Paul's pear pies featured in series 5 (Netflix collection 1) episode 5, Pies & Tarts. It was the technical challenge for this episode.
And in keeping with the technical challenges, this recipe is certainly fiddly and technical - and frankly if I hadn't already attempted Fraisier Cake round one it would probably have pissed me off. However, I had a couple of things going for me - I've poached pears before (even if it was close to a god damn decade ago), and this isn't my first time playing with thin strips of puff pastry.
Of course, this was my first time making "rough puff" - which is a quick and dirty version of puff pastry, not quite as involved as the full on block of butter folded over and over into the dough to get lamination and layers. And the last time I poached pears, my best friend and I poached them in red wine for a Game of Thrones inspired recipe from the Inn at the Crossroads blog site.
For this recipe, I used Paul's Mini Pear Pies recipe.
For the rough puff pastry
For the poached pears
1) For the rough puff pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and grate the butter and lard into the flour. Use a knife to coat the butter and lard in the flour. Add 120-150ml/4-5fl oz cold water and mix until it comes together to form a firm dough.
2) Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface to a rectangle. Fold the top third down and then fold the bottom third up and over. Turn it 90 degrees (a quarter turn) and repeat the rolling and folding. Set aside, covered, in the fridge for 20 minutes.
3) Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling twice more so you have a total of four folds and turns. Set aside, wrapped in cling film, in the fridge until ready to use.
I'm pretty sure I rolled mine a little too thin overall, but it worked.
4) Meanwhile, for the poached pears, peel the pears, keeping the stems intact. Tip the caster sugar into a large saucepan with the water, the white wine, cinnamon and orange zest and slowly bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for three minutes.
5) Add the pears to the pan. Bring back to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Reserving the syrup, remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool on kitchen paper. Using a melon baller or small teaspoon remove the core from the pears.
6) Return the syrup to the heat and boil rapidly for 10-15 minutes until the volume of the liquid is reduced by half and the syrup is thick. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
7) When the fruit and syrup are cool, roll out the chilled pastry to a rectangle measuring 60x20cm/23½x8in and a thickness of no more than 5mm/¼in.
8) Using a sharp knife and a ruler cut the pastry into long strips 8mm/⅓in wide. You will need about 18-20 strips.
9) Brush the pears with the cooled sugar syrup and starting from the bottom, wrap the pastry strips around the pears. When you come to the end of the pastry strip, brush the end lightly with syrup and press to adhere to the next pastry strip. Continue wrapping until you reach the top of the pear. (Three strips should cover each pear). Tuck the end of the last pastry piece behind the previous dough spiral.
10) Cut out six leaf shapes from the remaining pastry. Draw veins on the leaves with a sharp knife and stick one leaf below the stem of each pastry pear, with a little sugar syrup.
11) Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Place the pastry covered pears on a baking tray. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
12) Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes then serve with a drizzle of the reduced sugar syrup.
So as I said at the beginning of this post, I really didn't think these were too bad. The worst part by far was the process of actually wrapping the pears with the pastry, and that was not really difficult once I got a method and rhythm down.
Did my pear wrapping skills result in a very pretty wrap? No. Do I care? Also no.
Something to note is that I halved the recipe. I had no need of 6 pear pies in this household, mkay? Also I wasn't sure how well they would travel, so I decided not to try and drop them off at various friends' houses.
One thing that I didn't mention earlier but will now...poaching pears in white wine is harder than red wine because YOU CAN SEE HOW POACHED THE PEARS ARE IN RED WINE. White wine? NOT SO MUCH.
I recommend you take the time to spoon some of the syrup over the pears while they're cooking - and make sure to rotate them during the poach time as well. These are things that I knew to do because I've made poached pears before, but if you've never poached them, you may not realize. I found that the indicated time, plus my syrup spooning and pear rotating, resulted in a really nice poached pear.
Make sure your pears are ripe, but not OVER ripe. You can tell pears are ripe when the body is firm, but the skinny neck around the stem gives a little bit when you gently press it. If your pears aren't ripe, the poaching isn't going to work very well - the syrup won't actually sink into the pear fully, resulting in a less flavorful poached pear.
Overripe lends toward a mushy pear. No one wants that.
My pears did shrink away from the pastry after baking, This probably has to do with the type of pears I used and the way I cut out the cores before poaching them. I will probably make this again and play with that to see if I can prevent the shrinkage next time. But really, I didn't worry about it overly much.
The pear pies topped with the syrup were delicious. Seriously. I made three pear pies and we wound up eating all three of them the same night. The only thing I would have added was a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream to drizzle more syrup over.
They're worth the calories, y'all, and not nearly so fiddly as you would think!