Want to know what the best kitchen thrill is? Do this: Pick out a complicated recipe. A baked good – because those are always harder. Decide you want to change it. Choose a flavor combination that maybe no one has ever used before and you’re unsure if anyone will ever use again. Cranberry-Pear Cream Pie. Will it work? Will it taste okay? First thrill: The pre-taste taste. Dip your spatula in Cranberry-Pear sugary liquid and taaaaste. Ohhhh taaaaste it… cause yes, that works.
Then keep at it. Spend quite a bit of time muttering to yourself, “I don’t think this is what it’s s’posed to look like… is it? Is there too much liquid…? orrrrr… not enough. I think there’s too much. No, I’m going to add more. Nevermind. Just wait. I’m just going to wait. I’m going to cross my fingers. Say a prayer. Ask the universe to come together for me. Just. This. Once. Like, the universe has definitely been there for me in the past, but please just one more time, I’m begging. Please work!” Then pop your pie into the fridge for a couple of hours. Try to nap to get pie things off your mind, but don’t actually fall asleep for the worry of it all.
Then the real-taste taste. Slice into that Cranberry-Pear Cream Pie. Slice all the way through that Gingersnap Crust. Take a bite. Let the creamy flavor fill your mouth, hit all the sides of your tongue. Close your eyes and let the tart-sweet, buttery, luscious curd give you goosebumps and continue this slow enjoyment and utter bewilderment at the goodness of what you just made. Then sink your teeth into the crust. Your eyes snap open. That sweet-spicy-nutty-buttery-crispy wedge fights for the driver’s seat. You don’t know what’s better, the crust or the filling. And who cares, ’cause damn! that is a good pie.
Friends, that is the single best kitchen thrill. Being 99 percent sure that your kitchen experiment will be a complete failure and then finding out that it is, on the contrary, quite exquisite. That is Cranberry-Pear Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust.
And because I’m jet-lagged and it’s almost midnight and my body clock is so weird right now and because I can’t see the floor in my room, I’m halfway unpacked, I can’t figure out whether my radiator is off or just doesn’t work, I bowled a 92 tonight and it’s freezing outside, which is a sort of shock after 100 degree Thailand, I’m going to leave you with that beautiful story of how this pie came to fruition and all the feel good feels that came with it and I am going to bed.
[Yes, I was recently in Thailand and sometime in the future when I’m not busy with Thanksgiving foods and Christmas foods and New Year’s party foods, I will make Thai food and blog about it and share a ton of gorgeous photos from my trip. I should do it sooner rather than later, so I don’t forget one single beautiful, funny, enlightening detail.]
Cranberry-Pear Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust
For the crust:
- 4 ounces gingersnap cookies
- 1 cup pecans
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
For the filling:
- 8 ounces fresh cranberries divided
- 8 ounces fresh pear cored and diced, divided
- 2 1/2 cups sugar divided
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- pinch salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place gingersnaps and pecans in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add butter and brown sugar and pulse to combine. Place the dough into a 9-inch pie dish and press firmly into the bottom and up the sides. Bake until firm and slightly darkened, about 15 minutes. If crust starts to brown before becoming firm, cover in foil and continue to bake. Let cool before filling.
For the filling:
Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 6 ounces cranberries and 6 ounces pears, reserving the rest for garnish. Add 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until cranberries burst and the liquid has thickened, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Puree in a food processor until smooth.
Using a double-boiler, cook the cranberry-pear puree, eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice, salt, 1/2 cup sugar over simmering water. Stir often until curd thickens, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Transfer curd to large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat curd on medium-high and add butter slowly and in small pieces. Curd should start to look lighter in color. When all the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, spread evenly in the pie crust. Chill until firm, about 2 hours.
For the garnish:
Place a small pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add remaining cranberries and diced pear and cook about 1 minute, until slightly softened. Transfer fruit to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet. Chill about 30 minutes until fruit is no longer sticky.
Place remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a small bowl. Toss chilled fruit in the sugar until well-coated. Top pie with sugared fruit and serve.