Pear and Cardamom Pie with Marzipan Crust
2 3/4 cups of flour
1 7 oz. package of marzipan or almond paste, coarsely crumbled
3/4 of a tsp. of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 Tbsp. of butter flavored vegetable shortening
5 Tbsp. of pear nectar, give or take
1/2 tsp. of almond extract
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. of vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. of cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
4 pounds of firm but ripe Bartlett pears; peeled, halved, cored and cut into 1/2 to 3/4" thick wedges
2 Tbsp. of pear nectar
dash of salt
1 egg beaten to blend
1 Tbsp. of sugar
Macerate the Pears
Blend the brown sugar and vanilla in a processor and pulse for one minute. Add cornstarch and cardamom and process until blended. Transfer to a large bowl, add the pears and pear nectar. Toss to coat. Let sit for 30 minutes to one hour, maximum. While these are macerating start your crust.
Blend flour, almond paste and salt in a processor until finely ground. Add the cut up butter and shortening and cut in, pulsing on and off until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Mix 3 tablespoons of pear nectar and almond extract and blend in, pulsing on and off. Gradually blend in enough pear nectar by the tablespoon until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide dough into two pieces. Flatten each into a disc. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. Dough can be prepared up to three days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let dough sit out slightly at room temperature before rolling it out. Now while the dough is being refrigerated prepare your pears.
Drain the pairs, reserving all the juice. Pour the juice into a small sauce pan and cook down. You're going to reduce it down until you're left with one third of the amount that you originally had. Meanwhile, take the drained pears and toss them in a sauté pan with a little pat of butter until they soften up a little. This will help with some of your pears that may not have been really ripe enough. Here in the Midwest, we don't really get ripe pears so this helps to soften the pears up a little bit.
So once they are softened slightly, pour the reduced sauce into the sauté pan. Add the cornstarch, toss and let cool until ready to fill the pie.
Take the dough out of the fridge and let soften at room temperature enough to roll out. Preheat your oven to 400° and position a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Place a baking sheet or baking stone on that rack to heat up with the oven for about 20 minutes.
Roll out one of the disks between sheets of floured parchment paper to about 13 inches round. Pull off the top sheet of the parchment and invert the dough onto a 9 inch pie plan – peel off the parchment paper out of the pie pan.
Pour the waiting pears into the pie crust. Roll out the top crust in the same manner. Once you rolled out the top crust, place on top. Crimp edges and add slits in it. Seal and flute the edges and cover the edge crust with 2 to 3" strips of tinfoil to protect it from browning too quickly. Save some dough to make some decorative pieces along the top (like leaves and acorns). With a pastry brush, lightly brush the top with the glaze.
Place the pie directly on the heated baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Take off the foil about the last 10 to 15 minutes to get evenly browned, but check and make sure it's ready to take it off. Also check midway if the pears are not cooking quickly enough but your top crust is browning too quick. If this happens, quickly tent the pie loosely with a big piece of tinfoil with a giant hole in it to let steam escape. This will help the pears get caught up and slow down the browning on the crust. I would do this for about 10-15 minutes and then take it off and check to see how the pie is doing at that point. Once the pie is nicely golden and you can see the pears are syrupy and bubbly, even at the center, the pie is done.
Let the pie sit and settle for about two hours until ready to serve.