Tuesdays with Dorie: Blueberry Nectarine Pie
I learned to make pie at my maternal grandma’s knee. Grandpa was also involved in summertime pie-making; I remember that blueberry was his favorite. Pie-making at my grandparents’ house was a serious endeavor with lots of dos and don’ts. The recipe I inherited from them calls for Crisco as the shortening, plus flour, salt, and ice water. In my adult life, I’ve continued to make pie (always with my grandparents’ voices in my ear!), but have adopted an all-butter crust recipe by Nick Malgieri as my go-to crust recipe. I have toyed with part-shortening, part-butter recipes (which are more appealing now that Spectrum Oils has come out with an organic palm oil shortening which can take the place of that hydrogenated soybean oil), but I always return to the all-butter crust, even though succeeding in getting the flakiness that I’m after can be tricky.
However, for this week’s TWD recipe, I wanted to follow the recipe as written. So I tried the crust recipe found in the book, which makes FOUR crusts in all, for two double-crust or four single-crust pies. Since I only needed two crusts, I halved the recipe, but it probably would have been easier to make the whole recipe and then divide the dough, with some left over for another pie, since the quantities of the ingredients were odd (I needed half of 5 1/4 c. flour and half of 5 oz. shortening). It seemed like it called for proportionally more oil (i.e. shortening &/or butter) than my all-butter crust, and it definitely called for more salt: 1 T. in the recipe as written, so 1/2 T. for two crusts. I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe that called for more than a teaspoon of salt per two crusts. I LIKE salt, and when I have pie crusts that leave it out, I definitely miss it (there’s a bakery in town that doesn’t seem to use salt in their pie crusts, and, well…yuck!) but I was worried that this would be a bit much, and it was definitely a little on the saltier side. I didn’t really mind it, but Mr. Tester, who is not as pro-salt as me, would probably openly object if he wasn’t being polite about my efforts.
The other thing that was different about this crust recipe was that there were instructions for making the crust by hand, by food processor, or by stand mixer. I had tried the first two, in fact, I’ve come to like making pie crust in the food processor (Mr. Cuisinart) because it’s the method Nick Malgieri suggests as the easiest and best in that all-butter crust recipe of his that I like so much (from his book How to Bake). THIS crust recipe, though, made it seem like you’d fare best with the stand mixer (Mr. KitchenAid), not the food processor, the instructions for which came with more warnings about the dangers of over-processing. So I gave the KitchenAid method a whirl, mixing the flour and salt, and then adding the butter, and then the shortening, with the paddle attachment, and finally adding enough water for the whole thing to come together, and I must say that it worked very well and seemed easier than the Cuisinart method.
The resulting dough seemed more pliable and sort of softer than the butter crust I am used to. It was easy to roll out and there was a good quantity of it, so that the crusts still seemed a little thicker than what I’m used to, once I got them rolled out to the required size. I used to be better at making fancy fluted edges, but somehow I have lost patience with this minor form of folk art, and I just made a high-enough fluted edge that the juices would hopefully not leak out. I sprinkled the crust with sugar–just regular sugar, not the fancy kind called for–and I skipped the egg wash, which seems like a waste of an egg to me, since you only need a little tiny bit and then you’re left with this watered-down raw egg…
Once the pie was assembled, you were supposed to chill it in the fridge for 20 minutes. My preheated oven was ready to go, so I skipped this step. I’m not sure what it would have contributed. Could it possibly have made for a less-runny pie? Because even though I let the pie cool for several hours, and even though the filling calls for flour as a thickener (where some pie recipes call for cornstarch or tapioca), the filling was fairly runny.
As for the filling, I was in luck with the fruit, in that both nectarines and blueberries are in season and were available at the store when I needed them. I don’t think I had ever used nectarines in a pie before (though I seem to recall that Mr. Tester has made a custard pie with nectarines fromThe Joy of Cooking that was very good). The question in my mind was: would it seem much different from a regular blueberry pie? What would the nectarines add? The answer was that it seemed pretty much like a blueberry pie to me, but asking my youngest son (age 11) just now, he reports that he thinks it wouldn’t be nearly as good with just blueberries, and that “the nectarines added a nice flavor and texture.” My older son agrees with me that the nectarines were not very evident, flavor-wise, though they added some visual interest to the pie.
The method for preparing the filling was simple, and kind of unusual. It called for cooking half the fruit and mixing it with the other half that was raw. You were supposed to mix the fruit (blueberries and sliced nectarines), flour, sugar, and lemon zest in a pan over medium heat. I kept going back to the book to make sure my eyes hadn’t deceived me and the recipe didn’t call for any LIQUID. At first, even at low heat, the flour and sugar in the mixture was causing my pan to become scorched. After a little while, the fruit started to break down and there was some liquid in the pan that could be seen to come to a soft boil along the edges, as per the directions, but at first, it was odd to have those dry ingredients in the pan with no liquid at all to get things moving.
Once it was all mixed up, the filling was pretty delicious. It was supposed to cool to room temp, so I borrowed I tip from another recipe and spread it out in a Pyrex pan so it would cool faster.
One nice thing about this recipe is that it encourages you to take advantage of summer fruit and freeze the pie (or pies) that you’ve made to be baked at a later date. With all the nice summer fruit that is available right now (the apricots that are in just now are amazing, for example), that’s surely good advice. Whether it will motivate me to spend another afternoon in the kitchen baking when we could be going for a swim at the lake is another question, but…it’s definitely good advice.