CRUMB-TOPPED BRANDIED PEAR OR APPLE PIE
one 9-inch pie
Place raisins or cherries in a small bowl; add enough brandy to cover fruit. Allow fruit to stand at room temperature until most of the liquid is absorbed and raisins or cherries are plump. Do not drain.
In a small bowl, sift together the ¾ cup flour and sugar or ½ cup brown sugar; with a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse pebbles. Set aside.
Prepare pears or apples and immediately sprinkle with brandy to prevent fruit from discoloring; do not drain. In a second small bowl, combine ¾ cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt, mixing well. Add mixture to pears or apples, folding gently to blend. Arrange piecrust in pie plate. Add raisins and/or cherries to pear or apple mixture (including any liquid). Turn pear or apple mixture into crust. Dot with butter, if desired. Loosely cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in a preheated hot (400 degrees F.) for about 45 minutes; remove foil and reduce heat to moderate (375 degrees F.); evenly sprinkle crumb topping mixture over top of pie filling. Continue baking, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes or until topping is crisp and golden brown, pears or apples are tender, and juice is thickened and bubbly hot. Cool pie on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, plain, or topped with sweetened flavored whipped cream or other whipped topping, or vanilla ice cream as desired.
Note: For a crisper bottom crust, pre-bake unfilled crust, covered in foil and weighted down with uncooked rice or dried beans, in a preheated hot oven (425 degrees F.) for 7 to 8 minutes.
Cheddar Cheese Crust Variation: Combine 1 cup sifted flour, 3 tablespoons grated Cheddar cheese, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in 1/3 cup shortening until mixture resembles coarse pebbles. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water over mixture; toss with a fork to combine. Form mixture into a ball. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into a circle 1½ inches larger than a 9-inch pie plate. Fit crust into pie plate; turn edge of crust under, forming a standing ridge. Flute edge of crust.