For the past few years I’ve been in charge of bringing the American to our Thanksgiving dinner. Well, it’s more of a self-appointed task that I’ve taken on since I first started baking. You see, this time of year, everywhere I look people are buzzing about food. Traditional American Thanksgiving fare, to be precise. The Chowhound “Thanksgiving Menu” thread alone is over two-hundred-fifty comments long, with CHers gushing about their smashed potatoes and gravy, wild mushroom stuffing, and secret recipe for cranberry sauce. But in my house, the Thanksgiving feast consists of soy sauce marinated turkey, lotus root spare rib soup, steamed crab, and pea shoots. And rice.
Oh, by no means am I complaining! In fact, if it weren’t for the lack of pie, I would be content to stuff myself to the brim with delicious Chinese meat and rice. But when I see post after post, article after article on The Apple Pie to End All Other Apple Pies, I can’t help but feel a twinge of longing. Pie also happens to be fun to make, so that was settled. I’d make pie on Thanksgiving.
I’ve always been a pie kind of girl. I’ll take a slice of flaky-crusted fruit over cake any day. Unfortunately, I seem to be alone in my family on that one though. (My dad said something about it being a crime to put perfectly good fruit in a buttery shell. And then adding that horrid spice, cinnamon.) I blame their unfavorable opinion of pie on their experiences with the cardboard-crusted sugar goop the supermarket tries to pass as pie. Nonetheless, I was determined to make my pie.
You can bet that I spent way more time than I should have brainstorming what type of fruit to use in my pie, which spice combination to add, whether to cook the fruit first or not, whether to break open a whole egg just to brush it on top…way too much time.
But in the end it was obvious what type of fruit to use when I found four gorgeous organic pears from Felipe’s market, sitting in my fridge, just begging to be used. Supplemented with a few from Safeway (whose purchase required a half-hour walk uphill in the early evening semidarkness), and there was a pie. When I looked for recipes though, all I found were pear pies designed to be apple pie substitutes, full of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves, and that was not what I wanted. I wanted a pear pie to shine through with the delicate, floral flavor of pears, not covered up with spices. I wanted a purely pear pie. And that is exactly what I did.
Alone, it was simple and classic, but dressed up with a dollop of lavender whipped cream, it was magnificent. Thanksgiving-table worthy.
Pear Pie with Lavender Whipped Cream
makes one 9-inch pie
I could go on for ages about the lavender infused whipped cream, but I will save that for another time. All I have to say is that the title is not a typo.
Tapioca starch is my choice of thickener because I find it doesn’t leave a starchy taste or a cloudy color. Many grandmas and pro bakers swear by instant tapioca pearls but I happened to have tapioca starch at home instead. You can find it at your local Asian supermarket.
[For the pie]
- 7 soft but not mushy pears, about 2.75-3 lbs, sliced into 1/4″ slices
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 pie dough recipe, enough for a top and bottom crust (I use The One Pie Dough to Rule Them All and it’s fabulous.)
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
- 2 tablespoons milk
[For the lavender cream]
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Combine pears and sugar in a large glass bowl. Cover and set aside while you make the pie dough.
- Roll out a portion of dough a little bigger than half the entire dough disk into a circle a little larger than the pie pan. (Refrigerate the remaining dough) Don’t be afraid to use flour. You don’t want it to stick. Roll the dough up on the rolling pin and transfer to the pie pan. Ease the dough into the corners. Trim the excess with a pair of kitchen shears, leaving an inch to crimp. Refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F. Set a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven.
- Microwave the pears for four minutes. Drain the liquid that has collected at the bottom into a small saucepan and reduce it until it is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Return the reduced juice to the pears. Sprinkle in the tapioca starch and toss to combine.
- Roll out the remaining pie dough into a circle. Fill the pie with the pears, shaking it a few times to make sure there aren’t too many empty spaces. Top with the circle of pie dough. Crimp the edges between your forefinger and your thumb, working quickly so that the butter in the dough doesn’t melt. Cut about six air vents in the top of the pie to let out steam then brush the crust with the milk.
- Bake for roughly 45 minutes, or until the bottom crust is golden. If the top crust browns too rapidly, you can lay a sheet of aluminum foil on top.
- Meanwhile prepare the lavender whipped cream. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as you see small bubbles forming on the outer edges of the cream, turn off the heat and add the lavender. Cover with a lid and refrigerate.
- When the pie done baking, let it cool for a few hours before serving. When you are ready to serve, strain the lavender out of the cream, pouring the cream into a large bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar to the bowl. Whip the cream to soft peaks either with a wire whisk or with an electric mixer.
- Serve each hearty wedge of pie with a dollop of lavender whipped cream.