When I was growing up, my father was always making pies. Apple, coconut cream, and his speciality, pecan. In our little town in Central California, his pies have become something of a legend and a staple on the wish lists of many in the community. My dad learned everything he knows about making pies from his mother, a true southern lady who's pie crust ingredients read something like "a few cups of flower, about half as much shortening as butter, and some ice water. Too thin? Add flower. Too sticky? Add water." Anyway, something like that.
I have always been impressed with my dad's pie making ability, along with the simplicity of the recipe handed down through my family. So when I first decided to confront the challenge of making a pie myself, I was pretty sure I was going to screw it up horribly. And, believe it or not, I did. It was an unmitigated disaster.
Because of the challenges faced with having a kitchen the size of a public bathroom stall, it is difficult to find enough room to roll out a properly sized pie crust. Well, my first attempt was an easy apple pie, recipe consisting of two pie crusts (top and bottom) and the baked apple filling. As I attempted this seemingly simple task, I think I may have broken several state laws with the amount of vulgar obscenities that came tumbling out of my kitchen. I barely got the bottom crust into the dish and most of the top crust ended up on the floor because the damn thing kept sticking to the "non-stick" mat. So we had a single crust apple pie. Whatever.
So now, for my second attempt, I was smarter. I remembered the horrors of my first attempt and learned from them. I adapted and overcame. For anyone else suffering from the same tiny kitchen syndrome as we are, here are a few tips to help you get through the pie making process. First, put EVERYTHING in the freezer. The butter, the shortening, the water, and especially the mat or pastry board you will be rolling your dough on. The colder, the better. You might even want to freeze your rolling pin. Second, to get the crust off of the mat and into the dish, roll it gently onto your rolling pin, pick it up, and lay it gingerly into the dish. I do not reccomend trying to pick it up with just your hands. So, after finding a recipe, the Missus and I went down to the farmers market to buy some fresh fruit, and away we went.
Blueberry Nectarine Pie
Flaky Pie Dough (These measurements make 4 individual pie crusts. Cut the amounts in half to make enough for one pie.)
5 1/4 cups pastry or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water
With a pastry blender, cut chilled butter into the flour and salt until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Cut in the chilled shortening until it forms curds.
Add the ice water gradually and toss to blend. (Your hands work great for this.)
When the dough is sufficiently moist, pinch it - it will stick together
Lightly gather the dough into a round and chill before rolling.
After the dough has chilled for an hour, cut the ball into equal halves. Chill one half, and roll the second into a round about 10" in diameter and 1/8" thin. When you lay it into the pie dish, it should come up the sides and hang over the edge. Trim the excess, and chill for 1/2 hour.
3 cups fresh blueberries, washed
2 cups sliced nectarines
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
large pinch of lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
While your dough is chilling before you roll it out, start your filling. Put half of the fruit in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close at hand. Add the sugar, flour, and lemon zest and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The fruits will release their juices and the liquid will thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Cool the filling to room temperature. Taste, and add lemon juice as needed.
Spoon the cooled filling into the pie shell and dot the tip with butter.
Roll out your second ball of dough. Transfer it to the top of the pie, aligning the edges of the top crust with the bottom crust. Trim any ragged edges.
Fold both layers of overhanging dough under to create a thick edge around the rim of the pan. Crimp the edges by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of your other hand, creating scallops every 1 - 2 inches around the rim. Using a sharp paring knife, cut 4 - 6 slits in the top of the crust, brush egg wash over the top, and chill for 20 minutes.
Placing the pie on a jelly roll pan in the center of the oven, bake at 375 for about 40 - 50 minutes. Let the pie cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Ok, so I didn't get the nice scalloped edges like the recipe suggests. Other than that, the pie was a success. It even had a top crust! The tart blueberries and sweet nectarines are a great combination, and the crust was tender and flaky.
Deep thanks are owed to the amazing chefs who contributed to the cookbook, "Baking With Julia", especially Leslie Mackie who wrote the recipe for this pie. And, of course my beautiful wife for taking these mouth watering pictures.