Masala Spiced Pear Pie

October 31, 2013
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes One 9-inch pie
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lauren Miller
    Lauren Miller
  • Becca Lynne
    Becca Lynne
  • foxeslovelemons
  • Bevi
  • janeofmanytrade

12 Reviews

Lauren M. November 30, 2020
Instant showstopper! This pie stole the hearts of everyone at Thanksgiving though being the dark horse in this year's line up. An delightfully unexpected surprise from the garam masala really rounds out the flavor into an even more moorish bite. Eating this at room temp really helped the juices fully set in the pie before serving with vanilla bean ice cream and the fantastic blackberry sauce!
Liz March 7, 2019
I brought this pie to a "Pi(e)Day" (March 14th) celebration and it stole the show. There were over a dozen pies available but this one was the clear favorite. I skipped the blackberry syrup and it was still plenty delicious.
Becca L. November 23, 2015
I wonder if McCormick's garam masala is a good blend to use for this. The ingredient list says "Spices. (including coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon.) No mention of mace, star anise, or cloves, which all sound glorious to me. I can't tell if there is garlic or onion in there by the fragrance... does anyone know? Has anyone tried it?
janeofmanytrade November 26, 2015
as long as it does not include onion and garlic, it should work. Garam Masala is one of those blends that varies-every one has their own combination and all are right.
LaReine December 18, 2014
I was hoping to make this with some ripe pears I have today, but the garam masala I have on hand doesn't seem to have the right balance of spices and I would prefer to grind the spices fresh anyway. Do you know where I could find a recipe for a suitable version of garam masala? It looks wonderful! Thanks.
Hannah W. November 3, 2021
Nik Sharma has an excellent Garam Masala recipe in his cookbook “Season”
Amudha March 5, 2014
Sounds (and looks) delicious. Can't wait to try!

Although, I would add that the "Masala Spiced" portion of the title is redundant - masala literally means spice.
Velauria December 9, 2013
Wow, I've been thinking lately about something like Chinese 5 Spice in apple pie. I also just bought and used garam masala for the first time in my life a few weeks ago....Fate? I think so.
Erika November 29, 2013
Made this for Thankgiving and it was a huge hit. It's great on its own, but the berry sauce and ice cream really set it over the top. The masala added an interesting flavor profile without overpowering the pie.
foxeslovelemons November 22, 2013
Congratulations, janeofmanytrade! I've never tried garam masala (I can't believe it myself), but this pie is calling out to me. Love the combo of some savory spices, some sweet ones, and juicy pears.
Bevi November 21, 2013
Congrats! Your pie sounds amazing.
Preena November 21, 2013
Wow, looks awesome!