This pie takes its inspiration from a classic French pithiviers. Use the scoring method described below, and in our step-by-step photos, as a jumping-off point to make any design you'd like. The pears can be made up to five days ahead and stored in their poaching liquid, covered, in the refrigerator. For even deeper flavor, try replacing half of the sugar with pure maple syrup.

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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Combine wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and vanilla seeds and pod in a medium saucepan; cook over high, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pears; if not completely covered in liquid, add water as needed. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover with a piece of parchment, pressing it directly on surface of pears; simmer until tender to the tip of a knife, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer pears to a heatproof bowl, then increase heat to high and boil liquid until reduced to 2 cups. Pour liquid over pears; refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.

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  • On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll out one piece of puff pastry about 1/8 inch thick. Using an inverted bowl or cake pan, cut out a 10-inch round with a sharp knife or pastry wheel (save scraps for another use). Transfer to freezer until firm but pliable, about 15 minutes. Repeat with second piece of puff pastry.

  • Use a small cookie cutter or pastry tip to stamp out a 1-inch-diameter steam vent in center of first round (this will be your top). Gently press an inverted bowl or 9-inch cake pan into center of round to create a border. Freeze until firm but still pliable, 15 to 20 minutes. With a paring knife, score 8 ovals with leaflike points from center of vent out to border to create "petals," being careful not to cut all the way through dough. Score each petal to make veins. Add additional flourishes, if desired.

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees with a rack in lower third. Remove pears from liquid; slice each half into thirds. Remove second dough round from freezer and shingle with pears, leaving a 1-inch border; transfer to refrigerator.

  • Separate egg; whisk white in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk yolk with cream. Brush border of bottom round with egg white, and lay top round over it, pressing to adhere. With the back of a paring knife, score around edges at a slight angle in 1/4-inch increments. Refrigerate 20 minutes.

  • Remove pie from refrigerator and brush with yolk-cream mixture. Bake, rotating once, until puffed and very golden, 45 to 50 minutes (if browning too quickly, tent with foil). Let cool 20 minutes before slicing and serving, with ice cream.

Cook's Notes

Puff pastry freezes beautifully but needs to thaw in the refrigerator overnight to defrost evenly. If you pull it out and let it sit on the counter at room temperature, the outer edges will soften too much before the center is pliable.

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