I hope you had a stellar long weekend, with a barbecue (or two) and a beer (or three) amongst friends. Time to relax with your people. Ours was ace, we chilled with friends and family and made a killer chicken dish, which I’ll share soon. Today I want to talk about a new website. It’s called Tucker, and it’s rad.
Tucker is a place for cooks to learn to become better cooks. Where “lovers of good food every day” can be inspired by buttermilk ice-cream and learn how to smoke food at home. I felt super chuffed to be asked to contribute something for the Summer edition of Tucker. My mind skipped straight to Summer stone fruits, and then promptly to pie – a natural progression…
Here is my pie post. I’m still learning, and am in no way a pie expert (my crimped edges are
woeful… unique) but I am a true pie fiend. I adore it, fruity or otherwise. Pondering pie creations brings me insurmountable joy. So I wrote about it, with tips that I have found useful in my journey to the perfect pie crust. I hope you enjoy my post here and on Tucker. Lets make pie…
Have you made a pie before? It’s one of my most favourite things to do. To me, pie-making is true romance. It’s early mornings with a cup of coffee, Billie Holiday playing in the background, the sun gently peeking through the window with a sweet apron tied at my waist, bare feet, a clear bench and my rolling pin. And the promise of a soon slice of pie.
Making pie is a process. It teaches patience and trickery of temperature. Pie-making forces you to slow down, to tune out head clutter and focus solely on forming tender dough. When making a pie, you’re meditating with butter. It’s a beautiful thing.
People are intimidated by pie. It’s the crust, the fear of flaky failures. I find it’s best to dive into the flour and confront your crust concerns head on. My very first pie crusts were shrunken and, oh, a little burnt, but that’s just part of the learning process. I’m still learning, still perfecting my fluted edges and still striving for my dream base, perfectly balanced in thickness and crispness… It’s a delicious, flour-on-your-cheeks journey. I assure you, once you get to know the process you’ll be making pie from memory. And nothing tastes as good as homemade pie.
So grab your butter, chop and chill it and let’s get started! We’re making a blueberry nectarine pie today, in celebration of Summer fruits. Stone fruit and tender, buttery pie crusts were made for each other. Next on my list? Cherry pie…
Notes and thoughts:
1. You need to start your crust ahead of time as it requires chilling. I like to make my dough the night before I want to bake and let it chill in the fridge overnight. If using frozen dough I get it out 24 hours beforehand and let it defrost in the fridge. There are multiple chilling periods required in the pie-making process, so read the recipe carefully and allow enough time! Too often I have forgotten a chilling step or two and as a result have rushed the process, ending up with a not-so-flash pie.
2. You also need to let your cooked pie rest and cool before slicing, otherwise it seeps into a spluttering mess. After all your hard work, why rush the finished product and have a sub-par slice? Trust me, make it with enough time to cool properly (usually 1-3 hours cooling time is required).
3. Make sure you have ice cubes ready to help make iced water (required in the crust recipe).
4. I prefer to incorporate the butter into the flour by hand, aiming for broad bean sized chunks (not pea sized, this is too small!). Using a food processor for this part scares me, as I feel less in control of the butter chunk outcome, which is such an important step when aiming for a good, flaky crust texture.
5. It doesn’t hurt to chill the bowls and utensils you use, especially if it’s a super hot day.
6. Sassy Radish and Melissa Clark have excellent tips on making and rolling out your pie dough. Pay attention to the rolling out part in particular, it changed my life. Wait, my pie life. No wait, my life.
7. A good pastry dough scraper and rolling pin make the world of difference, helping you work quickly to get your pie dough rolled out. If you intend on having a pie-full life, they’re a worthy and not even expensive investment.
8. I’m a fan of the blind bake (aka an initial bake without fruit (or other) filling, using baking paper and baking weights), as it allows for a far crispier bottom. Some recipes don’t call for it but I do it any way.
9. I adore fresh berries, but frozen are usually cheaper so usually I go for them (and it means I can have year round blueberry pie). Beware that frozen berries will produce more juice as the mixture sits while you wait for the crust to blind bake.
10. This pie crust recipe makes enough for two pies (using a pie dish that is 18cm in diameter and 4cm deep). If only making one pie, I’ll freeze the one I’m not using and it can stay in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap for a good few months. Again, simply allow the dough to defrost in the fridge for 24 hours if using frozen dough.
11. My husband firmly favours a lattice top, so that’s what I tend to make. I enjoy a lattice top as this allows the filling to bubble up and ooze out enticingly. Plus I find it a lot easier to fashion than a flat, covered top.
Blueberry Nectarine Pie
Makes 1 medium-sized pie, 6-8 slices, depending on how generous your serves are. My preferred pie dish is 18cm in diameter and 4cm deep.
