The leaves have coloured and fallen, a cold wind gusts from the south. The once fresh and crisp blue morning fades to grey as the dark clouds roll in to deliver their sudden, heavy downpour. And so it is that we retreat indoors to the comforts of a warm stove, happy in the knowledge that it is now, undeniably, pie weather.
A savoury pie is of course wondrous, but there are few things more comforting than a sweet slice for dessert (we'll reserve the best comforter of all - steamed puddings - for the depths of winter). Whether you're enjoying it warm with hot custard, or hot with chilled cream*, a homely pie to draw close on a family feast is a most splendid way to end an evening indeed.
This particular one marries the best of both worlds, with its soft, lightly-roasted pears resting atop a bed of thick semolina custard. Held together by a blanket of crisp, buttery pastry the sweetness here is reserved, meaning you don't have to hold back when it comes to that accompanying scoop of ice cream or generous dollop of crème fraîche. And of course if you prefer your pie plain, then there's always the option of a cold slice for breakfast...
PEAR & SEMOLINA CUSTARD PIE
For the pastry:
- 300 g bread flour
- 75 g semolina
- 150 g caster sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 225 g butter, cold & diced
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
For the pears:
- 6 Buerre Bosc pears
- 60 g raw sugar
- Juice & zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
For the semolina custard:
- 300 ml milk
- 50 g caster sugar
- ½ Tbsp butter
- ½ vanilla pod (from above)
- Zest of half a lemon, in large strips
- 45 g semolina
- 1 egg
To make the pastry, combine the flour, semolina, sugar and salt in a large bowl and mix briefly to combine. Rub the butter into the flour mixture, until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add the egg and yolk and mix until a dough forms. Press into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate overnight.
Bring the dough to room temperature and roll two-thirds of it into a disc 3-mm thick. Line a greased pie dish with the pastry, trim the edges and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the fillings by peeling and coring the pears, and cutting each into sixths. Toss in a bowl with the remaining ingredients then spread onto a tray and bake in a oven pre-heated to 180°C for 10-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden and soft. Leave to cool.
For the semolina custard, combine the milk, sugar, butter, vanilla and zest in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently to ensure the sugar dissolves. Take out the zest and vanilla pod then add the semolina, stirring constantly for 6-8 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat and gradually add the egg, stirring well after each addition to ensure that it does not curdle. Return to the heat for 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly, to cook the egg. Leave to cool.
To assemble the pie, fill the base with the cooled semolina custard then spread over the pears. Roll the remaining pastry into a 3-mm-thick disc and use to cover the pie, brushing the rim of the pie base with water first to ensure that the edges will seal. Crimp the edges and then refrigerate for 1 hour.
Brush the pie with egg wash, sprinkle with raw sugar, if desired, and cut a few vents in the top to allow any steam to escape. Bake at 180°C for 50 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
** I'd go so far as to says there's a specific formula for this, but then I'm quite particular when it comes to certain aspects of eating...