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Pear Pie with Maple and Ginger: Traditions Old and New

The thing about pie is it’s quite mysterious until you cut into it. Unlike a tart, which openly reveals its identity upon first glance, a pie only beckons with its crust. Perhaps the moral of this story is that any good pie must start with a good crust. I happen to know a professional pie maker, so I chose to follow her suggestions for my Thanksgiving pie, but when it came to the filling, I proceeded with an untraditional route.

For the last six years, I have been going to my friend Thomas’s house for a friends Thanksgiving (usually a week prior to the actual holiday). I wrote about it last year (I made savory bread pudding from my Tartine cookbook). I wait in anticipation to receive an evite to this event every year and excitedly start planning my contribution weeks in advance. The final decision is usually made a night or two before and this year was no different. My obsession was pie. Apple Pie? Pecan Pie? Pear-Cranberry Pie? When it comes to pie, there are so many, yet so few choices during this time of year. The traditional apple pie is probably my favorite, though if I had to choose any other, I would lean towards a summer fruit pie. Maybe peach or berry pie. But the pears have looked so beautiful this season; the brown Bartlett, the green D’Anjou and my favorite — the round, luscious, juicy Comice.

I wanted my pie to be the sort you might eat in a candle-lit room on a rainy day, with a cup of steaming hot tea. Maybe with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I wanted my pie to have a romantic element to it. I didn’t just want it to smell of pears, but of spiciness, sugar and warmth — the kind that’s different from heat. I had a vision for a pear-ginger pie, so when I came upon this recipe for a pear pie made with some unexpected additional ingredients — maple syrup and lemon — I knew I’d found the one.

What can I say about this — my 6th — friends Thanksgiving? It was, in some ways, the same as always. Robert made cornbread. Kathy drank red wine. Thomas made two turkeys (the second of which — the barbecued — came out way after dessert, when most of us were too stuffed to eat it). Max brought salad from Safeway, which he purchased right after getting off the plane (‘What did you expect?’ he said). Jeff was loud (in the very best way, of course). But in some ways, it was different. There were more married couples (myself and Matt included), and simultaneously, more single folks, too.

This year, our Thanksgiving will be quiet. My parents are taking advantage of the holiday to sneak away on vacation, while Matt and I will be spending Thanksgiving day with my grandfather. We’re cooking for three, but we’re not taking shortcuts. There will be turkey and cranberry sauce. There will be stuffing and mac and cheese. There will be wine. And there will be pie. And, best of all, a fire in the fireplace.

If you’re still searching for more Thanksgiving inspiration, check out some of our suggestions here:

Turntable Kitchen Thanksgiving Inspiration Guide

Pear Pie with Maple and Ginger
adapted from this recipe, with a modified version of Megan’s baking technique

For the crust:

Pate Brisee recipe from Martha Stewart (I used 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour)

For the filling:

4-5 large Comice pears, peeled, cored, halved and sliced into 1 inch thick wedges
1/3 cup of pure maple syrup
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of finely diced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest

For the egg wash:

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of heavy cream

Turbinado sugar

1. Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out into a 12 inch round. Gently press it into a 9 inch round pie pan. Leave the overhang, trimming it, if needed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Toss all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Remove the pie pan from the refrigerator and fill with the pie filling. Roll out your top crust and place it over the filling. Trim any excess overhang and crimp the edges as you wish (this isn’t perfect science).
4. Whisk the egg yolk with the heavy cream to make the egg wash and then brush it over the pie. Sprinkle the pie with turbinado sugar and cut two slits in the center of the pie to allow the steam escape as it bakes.
5. Bake the pie for 15-20 minutes (until it’s a nice golden brown color). Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for about 40-45 minutes. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Musical Pairings: Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams + Pear Pie with Maple and Ginger

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • This year more than ever I feel like making some new traditions. I think it’s a sign of becoming a more confident cook after 4 years of marriage and preparing Thanksgiving dinner on my own. I also feel less I’ll add some new dishes to my family repertoire of old classics. It will just be the three of us: me, husband, and wiener dog (Minnie) but I’ll prepare the full spread. Like you, I look forward to a cozy holiday with plenty of wine and good company of my little family. Your pie looks lovely, by the way.

  • Sounds wonderful, Jess. Happy Thanksgiving to you, your hubby and Minnie, too! 🙂

  • Renee

    Pear pie is one of my favourite things in the whole universe. Next time I make it there will be maple and ginger. Yes! Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  • Awesome! Happy Thanksgiving, Renee!

  • I celebrated friends Thanksgiving (aka feastival) this weekend, too. It’s the best. Two kinds of mac and cheese! Vegetarian stuffing! Butternut squash soup! Anyway, your pear pie would have fit right in. The flavors sound heavenly. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  • I love how fallish and lovely this pie sounds!! I never thought about it before, but you’re right, that is the fun thing about pie. You never know what’s inside until you cut in.

    I almost pulled a “Kasey” and brought brownies to a bar where many friends were gathering, but I chickened out last minute because I had never been and I didn’t know what I was walking into. Next time!

  • Hehehe…I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, Nicole! xo

  • Your Thanksgiving sounded amazing! Hope you’ve enjoyed a few days off. xo

  • I like this recipe a lot, it is one of my favourites. I`ve tried it this morning and it was very good, thanks for sharing.

  • Great recipe, we just had family round for post Christmas dinner and we had an abundance of pears in the house so I tried this recipe. We improvised a little as we were short a few ingredients so we made it as a crumble rather than a pie and added a tsp of ground ginger (no crystalised ginger handy) and also a tsp of cinnnamon to balance the sugar.
    It was delicious and there was none left over which says everything

  • I’m so honored we were a party of your family’s dinner! Your modifications sound great 🙂 Happy New Year!

  • Yvonne

    Definately will make one soon, tempting.

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