Wednesday, June 12, 2013

cherry nectarine pie: hailing summer!

It's beginning to look a lot like summer... at least in terms of the fruit I'm seeing at Trader Joe's and the farmer's market. We live in Southern CA, and June gloom kicked in right on June 1. So weather-wise, we're not so warm and sunny. But nectarines are out and about, and I've eaten the first (expensive) cherries as well. That means it's time to start thinking about stone fruit pies!

This pie was an amalgamation of recipes. I used the New School of Cooking recipe for pie crust that I learned in my pie class a couple of summers ago. I used this cherry pie filling recipe. And because I was a little short on cherries, I threw in some roughly chopped, sweet nectarines.

Nectarines are super easy to work with. Their skins are so thin, you don't have to peel them if you don't want to. It's opposite with peaches, where the skin is thicker and the fuzziness can be off-putting to some tastes, so it's often easier to peel them. It's actually a snap to peel peaches: you blanch them (throw them in boiling water) for 20-30 seconds for ripe peaches, 1 minute for unripe peaches. Then you shock them in some ice water, and the skin will peel away in seconds.

Anyway, I didn't actually cook the nectarines since they were so ripe. I just chopped them up and stirred them into the cooked cherry filling, and then poured the whole thing into the pie shell.

Oh! And I should tell you how it tasted! Deeee-licious! The nectarines and cherries play off each other nicely. Though sweet, the nectarines are actually a little tangy in comparison. And this pie crust is light and flaky with a hint of sweetness. Just the right complement to the filling.

I do still get annoyed that no matter how beautifully I crimp the edges, they don't hold their shape as perfectly as I'd like when baked. I wonder if an all-shortening crust holds its shape better? This one is made with all butter (I often make crusts that are a combination), mostly because butter tastes so good. And I'm going to cut myself some slack. It's food, not architecture. The crust is substantial enough to hold up the filling on its own, once cut, and it tastes great. Props to the pie crust.

(For the record, here's an unbaked cherry pie I made previously. See how nicely crimped, before baking?)

Here's the pie crust recipe.

Pie Crust (and general pie how-to)
Makes dough for 1, double-crust, 9" pie

2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1" cubes
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter. I do this by hand, though a pastry blender works, too. Try to use your fingertips, not your hands, as they will warm up the dough too much. The New School taught us to put the butter in the bowl, toss it with the flour so all the butter is coated, and then start working it into the dough. You want to end up with pea-sized pieces of butter.

Add about 4 tablespoons of ice water. You will probably need a little more, but it's easier to add it than to take it away if the dough gets too wet, so go slowly. Mix the dough by hand until it just holds together. The way to test it is to grab a small handful and squeeze it together. Rub your thumb across it. If it holds together, you have enough water; if it's still crumbly, add another tablespoon of water and toss together.

Divide the dough in half and wrap it in plastic. Form each half into a disc and refrigerate for 1 hour. (You can do this in advance.)

When you roll out the dough, it's easy to roll it between two pieces of parchment, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. This lets you get the dough fairly thin without using a lot of extra flour to prevent sticking.

Roll out one disc of dough and drape in pie pan. Gently push the dough into the corners of the pan. Fill with pie filling (cherry, apple, or really any fruit that would work in a baked pie). Roll out the second disc and gently drape it over the top. Trim the edges of both pieces of dough to about 1". Gently pinch them together and roll/fold them underneath each other, on top of the edge of the pie pan. Crimp the dough in whatever manner you prefer. I am lefty and I hold the knuckles of my left hand on the outside edge of the pie and the knuckle of my right index finger on the inside edge. I pinch the pie dough between my knuckles so that the right index knuckle meets the middle of my left 2nd and 3rd fingers. Make sense? That makes a little "v" shape, and then I move around the edge of the pie doing the other ridges, about 1/2" to 1" apart.

If desired, brush the pie crust with milk, cream, or egg (yolk, white, or the whole thing) and sprinkle with sanding sugar or demerara sugar. Cut a few vents in the pie to allow steam to escape. Place the pie on a foil-lined (for easy cleanup), rimmed cookie sheet. If you've ever had a pie ooze in your oven, you'll know it's not a fun cleaning job, and this makes it 1000x easier.

Bake at 350F for 1 hour or until crust is a nice, deep golden color. After 45 minutes of baking, check the pie. If the edges are getting too dark, drape them loosely with tinfoil.

The pie will do just fine in the fridge or at room temperature, covered, for a few days - if it lasts that long!

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