Saturday is the last day of summer and we can break out thoughts of sweaters, and pumpkins and pie!
One of my earliest memories is of the orchard near our town where my mother bought MacIntosh apples by the bushel. They were stored in the garage where their sweet scent greeted us on every trip. (The smell of an apple today sends me right back there.) Fresh apple cider was drunk by the gallon and extra stored in a large freezer in the basement. We ate applesauce and baked apples and, of course, there was pie. My mother’s pies were piled high with large pieces of apple which sank down when the pie was cooked. The pie crust gaped above the fruit and crumbled when you cut into it but the reward was thick chunks of fruit, slightly resistant to your fork, tinged pink from the MacIntosh juices and redolent with cinnamon.
Is it any wonder I keep returning to pie in my blog?
I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram, staring at ridiculously beautiful pies with crusts which have been plaited and twisted, sculpted and decorated and it’s intimidating…and kind of intriguing. I wanted to try it.
I knew my pie would not be the finished piece of art that others share but that’s okay because everyone has a first pie (and hopefully a second and a third and so on). Those Instagram pies? They have been practiced many times and the dough tweaked to make it hold its shape while it is rolled and cut.
Most of us don’t have time for that. But most of us would also like to make our pies stand out from the rest, if only just a little bit.
So this blog is about my first attempt. And since it turned out pretty well I am sharing it with you.
For the crust, I used the same short crust pastry which I have shared with you before. If you need a refresher on the process, read here
This is my first Fall pie so I made a trip to the market to see what was in season. I was thinking about figs until I realized I am in Chicago and the winters are too cold to grow them. I settled on pears and blackberries, two throwbacks to September in England when the pear tree in our garden was heavy with fruit and blackberries ripened in the hedgerows.
I put the berries in a big bowl and peeled and cut the pears into approximately the same size as the berries.
I had some fresh ginger root so I grated some of that on top.
In a separate bowl I mixed together the tapioca, sugar and salt before adding it to the fruit. I did this because it meant I could fold it lightly into the fruit without breaking up the berries too much. Then I set the fruit aside so the tapioca could soften while I tackled my crust.
First I rolled the pastry and cut it to a circle about an two inches larger than the pie plate. In retrospect, I think a larger edge would work better so if you do it, go for four inches.
If you are lucky you have a small leaf shaped cookie cutter to use. If you are like me, you don’t. So I cut a leaf shape out of paper and used a sharp knife to trace around it on the pastry.
After I had the pastry cut I placed it on top of the pie. This is where I discovered I should have cut it a little larger. I also should have spread the fruit out more evenly, making sure to get it fully to the sides. Making it work, I cut some pieces from the extra dough and sealed it (decoratively!).
I brushed the whole thing with an egg wash then used my cut-out leaves to make a flower in the center.
One more brushing with the egg-wash and a sprinkling of sugar. Into the oven it goes!
Looking at the pie, you can see where I went wrong–it needed a touch more fruit to fill the pie evenly after it bakes and the crust should have been rolled a little bigger to make it neater. But I’m okay with this. And even better, it tastes delicious!
MAKE IT PRETTY: BLACKBERRY AND PEAR PIE WITH DECORATIVE CRUST
For the pie crust
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup cold butter
- ¼ - ½ cup ice water
For the pie filling
- 2 pints blackberries
- 4-6 pears peeled and chopped
- ¼ cup minute tapioca
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp dried ginger or 1 inch piece fresh
- Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Make the pastry
- In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar and salt together.
- Cut the butter into small cubes and using a pastry blender or food processor, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles sand.
- Add the ice water a little at a time until the pastry comes together. Form it into a ball, flatten it a bit and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Make the pie filling
- Peel and chop the pears into roughly the same size as the blackberries.
- Place blackberries and pears in a large bowl.
- If you are using fresh ginger, grate the ginger and add it to the fruit.
- In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients (tapioca, sugar salt and dried ginger, if using)
- Add the dry ingredients to the fruit and gently fold together.
- Let rest for fifteen minutes or more.
Assemble the pie
- Roll out half the pastry and line the bottom of pie pan.
- Roll out the second half of the pastry and cut into a circle about 4 inches larger than your pie pan.
- Using a cookie cutter or stencil, cut leaves out of the pastry around the outer edge.
- Fill the lined pie pan with the fruit mixture, spreading the fruit evenly throughout the pan.
- Carefully place the top layer over the fruit and seal it with a fork or by pinching it with your fingers.
- Brush all over the pastry with a lightly beaten egg.
- Make a flower with the cut-out leaf shapes in the center of the pie. Roll three small balls for the center.
- Brush the flower with the egg wash and sprinkle the whole pie with sugar.
- Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake in the center of your oven.
- Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes until the pastry has brown and the filling is bubbling.
- Let pie cool to room temperature before cutting.
Note: If you don’t have a pastry blender, freeze the butter and grate it. The refreeze for about ten minutes. Using your fingers, mix it quickly into the flour. The pastry can be made a day or two in advance.