I’m a day late posting these Pear Pancetta Hand Pies because my usual computer had to be rushed to the hospital yesterday. The machine just went dark on me while I was editing the photos for this post. So, naturally I did what any logical person would do, I swore at my computer. And when that didn’t work, I cried at it for 20 minutes. Unbelievably, that didn’t work either. So, I took out a cloth and gave my computer a good clean hoping to nurture it back to life. The computer didn’t so much as flicker because a sponge bath is not what broken computers need. Finally, I admitted defeat, bundled up my mac and sought help. Last night I dropped my ailing computer off at my local repair shop. Fingers crossed the old girl will make it through.
But broken computers aside, things are pretty good on my side of the tracks. I do, after all, have these Pear Pancetta Hand Pies within reaching distance and, oh man, are they good. Rustic, but good. I will admit my inner perfectionist is a little disappointed by their lack of uniformity, but whatevs, they have bacon.
I realized the other day that my last 5 (6?) recipes have been vegetarian. This was not intentional, it’s just the way I eat. I am an omnivore, but oddly most of my favorite foods happen to be vegetarian. A few of my favorite humans also happen to be vegetarians and I do like to cater to them if only to show them a world beyond Dominos’ veggie pizza (you know who you are). But I don’t want this blog to veer too far in any particular direction.
I generally like to cook all kinds of food for all kinds of people. No one should be denied a dinner invitation because they have no interest in red meat or have recently embraced a vegan lifestyle. And really, vegan and vegetarian food tastes great, so cooking it shouldn’t be a burden. But, having said that, I do eat meat and I like to cook it, so the next couple of recipes will be decidedly more carnivorous. If you are a vegetarian reader, hang tight, I got lots on the horizon that should be of interest to you.
So, these Pear Pancetta Hand Pies came about when I picked up a bunch of obstinate Bartlett pears at the grocery store. Honestly, these pears refused to ripen. I had them for over a week and they were still solid. At some point, I realized they were never going to be the eating pears of my dreams. So, I decided to poach ‘em and poach them I did – in St. Germain no less.
Poached pears may look fancy and they are but they certainly don’t require a ton of effort. You basically peel some pears and pop them into a simmering solution of water, booze, sugar, and aromatics. That’s it! Honestly, if you’re looking to impress the boy or girl next door, poach a pear. They’re stunning and virtually fool-proof, so you’re bound to come off looking like a gourmand. And pear season is just getting started, so use the poaching recipe below as a jumping off point and put your own spin on them. Serve them with ice cream or a caramel sauce, or ruin their natural beauty by dicing them up and throwing them into a pie.
You may be wondering why I decided to complicate the beatiful simplicity of a perfectly exceptional fall dessert. Well, that reason is bacon. I had a hunk of pancetta in my fridge and, oh hey, some gouda and I thought they would all play together nicely. I suppose I could have put them in a salad (that’s actually a great idea) but I will always be more enthusiatic about pastry than I will be about spinach. So really, the only choice was to make Pear Pancetta Hand Pies.
Now, before I leave you to poach your own pears and form your own pies, here’s a few pointers.
- Poach your pears a day in advance. They are easier to cut after they’ve a had a chance to chill.
- You don’t have to reduce the poaching liquid. I opted to cook down the poaching liquid to form a syrup to brush over the pies. This is completely optional. It does take some time, so if patience is not something you have a surplus of, you can swap it out for some honey.
That’s it! Enjoy these Pear Pancetta Hand Pies. I don’t know if they’re a starter, snack or dessert, but I do know they’re good.
- 4 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 2 oz St. Germain
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 Bartlett pears, peeled
- 2-inch knob ginger, roughly chopped
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 6 cardamom pods
- 5 whole star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 batch Elderflower Poached Pears, cored and diced
- 1 batch Butter Pastry
- 1 cup Gouda, finely diced
- 1/2 cup pancetta, finely diced
- Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
- Sunflower seeds for sprinkling
- Place water, sugar, St. Germain and salt in a medium-sized reduction pot. Whisk to combine.
- Place the pot over medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolves completely.
- Lower the pears into the simmering liquid followed by the ginger, sage, cardamom, star anise and cinnamon stick.
- Leave the pears to cook in the simmering liquid for 20 minutes or until tender.
- Carefully remove the pears from the liquid and let cool until ready to use. If making ahead, let the pears cool to room temperature, then transfer to the fridge.
- Pour the poaching liquid, along with the aromatics, into a separate container and store in the fridge.
- Place flour and salt in a large food processor fitted with a dough blade. Blitz until just combined.
- Set the food processor to its lowest setting and add the butter, chunk by chunk. Blitz until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- With the food processor still running, stream in the water and process until the dough comes together.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and cut it in half. Form each half into a disc and wrap in parchment paper.
- Transfer the disc to the fridge and let rest for 30 minutes before using.
- Strain the reserved poaching liquid into a reduction pan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Leave the mixture to boil undisturbed until it is significantly reduced and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. About 15-20 minutes.
- Transfer the syrup to a heatproof container and set aside.
- Place pancetta in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Let cool.
- Place pears, Gouda, and pancetta in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
- Take one pastry disc and place it on a floured surface. Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll out the dough and cut into 4-inch circles. You should get 6 circles per pastry disc. Stack the circles on top of each other with layers of parchment in between. Set aside.
- Repeat with the other half of the pastry.
- Lay the circles out on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Place 3 tablespoons of the filling on one-side of the pastry circles, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Fold the other half of the circles over the filling and seal the pies using the tip of a spoon.
- Place the pies in the fridge and let chill for 45 minutes.
- While the pies are chilling, preheat the oven to 425F.
- Bake the pies for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Remove the pies from the oven and brush the tops with the reserved poaching syrup. Sprinkle the pies with turbinado sugar and sunflower seeds.
- Bake the pies for another 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Serve the pies warm with a pint.