We’ve gotten our first whiff of fall in New York City this week. This morning, I actually put on socks. But now that summer is beginning to fade (and soon, too, will my flip-flop foot tan), it’s officially okay to start thinking about baking, specifically pies. There is so much good fruit around.
Fresh, tree-ripe peaches, plums and apricots make a superior pie, and this is the only time of year to get them. I can’t tell you how sad it is to try a canned peach-filled pie after trying one made with the ripest fruit, fresh. Another great reason to make pies from these fruits — as tempting as they are to just gobble up fresh — is that it’s a great way to use up fruits that have gotten a little bruised, or are soft and overripe, just like turning them into jam.
So that’s what happened with a bunch of apricots and plums recently, for me. Though I’ve been eating plums incessantly ever since I signed up for Red Jacket Orchard’s fruit CSA, I can’t seem to down enough of them before they get a little soft and squishy. I prefer eating plums that are slightly firm, when the skin’s tight across its ruby flesh and super tart. A couple of pints of apricots, too, went the way of soft and slightly shriveled, as if they were on their way to drying themselves out in the sun on their own. Not even the brewers at Sixpoint could finish all the fresh fruits that I had stocked the fridge with. So one day, for a post-lunch dessert, I made this pie.
It was the quickest pie-making mission I think I’ve ever done. I didn’t try to get creative with the flavors in the filling, like adding herbs or browned butter or nuts. Just this good fruit would be sensational enough, I figured. Since there was a hoard of plums and apricots, I went with those for my theme, and left the skins on as I pitted and cut them all into wedges.
The good thing about this mix, plums and apricots, is that apricots are a little on the dry side, and plums can be way too mushy when baked. Combined, they make not only a great flavor, but a nice consistency in your pie. Just be sure to add a little touch of cornstarch (or flour) to the fruit mixture, so that the runny plum juices thicken up a bit into a delicious sauce.
an egg wash is prepared (from one of Beaker’s miniature eggs)
Something about cooked apricots and plums, too, is just delicious in a way that completely differs from how they taste fresh. You don’t need to add lemon juice to this pie filling, either — it’s tangy and very intense in flavor alone. I don’t know why people invented candy sometimes.
If you find yourself in a predicament of too much fruit, too, or just want to try out this combo for a ride, please do so before stone fruit season’s over. It might just warm you up to colder weather soon to come.
Plum & Apricot Pie
(makes one 9-inch pie)
for the filling
6 cups plums and apricots, pitted and cut to wedges
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
for the crust
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons cold water
optional: 1 egg and sugar to brush on top before baking
Make the crust: Combine the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, your fingers or a food processor, cut the butter into the flour. If using the food processor, pulse several few times until the pieces of butter are no larger than a pea. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs. Add water one tablespoon at a time and stop when the dough is malleable enough to form a ball. (If using food processor, slowly add water one tablespoon at a time to the mixture while pulsing it just until a ball is formed). Break into two balls. Cover them with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (Crust can be made several hours beforehand.)
In a large bowl, combine the fruit with the sugar and cornstarch and mix well. Roll one pastry ball out and transfer to the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Fill with the fruit. Roll out top crust on a sheet of waxed or parchment paper, and carefully transfer peel off on top of the pie. Crimp edges to seal the pie shut, and poke holes throughout the top with a fork to ventilate the filling. Brush top of pie with the beaten egg mixed with a little water, and sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
(for 1 9-inch pie, or about 8 servings)
6 cups apricots and plums (from a CSA half-share at $13 per week of lots of fruit): $5.00
1 1/2 sticks butter (at $3.50/8 oz.): $2.63
2 1/4 cups flour: $1.50
1/2 cup sugar: $0.25
1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, sugar for sprinkling, egg for eggwash from rooftop chicken): $0.25
Seven brownie points: A rich pie pastry filled with sugared, cooked fruit is what it is, no matter how fresh and full of vitamins the fruit is to begin with. Still, they retain a good share of Vitamin C, telling by the pie’s tartness, and by keeping the skins of the fruit on you’re keeping more flavor as well as nutrition, so don’t go through the hassle of peeling! One piece of this treat is a good way to reconcile with an overload of fruit, but whenever you can, eating them fresh is the best way to go for your health.
Eight maple leaves: Know thy farmer, they say, and it’s been a great pleasure getting to know the farmers and staff at Red Jacket Orchards, which doesn’t spray chemicals on their Finger Lakes-based orchard and is fond of cultivating rare varieties of fruits to keep them alive. The butter, from Ronnybrook, is also created with care by the upstate dairy. I’ll just need to join a grain CSA next in order to benefit from all the great flour made in this region.