One of the things I dislike about pie making is the actual pie pan or dish. How are we supposed to cut slices and safely remove them to a plate without breaking them? I for one…cannot. So I say, get rid of the pan altogether. The French do it all the time and when they do they call it a galette, a wide ranging term that covers any free-form tart be it sweet or savory. Oh, and the best thing about a galette: more crust.
You’ll notice that the butter in the dough takes two forms: room temperature and chilled. Why? Because the fat has two very specific jobs in the dough. A small amount of butter will be fully homogenized into the flour. By coating the flour particles, the fat will limit the development of gluten, thus creating a relatively tender (ouch) crust. When rolled, the cold pieces will turn into very thin flakes of fat, which will melt during baking. As this butter melts, striations will form in the dough, creating flakiness (stop that) in the final product.
No-Pan Pear Pie
FOR THE DOUGH
- 12 ounces all-purpose flour (plus additional for dusting)
- 2 1/4 ounces stone-ground cornmeal
- 1 1/2 ounces sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ounces unsalted butter (diced at room temperature)
- 6 ounces unsalted butter (diced, chilled, divided)
- 1/2 cup iced apple juice (in spritz bottle*)
FOR THE FILLING
- 2 Anjou pears (peeled, cored and thinly sliced)
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 ounces sugar
- 1 pinch nutmeg (freshly grated)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ounce unsalted butter
- 5 ounces fresh blueberries (frozen will work in a pinch)
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
FOR THE PIE CONSTRUCTION
- 4 ounces pound cake (cubed)
- 1 ounce unsalted butter (cubed)
- 1 large egg (beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
MAKE THE DOUGH
- Pulse the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the room-temperature butter and pulse until the fat completely disappears into the dry ingredients.
- Add half of the chilled butter and pulse 18 times, or until the flour mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs. Add the rest of the chilled butter and pulse 3 or 4 times.
- Transfer this mixture to a medium-size mixing bowl. Spritz with just enough juice to moisten the surface of the proto-dough. Mix with a spatula. Continue spritzing and mixing until a handful of dough, when squeezed, remains compressed. (You may not use all.) When you’ve got good adhesion, gather the dough into a round disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes so that the flour can absorb the moisture.
MAKE THE FILLING
- Heat a 12-inch nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the pears and toss for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and continue tossing for another 30 seconds. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook until the pears have softened, about 2 minutes. Kill the heat and add the nutmeg, cinnamon and butter. When the butter has melted, fold in the blueberries. Sprinkle in the 1 teaspoon flour and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature.
CONSTRUCT AND BAKE THE PIE
- Crank the hot box to 400 degrees F. Place the dough on a floured piece of parchment and roll it out to a 1/4-inch-thick disk, rolling the pin from the center out, turning the dough on the paper every few seconds to maintain evenness.
- Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into a circle with a uniform edge, then transfer (on the parchment) to an inverted half sheet pan.
- Place the pound cake in the middle of the dough, leaving about a 3-inch margin all the way around. Spoon the pear filling over the cake cubes and top with the cubed butter. Lift the edges of the dough circle and fold over toward the middle, working clockwise. Brush the tart with the egg wash and sprinkle the crust with sugar.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown and delicious. Remove from the oven, slide off sheet pan (carefully of course) and cool completely before serving.
* Just put the juice and a couple ice cubes in a spritzer.