in my book, pie is a winter food, best left for graham cracker crusts and creamy pumpkin filling with the warmth of the oven and scent of nutmeg making a cheery end to a cold and dark evening.
summer is why we have crisps and crumbles. the glorious lack of fuss of a crumble, the messy abundance of a crisp, puts the focus on the fruit, just as it should be. beyond which, crumbles are supremely easy, virtually impossible to mess up (evidenced by a happy discovery that boxed cake mix makes a fantastic substitution for flour, should your weekend cabin getaway come so stocked). a crumble topping is just so much more interesting. how can you argue with mounds of brown sugar and oats? why would you even wish to try?
summer desserts – particularly not summer fruits at their peak – are not meant to be weighed down with the onerous task of perfecting a flaky, tender and buttery crust. why waste a single bikini season calorie on anything less than sublime?
i am aware that this is not a widely shared sentiment. there is a whole contingent of summer pie advocates, many of whom i am guessing are passionate tuesdays with dorie bakers who will not be amused by my anti-pie tirade.
i mean, i'm crazy in the kitchen, just not freezing my flour and my food processor blade crazy. pie crust isn't something i'm willing work for.
homemade ice cream? that's a different story.
in any event, i did my best to compromise. i endeavored greatly to produce a passable bottom crust for this luscious fruit filling, and then topped it with an epic mass of brown sugar, oats and other crumbly deliciousness.
this pie was as wonderful warm out of the oven as it was cold from the fridge for breakfast.
and now back to my original summer programming . . . lazy afternoons, evenings with chilled wine and moonlight and homemade mint chip ice cream, with nary a pie crust in sight!
- 5 1/4 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 3/4 cups (11 oz) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
- 1 cup ice water
To make the dough by hand, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender (or your fingers, if you prefer), cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Be patient – this takes a while. Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Still working with the pastry blender (or your fingers), cut in the shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times – don't get carried away. The dough will be soft, but it will firm sufficiently in the refridgerator.
To make the dough in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the flour and salt into the bowl and stir to mix. Add the butter and mix on low until it is cut into the dry ingredients and the mixture looks coarse and crumbly. Add the shortening in small bits and continue to mix on low. When the mixture is clumpy and curdy and holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers, add the water and mix only until it is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself two or three times, just to finish the mixing and to gather it together.
To make the dough in a food processor, start with very cold ingredients and take care not to overwork them. Place the dry ingredients in the food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse just to mix. Take the top off, scatter the chilled cubed butter and shortening over the flour, cover, and pulse again, working only until the fats are cut in and the mixture resembles slightly moist cornmeal. Add a little of the liquid and pulse a few times, then add more liquid and pulse again. Continue until the mixture has curds and clumps and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Don’t process until the dough forms a ball that rides on the blade – that’s overdoing it.
Chilling the dough: Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days.
- 3 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 ½ pints)
- 2 cups sliced nectarines (about 3 large)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Large pinch of grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons (approximately) 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 will thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Taste a spoonful, paying particular attention to the saucy liquid, and add lemon juice as needed. Cool the filling to room temperature.
- ½ recipe Flaky Pie Dough (chilled)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon 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 cake pan with 1-inch-high-sides. (Alternatively, you could use an 8-inch cake pan with 1 ½-inch-high sides.) Allow the 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 (this is easily done by folding the dough into quarters, transferring it to the top of the pie, and then unfolding it), aligning the edges of the top crust with the bottom crust. If necessary, use a kitchen knife or scissors 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 by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of your other hand, creating scallops every 1 or 2 inches around the rim. Press the tines of a fork against the flat scallops to decorate. 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 a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the pie on a parchment- or foil-lined jelly-roll pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit 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.