slices, then dice into small pieces. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Add sugar, spices, salt, flour and cranberries if desired. 

Place rolled out crust on parchment paper and transfer to sheet pan or cookie sheet. Place filling into the center of the rolled-out crust and spread out, leaving a 2-inch border free. Fold edge over filling in an overlapping fashion, leaving a small center of the filling uncovered. Brush the edge of the pastry with egg white and then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn down oven to 375 degrees for another 20-25 minutes or until the crust is browned and the filling bubbles. Serve warm.

"We must have a pie.  Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie."

— David Mamet, Boston Marriage                     

Food for Thought” is a weekly KPLU feature covering the world of food as well as the thinking that goes into it. The feature is published here and airs on KPLU 88.5 every Wednesday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.