My mother makes a delicious, double-crust "harvest" pie every year to usher in autumn's bounty of fresh pears and apples. It is an easy and very forgiving recipe. An additional benefit is that one cannot go wrong in combining any type of pear and apple.
I am including the directions for baking a 9-inch pie, but I recently considered that my household of two has trouble finishing one. I find that I usually end up freezing or giving half of it away to neighbors, so this year I decided to experiment in forming the dough into little, stuffed hand pies. The end result turned out so perfectly that even I was amazed as I pulled them out of the oven. While they look deceptively difficult, they are easy-as-pie to make. These little personal pies are original, adorable, freeze well and are a much better surprise for the neighbors than a half-eaten pie.
A general rule for choosing pears is that the Bartlett variety is best for eating raw, while the firmer Bosc is best for baking. Either one of these works seamlessly in this recipe. In the past, I have used whichever type pear is available, looks best or is on sale.
Any variety of apple works in this pie. This is personal preference and depends on how sweet you want the pie to taste. I use sweet Gala apples, my favorite, only because I always have them on hand, but a tart Granny Smith or a simple Red Delicious may result in a pie that is not as sweet. When asked which apple my mother uses in pies, she just shrugged and said, "Whatever is on sale." This apple, obviously, does not fall far from the tree.
The original full pie recipe calls for sliced fruit, but dicing fruit works best when making hand pies.
Double Pie Crust
This recipe is from Beth Barrineau, an accomplished cook and my brother's mother-in-law. It is so easy and quick, you will never have to buy store-bought crusts again.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup cold water
Mix flour, salt and shortening until the consistency of cornmeal. Add cold water and stir with a fork until it all combines evenly. Divide in half and place between two sheets of waxed paper. (Moisten counter first so bottom sheet does not move). Roll dough out into 9-inch round by smoothing rolling pin over top sheet of waxed paper. Repeat with second half of dough.
Mom's Harvest Pie
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced (or diced)
3 cups pears, peeled, cored and sliced (or diced)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar
Combine apple and pear pieces in a large bowl. Stir together sugar, flour, and spices in a smaller bowl and add to fruit, tossing gently until thoroughly mixed.
For 9-inch deep-dish pie, you will need two crusts (see recipe to the left). Spread filling into prepared crust, dot with butter and place second crust on top. Cut slits in top crust, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about an hour or until crust is a golden brown.
For hand pies, roll out the dough for two crusts with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Using a 6-inch bowl or plate as a template, cut dough with a paring knife. Add three heaping tablespoons of filling onto one side of the dough round, leaving 1/2-inch edge of uncoated dough. Fold empty crust side over so that edges meet. Crimp with a fork and vent top of pie by cutting slits.
Have fun experimenting with other shapes. Roll out the same amount of dough into a rectangle, place filling in the middle and fold edges in to create a square—again, cut decorative slits for escaping steam.
Brush with milk and sprinkle top with sugar or a cinnamon and sugar combination. (To make cinnamon sugar, combine one tablespoon of sugar to every teaspoon of cinnamon.) Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Makes 8 hand pies.