Masala Spiced Pear Pie

October 31, 2013
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Pears: You either love them or the texture turns you off. Personally, I love them. My favorite way to eat them is out of hand. Biting into a fragrant ripe pear, juices dripping on my chin and hand is pure heaven. Baking with ripe pears can be just as magical. While a fresh pear may be mild in flavor, they are nearly blank slates. The fruity and floral notes blend with so many ingredients that they are more than just versatile, they are almost a baking necessity.

Pears combine well with many spices. But rather than reach for the usual suspects, cinnamon and nutmeg or perhaps ginger, grab some garam masala. This traditional Indian spice blend is full of flavors that meld beautifully with ripe, juicy pears. The slight heat of black peppers and red chili powder wake up the palate and make the other flavors sing. The blend I used in my pie was made from coriander, chili, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, dry mango powder, star anise, fennel seeds, black pepper, mace, and bay leaves. While the choice may sound improbable, I cannot imagine ever making a pear pie without garam masala again. When choosing a brand of garam masala, be sure to read the ingredients and skip any that contain garlic or onions. For those less brave than I am, simply omit the garam masala and use your favorite pumpkin pie spice blend.

To complete the dessert, I served my pie with generous scoops of homemade buttermilk ice cream and a generous drizzle of blackberry syrup. I have included the recipe for the blackberry syrup with this pie. Unless you have the time to make buttermilk ice cream, I suggest using the best quality vanilla ice cream you can find. —janeofmanytrade

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Janeofmanytrade is a seasoned pastry veteran.
WHAT: A welcome change to your run-of-the-mill fall fruit pie.
HOW: Slice pears, toss them in spice, lattice it up.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We love a good fruit pie, but introducing unusual spice is inspired -- the masala and pears play together so well, and we're kept interested enough to ask for seconds. And maybe, just maybe, thirds. —The Editors

  • Makes one 9-inch pie
  • Garam Masala Spiced Pear Pie
  • Your favorite dough for a double crust 9-inch pie
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 vanilla bean, seeds only, pod reserved for sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 to 3 pounds ripe pears, a highly flavored variety such as bartlett
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar crystals
  • Blackberry Syrup
  • 1 pound blackberries, frozen and thawed (do not discard the juice)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, reserved from the pie filling
In This Recipe
  1. Garam Masala Spiced Pear Pie
  2. Preheat the oven to 350ª F. Divide the pie dough in half and roll out one piece to line the pie pan. Trim the edge to hang over about 1 inch. Place in the fridge to rest. Separate remaining piece into 2 or 3 small balls of dough and roll each into rectangles make lattice strips. Place the lattice strips on a tray lined with paper and set these in the fridge to rest while you make the filling.
  3. In a mixing bowl, rub the sugar together with the cornstarch, lemon zest, vanilla bean, and the spices. Gently peel the pears, cut them in half and using a small scoop, remove the core, stem and the blossom end. Cut the halves to make long, thin quarters and slice them 1/2 inch thick. Measure out 6 cups for the pie. Toss the pears in the sugar blend and pour it into the prepared pie shell. Top the pie with the lattice strips, trim the excess from the lattice strips and roll the bottom crust up over them to form a ridge and then flute it with your finger tips. Place the pie on a sturdy baking sheet that is lined with paper or foil and greased generously.
  4. To bake the pie, brush the egg wash over the top of the pie and sprinkle with the coarse sugar. Place it in the oven and bake until the juices in the center are boiling gently, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Allow the pie to cool to room temperature before cutting.
  1. Blackberry Syrup
  2. Place the blacberries and juice in a strainer to drain. Measure out 1 1/2 cups. If you do not have that much, gently press the berries to release more. If necessary, pulse them in the blender and then strain them with a fine mesh strainer. The idea is to have juice without seeds.
  3. Place the juice, sugar, and vanilla pod in a small stainless steel pot and cook over medium heat to melt the sugar and to bring to a gentle boil. Adjust the heat to keep it at a gentle simmer and allow it to reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove the vanilla pod and chill before serving.

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