Thursday, 23 August 2012

Summer Bounty: Plum and Nectarine Pie

Sometimes stone fruit is a dream. You can slice cleanly into that juicy, fragrant flesh. It pulls smoothly away from the hard pit. The firm flesh holds the sweetness, complemented perfectly by the slight tartness of the skin.

But other times it's a nightmare. Soft fruit squelches unresistingly under the knife's edge. Errant sprays of juice squirt you in the eye. Soft skin tears and peels away from the flesh and the hard pit refuses to give up its grip on the succulent fruit.

This was one of those times...

But that's okay. Sometimes baking is a little messy. Sometimes things don't keep the shape you intended them to. You might end up with sticky fruit juice up to your elbows and a smudge of flour on your nose. And that's just fine.

This pie is like a good summer: satisfying, sweet, and a little bit messy. The pastry is buttery-flaky deliciousness and the filling is soft and full of fragrant plum and sweet nectarine.

Plum and Nectarine Pie

2 1/2 cups all purpose/plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup COLD butter, cubed (two sticks or 225 g)
6-8 tablespoons cold water

Combine the flour salt and sugar. Now add the cubed butter, cutting it into the flour with a knife or a pastry blender (or pulse it in a food processor) until it has the texture of very course sand with some pea-sized lumps of butter (don't over mix it or your pastry will be tough!) Now begin adding the water, a little at a time, and lightly mix it in with a fork. Add just enough water so that the dough will hold together when pressed into a ball.

Now turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in two (these will be your top and bottom crusts). Use your hands to lightly shape the two halves into rough disks. Wrap each disk in cling wrap and refrigerate them for at least an hour but no more than two days.

5 nectarines
5 small plums
1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons flour

Thinly slice the fruit and toss together with the other ingredients.

Once your dough has chilled for at least an hour, preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Lightly flour your dough-rolling surface and remove one disk from the refrigerator (the other one can stay in until you're ready to roll it out and top the pie with it). Working quickly and smoothly to avoid over-working the dough, roll it out to a thickness of no more than 1/4" and at least 2 inches wider than the diameter of your pie tin. Gently lift the sheet into your pie tin (you can roll it onto the rolling pin to move it or carefully fold it in half, lift it onto the tin, and unfold it again). Trim the excess dough, leaving between 1/2 and 1 inch of overhang.

Now spoon the filling into the crust and repeat the process with the top crust. You can fold the edges of the top crust over the bottom and flute them. If you have extra scraps of dough you can cut out decorative designs to place on top (brush the bottom of each addition with a little milk before placing it on so that it will stick during baking).

Brush the top of the pie with a little milk or eggwash so it will brown nicely in the oven and you can sprinkle it with a little demerara sugar.

Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for an additonal 25-35 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned.

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