This is hands down the best pie I’ve ever made or had. No exaggeration, my friends. The combination of the fragrant cardamom-stewed pears on top and the creamy pistachio paste at the bottom, all encased in a buttery flaky and perfect crust studded with *even more* pistachios is just absolute pastry heaven. I’m not trying to toot my own ‘pear and pistachio pie’ horn—just calling a spade a spade. I’ve baked a lot of pies in my day, some good, some great, some mediocre, and none even come close to comparing with this heavenly gem.
I think the pistachio is one of the most under-utilized nuts in cooking, if I’m being honest. When you puree pistachios into a paste, it frees up the oils in the nut, and there’s something almost floral that comes out of it. A truly shockingly delicate flavor, it’s strong enough to hold up to the heat of the oven and yet still taste like a sweet, nutty blossom afterwards. My favorite pesto recipe uses pistachios instead of walnuts, and this new-favorite pie uses their nearly magical flavoring powers instead of the more traditional domineering pecans and almonds of the pastry world.
But the pistachio doesn’t give itself away willy nilly. No, no. It makes you work for it. By shelling each little nut, one at a time. Of course, you can buy them already shelled, but it will cost you quite a bit more. And besides, I recommend buying pistachios shell-on anyway, (unless you’re planning on eating them all within a week), since the shell helps protect them and keeps them at optimum freshness longer. Plus, I feel like I always appreciate something more when I’ve had to work for it. My first car (which is still running all these years later), our house, the approval of my parents (kidding!…kind of.) It just feels all the more satisfying when you get it after you’ve put some elbow grease into it. This pear and pistachio pie is kind of like that—the reward is in the journey.
Eh, who am I kidding, the reward is most definitely in eating the pie, but I will say that the journey certainly helps enhance that experience. So, if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves, throw on a podcast, and do a modest amount of pistachio-shelling, you’re in for a real treat. Oh! And if you’re really into the pattern on the top of the pie, I used this pie cut-out to create it. It didn’t actually cut cleanly through the crust, so I had to go over the imprinted design with a paring knife to really cut cleanly through the crust, but it still looked really lovely.
And one more important thing to note—because there is no added sugar in the stewed pear mixture, it’s of the upmost importance that you use ripe pears. It will make a HUGE difference in the flavor of the pear filling. Ripe pears should have a little give to the skin when you squeeze them, and should be *very* fragrant when you give them a sniff. Best of luck!
Pear and Pistachio Pie with Cardamom
Cardamom Stewed Pear Filling
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 pounds ripe pears peeled, cored, and chopped into roughly 3/4-inch cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup raw shelled pistachios
- 3 cups King Arthur Baking Company All-Purpose Flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 8 ounces unsalted butter cold and hard
- 10 to 14 tablespoons ice water
- 1 1/4 cups shelled raw pistachios
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Sliced Pear Filling
- 1 large ripe pear peeled
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon milk
Cardamom Stewed Pear Filling
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the pears and seasonings and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low, and cook the mixture until the moisture is released and the pears have softened, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.
- Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the egg, sugar, butter, cardamom, vanilla, and salt and puree until a thick puree forms, similar to grainy hummus in consistency. Set aside.
- Grease a 9-inch pie pan and set it aside. Pulse the pistachios in a blender or food processor until finely chopped, but *not* a paste. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom and chopped pistachios until combined. Using a box grater, grate the butter using the large hole setting of the grater above the bowl, stopping to stir and coat the butter bits in the flour mixture every 10 seconds or so. When all the butter is in, pinch the mixture together with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of damp sand. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing it with a fork, until the dough just holds together when you squeeze a fistful of it in your hand.
Divide the dough into two portions, one slightly larger than the other (about 1/3 vs 2/3). Pat the smaller portion into a rough circle shape, cover it, and place it in the refrigerator. Roll out the larger quantity of dough until it is 1/4-inch thick and transfer it to the greased pie pan. Press the crust into the pan, trim off the excess leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold the 1-inch overhang under the edge of the crust all the way around. Cover and place the pan in the refrigerator.
Roll out the smaller quantity of dough until it is 1/4-inch thick, and use cookie cutters, pie cutters, or a pie top pastry cutter to cut decorative shapes out of the top of the pie, taking care to keep the cut-outs in the center of the pie crust, and not along the edges. Cover and set aside for a moment.
Sliced Pear Filling + Assembly
Cut the stem off the pear. Using a *very* sharp knife, cut the pear vertically into the thinnest slices you possibly can (this can be made easier if you have a mandolin and cut the pear vertically in half, and then start cutting off of the cut side on the mandolin to get very thin slices).
- Now you can start assembling the pie (yay!) Take the pie pan out of the refrigerator and uncover it. Spread the pistachio paste in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Distribute the stewed pears in an even layer on top of the pistachios. Sprinkle the flour, sugar, and cinnamon evenly over the stewed pears. Place the thinly sliced pears on top of that, fanning them out in a circle so they overlap slightly and cover the top of the stewed pears.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk. Lightly brush the exposed crust on the pan with the egg wash. Now transfer the decorative top crust onto the pie, and press together on the edges of the top and bottom crusts to secure them together (if you're using an un-ruffled pie dish, you can pinch the edges for a more decorative look). Brush the exposed crust with the egg wash, cover, and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet (this makes it easier to get the pan in and out of the oven without accidentally damaging the crust), and place it in the oven. Bake until the center crust is lightly golden, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, covering the edges with tin foil if needed to keep them from over-browning (the crust edges will brown faster than the center crust). Allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.