- Even the hardest of days can be saved by a blackberry-pluot fruit pie. -
The original tagline for this blog, when I started it all those years ago, was “When all else fails, cook.” I was very, very ill at the time, up to my cheekbones* in an autoimmune disorder that was threatening to take me out once and for all. Back then, I cooked as a form of self preservation. It was a sanity-saving measure that distracted me from everything else that was going on. When things so wonky in life something drags me to the kitchen, even if I have no energy and the lethargy is heavy enough to wear as an overbearing winter scarf. It’s my coping mechanism and it’s incredibly satisfying to rewire the badness, reshaping that dark momentum into creation. Kind of like telling myself I’m not stressed out, I’m excited! See, brain? That pulse-pulse-pulse is a good thing.
With everything that’s been going on lately, I feel the pull of the kitchen a lot more heavily. Despite the sadness, despite not knowing, despite being so SO tired, I’m suddenly inspired to bake. I haven’t felt like baking in years, with the exception of a batch of cookies here and there; mostly, I’ve had both feet planted firmly in the savory world of braises, stir-fries, and, of course, macaroni and cheese.
Last week there was a night where the compulsion to bake was so great that I couldn’t contain it. It was late and I’d had a loooong day and night. I knew I had a few pounds of Dapple Dandy pluots from my friend Amber’s house sitting in a bowl on the counter, and they’d ripened to that perfect point where they might burst if handled roughly. A tendril of sweet-tart fragrance grabbed me by the nose every time I walked into the kitchen, poking fun at me for ignoring these gorgeous little fruits as they begged for love.Fine. I’ll make a pie. Yes, it’s 10:30 at night and I’ve been up since 6am. Pie it is.
I pulled up Kate’s pie dough recipe, which I hadn’t used before, and rolled out the crust. In a sleepy daze I chopped way too many pluots, enough for both the pie and breakfast for the next few days. While mixing the fruit I remembered that I’d left a handful of blackberries asleep in a basket on top of the fridge; I called them down from their hiding place and stirred them into the filling. It smelled wonderful – the tart stonefruit and heady berries waltzed in the dimly lit kitchen, their red and black juices twirling into a fervent burgundy that coated my mixing bowl like a velvet cape.
Into the crust they went. I wove a simple lattice top, lifting every other strip of dough to bob and weave through their unevenly sliced neighbors. Sliding that pie into the oven and closing the door was oddly cathartic, shutting away the nervous energy of the day that would somehow magically turn itself into a hot, bubbling bath of summer flavor. As it baked, I dreamt that I’d lay my head down on that pie, drifting off warm and comfortable, tucked into a fragrant swirl of fruit and vanilla.
- For the crust:
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 8 tablespoons lard, cut into 1-inch pieces (or another 8 tablespoons cold butter)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup ice water
- For the blackberry pluot fruit filling:
- ¾ cup sugar
- Half a vanilla bean
- 4 good sized pluots, nectarines, or tart plums, chopped
- 6 ounces of very ripe blackberries
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- ⅓ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly-made whipped cream for serving
- Make the crust: To a large bowl add flour, butter, lard, and salt. Set the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Working quickly and using your hands, blend the ingredients together until they look like coarse meal with some pea-sized lumps. The lumps make flakey pies! Set the dough back in the fridge for 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of ice water over the dough and stir lightly with a fork. Squeeze a handful of dough together to see if it holds together without falling apart. Add water in 1 tablespoon increments, mixing with a fork after each, until the dough holds together when squeezed with your hands.
- Divide the dough in half and make 2 wide, flat disks about 5-inches across. Wrap the disks separately in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
- Take out one disk and put it on a well-floured board, pastry cloth, parchment paper or plastic wrap. Sprinkle some flour onto the top of the dough. Thump the disk with your rolling pin several times to “wake it up.” Turn it over and thump the other side.
- Always starting from the center and rolling outwards, roll the dough until it is 2-inches larger than the diameter of your pie plate. Make sure to pick up the dough after every two or three rolls to make sure it’s not sticking to your surface. Sprinkle more flour onto the top or bottom of the crust if needed to keep the dough from sticking to the pin or your work surface.
- Fold the dough over the top of your rolling pin and carefully lay it across your pie pan. Gently scoot the crust into the corners of your pie plate without stretching the dough – let its weight do most of the work. If you’ve got cracks in your crust, dab a little water where it needs to be patched and stick on a piece of dough to patch it. Slide the pie plate into the refrigerator until the filling is ready, at least 15 minutes.
- Make the blackberry pluot fruit filling: Preheat oven to 425F. Pour the sugar into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Slice the vanilla bean length-wise and use a spoon to scrape out the tiny beans. Add the beans and pod to the sugar. Using your fingers, rub the vanilla beans into the sugar, making sure to massage as much sugar as you can into the empty pod. Let sit for 5 minutes. Discard the pod.
- Add the pluots, blackberries, lemon juice, flour, and salt to the sugar. Stir well, making sure to mash the fruit a bit to vary the texture. Feel free to get your hands in there and really squish it up, if you’re into it. It’s a lot of fun.
- Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Place the pie plate in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
- Construct the pie: Roll out the remaining dough disk to about ½-inch thick, and cut into ½-inch wide strips. Form the lattice top by weaving the strips together. Kate has a wonderful video tutorials here. Pinch the edges of the pie so that the edges of the latticework are sealed to the crust in the pan.
- Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, or just until the crust begins to turn a gentle gold. Lower heat to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes, until the crust is an irresistible golden brown and the filling is bubbling enthusiastically. Allow to cool fully before serving. Top with freshly-made whipped cream.