2 & 1/2 cups Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Sugar
225g Unsalted Butter
1/2 cup Ice Water (with a dash of apple cider vinegar if you have some on hand), added by the tablespoon
Pie Filling Ingredients
Inspired by Joy The Baker
575g Nectarines (5-6 medium)
2 & 1/2 cups (300g) Blueberries, frozen or fresh (I tend to use frozen)
1/2 cup White Sugar (if your fruit is particularly ripe and sweet you can use less sugar)
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 & 1/2 tablespoons Cornflour
1 & 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice
For the top of the pie: 1 whisked egg (or leftover egg white + milk, or even plain milk or cream) and extra sugar for sprinkling (you can do cinnamon sugar here but for some reason I prefer a plain sugar sprinkle).
To serve: creme fraiche or cream.
1. Dice the butter into 3cm chunks, place it on a plate and put it in the freezer for 5 minutes. Add some ice cubes to a glass of cold water and place it in the fridge. While the butter is chilling measure out your flour. Using a spoon, scoop the flour out of your storage jar and into a measuring cup, level it out, then place in a large mixing bowl. Do this until you have 2 & 1/2 cups of flour measured precisely. Whisk the flour with the salt and sugar. Add the chilled butter and, using your hands, work quickly and methodically to incorporate the butter into the flour, aiming to create broad bean sized chunks of butter (some will be larger, some smaller and the flour will be grainy like sand). Add the iced water by the tablespoon (don’t add any ice cubes) until the dough is moist enough that it comes together easily and forms a ball (be cautious when adding water, don’t add too much). Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead it briefly until it forms a ball. Cut the dough in half and make each half into a flattened disc. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill (if only making one pie, you might place one half in the freezer at this point). The dough should chill for at least 3 hours, at the very least 1 hour, and ideally overnight. It can be kept in the fridge for up to three days prior to baking. Yay for prepping ahead of time!
2. Unrwap your chilled dough disc and remove a small corner for the topping (re-wrap this and place back in the fridge). Sprinkle a flat countertop lightly with flour, pat the dough with a sprinkle of flour and do the same to your rolling pin. Rolling from the middle of the disc to the edge and moving clockwise, roll out your dough into a large circle. Use your pastry dough scraper to flip every three or four rolls and lightly pat the dough with flour as required so it doesn’t stick. It won’t be perfect, my dough is still wonky and broken in places, but I’m getting faster and am now far more confident in this practice. Read Sassy Radish’s tips and watch Melissa Clark’s video closely and you’ll get there. When big enough (be generous) use the rolling pin to drape your dough over your pie dish, allowing a few centimetres overhang. Trim any big overhanging pieces and add this to your refrigerated corner reserved for the lattice topping. Now flute the pie dough edges in the pan by forming some sort of crumpled pattern. This is the part of the whole pie process that gets me, I cannot create a pretty edge for the life of me. Do your best, the main thing is that you have a high edge so the filling won’t spill out. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour (you can get away with a 30 minute chill here but I find an hour really helps to avoid crust shrinking). You can also chill the crust at this point overnight, and then in the morning you’re that much closer to pie.
3. Once the dough has chilled again and you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. When your oven is hot, remove the plastic wrap and cover the dough with baking paper or foil (I use two pieces to get even coverage and ensure the edges don’t burn). Place baking weights or dried beans in the centre and spread them out to weigh the dough down. Bake in the oven for ~30 minutes until the base is nicely golden and starting to crisp.
4. Meanwhile, make your filling. Slice the nectarines into thin strips and place in a bowl with the blueberries and the sugars. In a small bowl add the cornflour and whisk the remove any lumps, then sprinkle over the berries and sugar. Add the cinnamon and lemon juice, then stir well to ensure everything is mixed. Leave to rest while the crust is blind baking.
5. When the crust is ready, remove from the oven and remove the baking weights and baking paper. Using a large spoon, scoop the fruit filling into the middle of the pie dish, ensuring you don’t add too much liquid but don’t be too precious about it (too much liquid will result in a soggy crust but a little is fine. Fresh blueberries produces far less liquid). Pile the fruit up high, as it shrinks when cooking.
6. Now roll out your reserved dough and scraps for the lattice topping. Roll out a rectangle and cut 5 long strips. Place these across the pie, lightly joining the ends with the crust. Brush the dough with a whisked egg, and then sprinkle with sugar.
7. Place your pie in the oven and bake for ~30 minutes before covering with foil to avoid it getting too brown/burnt. Bake for a further 30-40 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the dough is nicely crisp and the smell becomes too intoxicating to bear.
8. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for 2-3 hours before serving. Slice and serve with a generous dollop of creme fraiche or cream. Fall in love with pie…