Who doesn’t dream of a homemade pie — or a small bakery that makes pies with quality ingredients that taste as good as homemade? I know I do and a good bakery, for me, is an essential part of my ideal neighborhood. Growing up in Nashville, my favorite was Becker’s Bakery on 12th Avenue South for the little pastel-colored cookies they made. The neighborhood bakery sharing a recipe with us this week is Sister Pie, a little corner shop in a former beauty salon on Detroit’s west side. Sister Pie bakes up rustic pies that are nontraditional in flavor combinations, drawing on the native produce from Michigan, owner Lisa Ludwinski’s home state.
I chose the Minced Pear Pie recipe from Lisa’s cookbook, Sister Pie: The Recipes & Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit. It’s pear season, so you have this wonderful, pear-derived minced meat-style filling enclosed between two buttery, flaky crusts. What you’ll see below are the recipes for both the filling (which you could use to make hand pies or gift jars or whatever you like!) and also the crust (which you can file away as your go-to crust). A quick note about the recipe — the filling must age for three days before using to develop the flavors, and the pie crust must sit for two hours in the refrigerator. Factor these times into your baking plans! —Kristina
Image above: Detroit seen from the air.
For a chance to win a copy of Sister Pie, respond to the following question in the comments section below by November 7th, 5PM: What is the most unlikely pie filling combination you’ve encountered that you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving? If there’s a pie shop that regularly serves this recipe up, include the name in your response. The winner will be announced in the comments section, so be sure to check in again.
About Lisa: Lisa Ludwinski was born and raised in Michigan and is the owner of Sister Pie, which she started as a pie stand at Detroit’s Eastern Market. Before opening the shop, she trained at New York’s Milk Bar and Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Sister Pie has been featured in Bon Appétit and the New York Times, among other publications. You can find Sister Pie on Instagram @sisterpiedetroit.
Image above: Sister Pie cover. All photography by E.E. Berger
Portrait of Sister Pie owner Lisa Ludwinski
Image above: Portioning the pie dough
Image above: Rolling out pie dough
Image above: Minced Pear Pie fresh out of the oven
- For the filling
- 3 pears, peeled, cored, and diced into 1⁄2-inch chunks
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
- 1⁄2 cup golden raisins
- 1⁄2 cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts (see page 35)
- 1⁄2 cup roughly chopped toasted pistachios
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped candied ginger
- Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄2 cup apple brandy
- 1⁄2 cup Grade B maple syrup
- 1⁄4 cup tapioca starch
- 1 disc All-Butter Pie Dough, rolled out into a 10-inch circle and laid flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerated
- 1 disc All-Butter Pie Dough, rolled out and fitted into a 9-inch pie pan but uncrimped and refrigerated
- 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (1⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- 1 large egg, beaten
- For the pie dough
- 2 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted European-style butter, straight from the fridge
- 1⁄2 cup ice-cold water-vinegar mixture (see note, below), or more if needed
Make the filling: Combine the pears, apricots, raisins, walnuts, pistachios, candied ginger, lemon juice and zest, cardamom, ground ginger, cloves, allspice, salt, and brandy in a large bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the maple syrup and tapioca starch, then pour it over the pear mixture. Use your hands or a spoon to toss until thoroughly combined. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, or transfer to an airtight container, and age the filling in the refrigerator for at least 3 days and up to a year.
When you’re ready to assemble the pie, remove the unbaked crusts from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the bottom of the pie shell with the turbinado sugar–flour mixture and spread the aged pear mixture on top. Dot the mixture with the butter cubes. Place the second crust on top.
Here is a brief description of the crimping process: Roll the dough overhang of the bottom crust toward the center of the pie, creating a ring of dough, as though you were rolling a poster tightly. Roll the dough with one thumb while the other thumb presses the dough down into the tin’s edge to seal. Then form a “C” with the thumb and index finger of one hand and use those fingers to pinch and lift the rim of the dough up and away from the pan, simultaneously pressing the thumb of your other hand into the “C” to make a crimp. Continue until the entire ring of dough is crimped. Put the assembled pie in the freezer for a 15-minute rest.
Preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the pie from the freezer, place on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush the top and crimped edge with the beaten egg. Use a paring knife to cut steam vents in whatever design you like. Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is evenly golden brown. Lower the temperature to 325°F and continue to bake for 50 to 70 minutes, until the pie juices are bubbling in the center.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. When the pie is at room temperature, slice it into 6 to 8 pieces and serve.
Store leftover pie, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Getting Fancy With Steam Vents
Steam vents are decorations with a purpose — they dress-up your double-crust pie and let out the steam that juicy fruit pies create while baking, ensuring your top crust stays crisp all the way through. Make designs with a knife tip or cutter: Once you’ve placed the top crust on a pie and completed the crimping, take a sharp paring knife and insert the tip through the crust to make your design. Think about sewing stitches for inspiration. If you want to get fancier, use a small cutter to make punch-outs right after you roll and cut the top crust — any small shape, such as a tiny cookie cutter, will work. And then place it on the pie and crimp.
All-butter pie dough
Makes 2 discs, enough for one 9-inch double-crust lattice-topped or full-top pie or two 9-inch single-crust pies
This is our go-to dough, and it’s how each pie begins. Every pie baker, professional or at home, seems to have an opinion on the best combination of fats for the flakiest crust — is it lard, shortening, butter, or a mix? Our basic dough is a pure and simple ode to unsalted butter and all-purpose flour — we think it produces the best-tasting, lightest, flakiest pie crust.
In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and stir to mix well. Place the sticks of butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with the flour mixture. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes. Work quickly to separate the cubes with your hands until they are all lightly coated in flour. Grab that bench scraper once again and cut each cube in half. I always tell my pie dough students that it’s unnecessary to actually cut each cube perfectly in half, but it’s a good idea to break up the butter enough so that you can be super-efficient when it’s pastry blender time.
It’s pastry blender time! Switch to the pastry blender and begin to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each stroke of the pastry blender, but to actually slice through butter every time to maximize efficiency. When the pastry blender clogs up, carefully clean it out with your fingers (watch out, it bites!) or a butter knife and use your hands to toss the ingredients a bit. Continue to blend and turn until the largest pieces are the size and shape of peas and the rest of the mixture feels and looks freakishly similar to canned Parmesan cheese.
At this point, add the water-vinegar mixture all at once, and switch back to the bench scraper. Scrape as much of the mixture as you can from one side of the bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore. Now it’s hand time. Scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers (and a whole lot of pressure) to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Scoop, press, and turn. With each fold, your intention is to be quickly forming the mixture into one cohesive mass. Remember to incorporate any dry, floury bits that have congregated at the bottom of the bowl, and once those are completely gone and the dough is formed, it’s time to stop.
Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured counter, and use your bench scraper to divide it into two equal pieces. Gently pat each into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges before wrapping them tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. If you’re portioning for a lattice-topped pie, shape one half into a 2-inch-thick disc and the other half into a 6 by 3-inch rectangle. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. When you go to roll out the crust, you want the discs to feel as hard and cold as the butter did when you removed it from the fridge to make the dough. This will make the roll-out way easier.
You can keep the pie dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 year. If frozen, remove the dough and place it in the refrigerator to thaw one full day before you intend to use it. If you’re planning to make only one single-crust pie, wrap the discs separately and place one in the freezer.
Note – Icy water, now improved and with tang:
While working at Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds for a summer, I learned a number of good tricks that considerably changed my pie dough-making experience. Here’s one of my favorites: Fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup with about 1 inch of water and freeze until completely frozen. Just after you mix your dry ingredients, grab it from the freezer and fill with water plus 2 tablespoons or so of apple cider vinegar. The ice-cold water-vinegar mixture should look just like apple juice. Let it chill on your counter while you mix the other ingredients for the dough.
The addition of vinegar to pie dough was originally thought to tenderize the gluten (thus avoiding a tough crust), but there isn’t any good scientific evidence proving that it makes a difference. We keep it in our recipe for its tangy flavor and our respect for tradition.
Not the pie-baking plan-ahead type? That’s okay! When you’re ready to make the dough, simply fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup about halfway with ice, then add water and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.
Reprinted with permission from Sister Pie, copyright © 2018. Photography by E. E. Berger. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.