Pear-Almond Pies with Toasted Almond-Spice Ice Cream
Sized for individual servings, these little pies will be a hit at any gathering. Get a head start by making the ice cream up to 3 days in advance. You can also prepare the pie dough ahead of time.
For the toasted almond-spice ice cream:
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. ground Tahitian vanilla bean
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 oz. slivered almonds, toasted
For the pies:
- 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 6 d’Anjou pears, peeled, cored and diced
- 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp. water
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 1 batch deep-dish piecrust, divided into 2 disks and chilled (see related recipe at left)
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, each 9 1/2 inches square, thawed but chilled
- 1 egg plus 1 tsp. water
To make the ice cream, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cream and milk. Heat until steam begins to rise from the surface and small bubbles just begin to form at the edge of the pan.
In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving. Slowly pour in the cream mixture, whisking constantly, then pour the mixture back into the pan. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard thickens and a finger drawn across the back of the spoon leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.
Pour the custard into a clean bowl. Nestle the bowl in a larger one filled halfway with ice and water and cool the custard to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. At the end of the freezing stage, add the almonds and continue processing just until they are blended into the ice cream. Transfer the ice cream to a chilled container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving.
To make the pies, in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the pears, brown sugar, lemon juice and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears are just tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until the juices thicken, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract. Let cool to room temperature.
Preheat a Breville electric pie maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Let the pie dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out 1 dough disk about 1/8 inch thick. Using the larger side of the circle cutter, cut out 8 rounds, rolling out the remaining dough disk and rerolling the scraps as needed. Transfer the pie dough rounds to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place a puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Using the smaller side of the circle cutter, cut out 4 rounds. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry sheet. If the pie dough or puff pastry rounds become too soft, refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
Open the pie maker and assemble 4 pies according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using the larger pie dough rounds for the base of the pies, 1/3 cup filling per pie, and the smaller puff pastry rounds for the top of the pies. (Keep the remaining rounds refrigerated until ready to use.) Lightly brush the top of the pies with the egg mixture.
Close the lid on the pie maker, ensuring the latch clicks into place, and bake until the dough is cooked through and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a mini-pie lifter or a nonstick heatproof spatula, carefully transfer the pies to a wire rack and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining pie dough rounds, puff pastry rounds and filling to make 4 pies.
Serve each pie with a scoop of toasted almond-spice ice cream on top. Makes 8 mini pies and about 1 quart ice cream.