My mother gave her children the choice of birthday cakes. I was hard put to choose between banana cake (recipe in 2016/08/08 post) and fresh pear pie. My soul still thrills with the beautiful taste of baked pears, rich crumb topping, and the best of pie crusts.
I am so health conscious; thus I have experimented with using sugar alternatives here. Coconut sugar or sucanat (evaporated cane juice) can not compete with cane sugar in this receipt. Only sugar insures the right texture and flavor in pear pie.
Sugar has been around for the longest time. China grew cane sugar for many years prior to its first written reference in 325 B.C.; Alexander the Great’s admiral Nearchus wrote of reeds in India that produce “honey” without any bees.
The word sugar began to appear in Indian literature around 300 B.C.: The Sanskrit word sarkara, meaning gravel or pebble, became the Arabic sukhar, which finally came to be sugar.
The use of Indian sugarcane spread. It was planted at this time in the moist terrains of the Middle East. The Arabs then introduced this food to Egypt in 710 A.D.; Knights of the First Crusade next planted sugar in the Holy Land nearly four centuries later. Knights from the Second Crusade brought this unknown delectable back home to Europe in 1148 A.D., where it became prized over honey. The use of sugar grew after this. Thus it became a main stable throughout much of the world.
This popular provision indeed played an important part in the forming of our country. The British Parliament enforced the Sugar Act of 1764, with the high tax on this sweet in all its colonies. The New World produced a great amount of sugar; thus this law was a factor in the American Revolution, a little over a decade later.
I am indebted to James Trager for this exciting history. I derived it from his book The Food Chronology, 1995, Henry Holt Reference Books.
Wisdom and moderation are needed with this substance. Today our nation consumes sugar in unhealthy amounts. Personally I hold fast to the adage of Mary Poppin’s: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” My standard is to substitute more beneficial sweeteners wherever possible. However, there are times when only cane sugar will do. My precious pear pie is one of them!
Enjoy this carefree, mess-free recipe.
Pear Pie with Hot Water Pastry Crust
1 ¼ cup unbleached white flour (Bob’s Red Mill is best)
1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (save 1/3 cup for crumb topping) May grind 2/3 cup soft, white, winter wheat berries for 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour.
1 teaspoon salt (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket)
2/3 cup oil (grapeseed oil is best, available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s)
1/3 cup boiling water.
1 cup sugar (I prefer organic cane sugar; available in 2 lb packages at Trader’s, but more economical in 10 lb bags at Costco)
1/3 cup butter, softened
5 large Bartlett pears, ripened (may use Anjou pears as well; but Bartlett is best, must be ripened)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Freshly ground nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Blend unbleached white flour, 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour, and salt in a large bowl.
- Add oil and water. Mix lightly with a fork.
- Divide into two balls, one much larger than the other. (You will need to use 3/5’s of dough for this single crust for a 10 inch pie plate. May bake leftover 2/5’s of dough in strips with butter and cinnamon sugar.) Cover balls with plastic wrap and place on hot stove to keep warm.
- Roll out the large ball of dough between two, 14-inch pieces of wax paper. Form a very large, “oblong” circle which reaches to the sides of the paper.
- Gently peel off the top piece of wax paper. Turn over, wax paper side up, and place rolled dough over a 10 inch pie plate. Very carefully peel off the second piece of wax paper.
- Patch any holes in crust by pressing dough together with fingers. Form rim of crust on edge of pie plate by pressing dough together gently.
- Mix remaining 1/3 cup of flour and sugar in same bowl in which you made the pie crust. Blend in butter with a fork, until mealy in texture.
- Sprinkle 1/3 of this mixture in bottom of unbaked pie shell.
- Fill crust with peeled pear halves. Fill in spaces with smaller pieces.
- Evenly spread remaining flour mixture on top of pears.
- Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
- Cool. Serve with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg. Mouthwatering!