When I received my invite to Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle's house in Wisconsin, I really didn't plan on bringing anything food-wise. The menu had been recited to me several times, and it seemed like a hefty amount of food for only six people. Still, I couldn't help but want to kick-start my holiday spirit by doing a little baking. I wanted to make something different and delicious. Something I'd never done before. Something that would change the culinary world forever. I was going to make my very first pie.
You'd think that coming from a long line of experienced Polish bakers, I would have a slough of pie recipes in my arsenal, which I do, in addition to recipes for traditional pierogi, fluffy butercream frosting, and the original Waldorf Astoria red velvet cake, which is insanely delicious, calls for TWO BOTTLES of red food colouring, and is completely fat free not really. However, my stupid self decided to stray from the tried and true apple pie recipe my grandmother made for a hundred years and make something completely off the cuff. Seriously. I thought it would be a good idea to make up a pie recipe as I went along. Really? A pie? Why do I torture myself like this?
Even though I had heard the T-day menu four times, I forgot which pies my aunt would be making. I didn't want to show up with an apple pie if she told me four times she was making an apple pie. I settled on pears because they're close to apples and were seemingly a good replacement. "Just make it like a traditional apple pie," I thought, "but with pears!" Then I realized I had cranberries and raisins leftover from my quinoa. "Hey, that could be good." I pictured a gorgeous crusty pie, with slices of juicy pears nestled betwixt bright red berries and golden raisins. "It will be spectacular! I'll be the hit of the holiday!" It was obvious to me that this wouldn't happen. It never happens. I start with a stunning dish in my head that turns out to look like the lunch leftovers at a maximum security prison.
I should have known my pie wouldn't turn out as picturesque as planned when I decided to make it in a 9x9 glass Pyrex baking dish. At this point, I should have started calling it a "crumble" or a "cobbler" or a "waste of time" and "huge mistake." To make matters even more ridiculous, I decided to replace the traditional flaky crust with refrigerated cinnamon roll dough. I don't know why; they're not the same thing. They're barely in the same food group. Hell, it's barely even food. Cinnamon rolls aren't crunchy or flaky, and they really don't allow for a good shell to solely hold six pears. But it was too late. I'd set my mind to it. I was going to have to make it work.
I created the recipe as per usual when I improvise, grabbing a little of this a whole lot of that ("this" being "vanilla," and "that" being "sugar sugar SUGAR"). I have to say, I was quite pleased and surprised as to how this "pie" came out. If I made it again, I would leave the cinnamon rolls for a pie with less liquid (my original intention), as I would have liked the dough to be a bit firmer, but they were still good as-is. I'd also add an oatmeal topping for some crunch. Regardless, this made for an excellent addition to the dessert table (she only made pumpkin, btw) and was also saved for next-day breakfast (which is when I should have served it in the first place). The filling was really quite good, sweet and bitter with a little texture from the pears. My uncle had three servings. The bowls were licked clean! All in all, my stupid "pie" was a winner, and it was coming back for round two at breakfast.
1 tube of uncooked, store-bought cinnamon rolls
2 cups cranberries
6 medium pears (I used bosc and bartlett)
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 lemon (or 1/4 cup lemon juice)
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cornstarch
cooking spray to grease pan
Preheat oven to 350.
Peel and core pears and chop into small cubes. Squeeze fresh lemon over the pear cubes to reduce browning.
In a large saucepan, combine water, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla over high heat. Stir until sugars are dissolved. Add cranberries to pan, and decrease to medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until berries have popped and thickened.
Add pears, raisins, and cornstarch to saucepan, folding into cranberry mixture. Cook for about 10 minutes or until pears begin to soften.
On parchment paper, lay out cinnamon roll rounds. Use rolling pin or press with the palm of your hand to flatten each round to twice the original size. Carefully lay round into greased 9x9 glass baking dish, starting in a corner, stretching roll to cover as much surface area on the sides and bottom of the dish as possible. Repeat this step with all rolls until entire surface is covered.
Scoop pear mixture into dish, allowing about 1/2 inch at top for the rolls to rise.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and serve.