Wednesday, September 1, 2010

as easy as pie

What could be better than a picture perfect double-crusted pie, its rim crimped and decorated with the back of a fork, its top baked to a beautiful golden brown and a starburst-pattern in the center that has been stained from the luscious bubbling filling? The aroma of warm fruits that have been encased in a tender flaky dough baked to perfection is probably the dessert that is tops on my list. Although truth be told, I’ve been known to have pie for breakfast as well.

The secret to baking fruit pies in my opinion is the cooking of the filling on top of the range. This gives the opportunity to adjust the flavors before the pie goes into the oven-a good idea and a guarantee of success from pie to pie, no matter the sweetness, or lack thereof, of a particular batch of fruit. Right now at the farmers’ market plums are in season and are over flowing on the market tables. One of my favorites is the small sugar plum or the French Prune plum. It is a small variety that tastes best when it’s wrinkled, and has an aroma that makes you want to eat it. Paring these sweet, red fleshed stone fruits with a pint or two of blueberries is a match made in heaven.  As with all pies and tarts you can play around with the filling. And, when you’re feeling ambitious, double or triple the recipe and bake or store in the freezer for a quick dessert that will make you look like a rock star!


Blueberry and Sugar Plum Pie
Makes 6 to 8 servings

The Filling:
3 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 ½ pints)
10 sugar plums, sliced
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Large pinch of grated lemon zest
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Put half of the fruit in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close at hand. Add the sugar, flour, and lemon zest and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The fruits will release their juices and the liquid with thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Taste spoonful, paying attention to the saucy liquid, and add lemon juice as needed. Cool the filling to room temperature.

The Crust:
½ recipe pastry dough from the toolbox
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. cold water, for egg wash
Crystal or turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Lining the pie pan: Cut the dough in half and roll one half out on a lightly floured work surface into a circle about 11 inches across. Fit the crust into a 9-inch pie pan with 1-inch high sides. (Or you can use an 8-inch pie pan with 1 ½-inch high sides.) Allow excess dough to hang over the sides for the moment.

Roll the remaining piece of dough into a circle about 10 inches across. Place the pie pan in the center of the dough and, using the pan as a template, cut the bottom round of dough so that it is about ½ inch larger all around than the pan.

Filling the pie pan: Spoon the cooled filling into the pie shell and dot the top with the butter.

Top crust: Trim the overhanging dough to about ½ inch. Lift the rolled-out circle of dough onto the pie (I use my rolling pin to roll the dough onto it and then unroll on top of the pie) Align the edges of the top crust with the bottom crust. If necessary use a kitchen knife or scissor to trim any ragged edges.

Fold both layers of overhanging dough under to create a thick edge around the rim of the pan. Crimp the edges gently with a fork. Paint the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little crystal or turbinado sugar.

Chilling the pie: Using the point of a thin knife, cut 4 to 6 slits in the crust and chill for about 20 minutes. At this point the pie can be frozen. Place it on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, then wrap airtight and freeze for up to a month. There’s no need to thaw the pie before baking, but you should apply another coat of egg wash and will have to bake the pie about 10 minutes longer.

Baking the pie: Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the pie on a parchment or silpat lined jelly-roll pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut it so that the crusts top and bottom have a chance to set.

Storing: Pies are at their peak the day they’re made, but you can cover and chill leftovers for a day (if it lasts that long!)

1 comment:

  1. This not only looks delicious, but beautiful too! Love the photos!