when life gets in the way, and a recipe: apple and pear pie

My week was wrapping up so nicely. My two-week stretch of being on call was coming to a rapid end. I was planning a celebratory dinner at my home for my team of hardworking students, residents, and fellows. I was the subject of a lovely interview on the kitchen generation, a beautiful blog written by a group of five ├╝ber-talented young bloggers. It was announced that my recipes, along with those of several bloggers whose work I admire, were to be included on Gojee, a recipe sourcing site for the photographically-inclined. And finally, I held in my hands the print copy of my homage to Southern food, published in the Florida Times-Union newspaper.

It was turning out to be a pretty great week.

And then I got a text from my mom on Thursday morning, shortly after starting my hospital rounds.

“I’m calling 911 now,” read her text.

My dad had fallen backwards in his recliner the day before and bumped his head on the hard tile floor in my parents’ living room. The bump on the head might have been no big deal, but he was on Coumadin, a blood thinner. Shortly after the fall, he developed a severe headache, one that wouldn’t go away despite the multiple Tylenol tablets he took for it. The nausea and vomiting started soon after. He became confused. Then he wound up in an ambulance, and next, the emergency room at my hospital. A CT scan of his brain and blood work followed. The diagnosis was a subdural hematoma, bleeding on the brain. And this diagnosis bought him a stay in the neurosurgical intensive care unit.

Things are looking up, though. He was transferred to a regular floor room on Sunday. The word from the physical therapist is that he’ll go to a rehabilitation center after his discharge from the hospital, something that my mom and I think he desperately needs. My children visited him yesterday, and though they hesitated slightly when they saw the various tubes and electrical leads adorning his weakened body, they gave him big bear hugs around the neck.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

And I made a pie.

I’ve been waking up with pie on my mind, and I really, really needed to bake something. I made an all-butter pie crust dough last weekend, maybe because I knew I’d have Sunday morning to put it to good use. As I rolled the buttery dough into a flat circle, I thought about my dad and how his life – and my mom’s life – might be different after this past week. I was getting angry and frustrated, and I think the pie dough felt it. It fought my efforts, tearing around the edges, not behaving as I wanted it to. I gathered the torn pieces, balled them up, and decided to roll the pastry dough out again rather than start over.

As someone special told me yesterday on Facebook, “Relax. That’s why it’s not working. Pie crust senses your fear.”

I cleared my mind, relaxed, and rolled it out again, slowly and methodically. It worked beautifully.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

Sand pears? Pineapple pears? I just call them backyard pears.

The filling was a combination of some Gala apples we had in the refrigerator and some of the green and brown speckled pears you see above. A friend of my husband gave us a huge bag of these pears. I thought a pie would be a wonderful way to honor that lovely fruit.

We’re starting our week with this apple and pear pie. I’m starting the week with a more clear mind. I think I’m ready for what these next days have in store.

I can do this.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

Yield: 8 servings.

Cook Time: 1 hour

Apple and Pear Pie

I used pears common to the north Florida region. I think of them as backyard pears, since I grew up with this type of pear tree in our backyard. You can use Bartlett or Bosc or any other type available in your local market.

Ingredients:

1 pound apples (such as Gala, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 pound pears, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Double 9-inch pie crust, ready-made or made from scratch

Directions:

    1. Adjust an oven rack to lowest position and place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

    2. In a large bowl, gently toss the apples and pears with the sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and zest, spices, and salt. Set aside for 15-30 minutes.

    3. Roll out the bottom crust of the pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully fit into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Spread the apples and pears in the bottom of the unbaked pie crust in the pie plate. Roll the top crust into a 12-inch circle and place carefully over the pie plate, centered over the filling. Seal and crimp the edges of the pie crust and cut four vents into the top of the crust.

    4. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until crust is golden brown and juices of the fruit are bubbling. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

The baking method - starting the pie at 500 degrees, and reducing the temperature through the baking process - comes from the Classic Apple Pie recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

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15 Responses to “when life gets in the way, and a recipe: apple and pear pie”

  1. 1
    martina — September 19, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

    you can do this :) you are one of the strongest women i know and an inspiration! thinking of you and your family and sending healing thoughts your way :)

  2. 2
    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — September 19, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

    So sorry to hear about your dad – but glad he is doing well now. Hugs :)

  3. 3
    amelia from z tasty life — September 19, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

    MJ: little daily things – like making a pie – are really the best way to go about big changes and happening like this one… I hope you find comfort in the small moments (and of course wish your dad a speedy recovery). BYW, from your FB page link I clicked on your mom’s blog and started reading a few of her posts: I can see where you get your writing skills and passion to share life, as it is happening, in the moment… you are a beautiful family!

  4. 4
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite.com — September 19, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

    Pie crust does sense your fear and frustration. But yours looks lovely. I am sending you healing, peaceful througts for you and your mum and dad. And Amelia’s right – you and your mum ae both so talented. Hugs xox

  5. 5
    JulieD — September 19, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    The pie looks wonderful, MJ. I hope your dad is all better and home soon!

  6. 6
    Winnie — September 19, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

    Sending love your way, my friend, and cannot wait to see you next week xoxo

  7. 7
    Paula — September 19, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    Yes, you can do it and you did do it, wonderfully so and this does not just apply to the pie crust. I’m sorry that what was turning out to be such a good week ended with your Dad in ICU, but thankful that he appears to be on the mend and going to be getting more help at the re-hab centre. Your Mom will hopefully also be able to take advantage of this opportunity to get some rest herself. I can imagine the worry the kids felt when they saw their Grampa but the hugs around his neck must have brought them and him lots of comfort. Hoping that your Dad has a full recovery.
    Congratulations on the FL Times Union publishing, on the Gojee, and on Kitchen Generation’s feature.
    I’ve baked crisp using apples and pears and I can imagine how delicious your pie tastes.

  8. 8
    Rachel Winter — September 19, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

    MJ
    Thinking of you and your family.
    XO
    Rachel

  9. 9
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — September 19, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

    I’m so sorry about your dad’s fall. I’m glad to hear that his condition is improving and that he’s out of the ICU though. Thinking of you and your family. xo

  10. 10
    sweetsugarbelle — September 19, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

    MJ, I am so sorry you have been having a hard time lately. Im glad things are lookng bedder. Hoping your dad is well SOON!

  11. 11
    DessertForTwo — September 20, 2011 @ 1:18 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dad, but I’m so glad to hear he is recovering.

    LOVE your article :) I agree-Southern food should not be haute cuisine. It should be made with love in your heart and flour smeared on your face.

    Lots of love to ya,
    xoxo,
    Christina

  12. 12
    LiztheChef — September 20, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    I know you can do this but I’m certainly sorry that you and your Mom have to go through this, not to mention your Dad and what he must be experiencing. Lean on your friends…

  13. 13
    chinmayie @ love food eat — September 20, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

    I am so sorry about your dad! Wishing him a fast recovery…

  14. 14
    Macaroni Mama — September 21, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

    Thanks to your friends, MJ, who clicked on my blog link.

  15. 15
    Jamie — September 27, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    Baking really centers us, helps us focus, concentrate and think things through. And baking makes those around us happy. Hoping this helped you and those around you get through this rough time. Sending hugs and hoping your dad heals soon and well. xo

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