The following recipes are from Pie School, Lebo’s cookbook forthcoming from Sasquatch Books in fall 2014.
Choose at least three varieties of almost-ripe pears to create an ultra-peary, velvet-textured filling. Aged gouda or smoked gouda are more assertive than softer, younger goudas, though all types make delicious cheesy pastry. This pie is all about the pear/gouda combination, a warm contrast of flavors that lets this pie straddle the fence between savory and sweet.
1 cheese crust, with hard aged gouda or smoked gouda (recipe below)
2 ripe Bartlett pears
2 ripe d’Anjou pears
2 ripe Bosc pears
¼ cup white sugar
juice of ½ a lemon (1–2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
egg white wash (egg white + 1 teaspoon water, mixed)
chunky salt (for sprinkling)
Make the dough and refrigerate it for at least an hour, or overnight. Roll out the bottom crust and place it in a 9 to 10-inch pie plate. Tuck the crust into the plate and trim the edges, then refrigerate it while you prepare the rest of the pie. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Core and slice the pears very thin— 1/8 inch if possible. In a medium bowl, mix the pears with sugar, lemon juice, nutmeg, and salt. Taste and adjust lemon, sweet, and salt as needed. Sprinkle flour over all and mix gently to combine.
Roll out the top crust. Pile the pears into the bottom crust and gently pack them down to eliminate air holes. Smooth the pears into a mound with your hands and dot them with small pieces of butter. Place the top crust on the pie. Crimp the crust into an upstanding ridge and make generous steam vents. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and teaspoon of water, then brush the crust with the egg white wash and sprinkle a little salt over everything.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is blond and blistered. Rotate the pie front to back and reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Bake until juices bubble slowly at the edge, 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack at least an hour before serving.
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter
1 cup grated aged or smoked or soft gouda
Put about a cup and a half of water in a spouted liquid measuring cup, and place it in the freezer while you prepare the rest of the recipe. The idea is to have more water than you need for the recipe (which will probably use 1/2 cup or less) at an icy temperature, not to actually freeze the water or use all 1½ cups in the dough.
In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut tablespoon-sized chunks of butter and drop them into the flour. Toss the fat with the flour to evenly distribute.
Position your hands palms up, fingers loosely curled. Scoop up flour and fat and rub it between your thumb and fingers, letting it fall back into the bowl after rubbing it. Do this, reaching into the bottom and around the sides to incorporate all flour into fat until the mixture is slightly yellow, slightly damp. The mixture should be chunky—mostly pea sized with some almonds and walnuts. The smaller bits should resemble coarse damp sand.
Toss the cheese with the dough until it is evenly distributed.
Get the water. Pour it in a steady thin stream around the bowl for about five seconds. Toss to distribute the moisture. You’ll probably need to pour a little more water on and toss again. As you toss and the dough gets close to perfection, it will become a bit shaggy and slightly tacky to the touch. Press a small bit of the mixture together and toss it gently in the air. If it breaks apart, add more water, toss to distribute moisture, and test again. If the dough ball keeps its shape, it’s done. When all is said and done, you’ll have added about 1/3 to 1/2 cup water.
Gather the dough in two roughly equal balls with firm, brief pressure (the larger of the two will be the bottom crust). Quickly mold the dough into thick discs using your palms and thumbs. Wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for an hour to three days before rolling.