When I turned 40, which was oh-so-many years ago, I made my first two-crust pie.
Well, honestly, it was my first any-crust pie.
And it wasn't even my crust. It was refrigerated pie crust, from the supermarket.
I couldn't have been more proud if I'd made the crust from scratch.
Which I never, for a single minute, considered doing.
I love the taste, texture and convenience of ready-to-roll pie crusts. I love that they're pre-sized for a standard nine-inch pie pan or ten-inch tart pan.
I love that you can freeze the crusts for up to two months, and then take them out of the box and let them stand at room temperature for an hour, and you're ready to make pie, or to cut them into smaller shapes for calzones, empanadas, or topping for a casserole.
Refrigerated pie crust does have a down side; it contains saturated fat that comes from partially hydrogenated lard (which gives it the "mouth feel" of old-fashioned crusts made with shortening) as well as food dyes, to which some people are allergic.
However, for those of us who are baking challenged, a package of refrigerated pie crust in the pantry puts pie within reach.
Rum raisin pear pie
An updated classic. Serves 8.
1 package refrigerated pie crust, left at room temperature for 20 minutes
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup dark rum (or 1/2 cup water + 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
7-8 large firm pears, such as bosc, ripe but not overripe
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Place the raisins and rum (or water and vanilla) in a small sauce pan, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Strain the raisins, discard the liquid, and set aside.
Press one pie crust into a 9-inch pie pan. Peel, core, and thinly slice the pears, and toss in a large bowl with the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch, and stir into the pears and raisins. Spoon the fruit mixture into the bottom crust, and dot generously with the butter. Paint the edge of the crust with a bit of the egg wash, or with water, and place the top crust over the pears. Press down lightly, and crimp the edges (make sure there's a good seal). Using a sharp knife, make a small hole in the top of the pie and also make 4-6 slits in the top crust.
Using a pastry or paint brush, brush the top crust with egg wash. Let it sit for one minute, and brush on a second coat. Place pie on the middle rack of the oven and bake 40-45 minutes. Pears should be tender and the crust a deep golden brown. (Note: If the crust is becoming too brown during baking, cover the edges with an aluminum foil "collar.") Let cool on a rack for 20-30 minutes, or preferably for several hours, before slicing, to allow the juices to set. Serve at room temperature.
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