It’s a good thing my pie crust mojo came back when it did. It is fruit season, and I am psyched. The produce section at my local supermarket smells like peaches. Sam and I have been eating cherries like candy. The strawberries actually taste like strawberries now. It’s fun enough to just eat all this fruit out of hand, but when we want to actually do something with it, there’s nothing quite like a pie.
Sam’s mom was the one who first introduced me to nectarine-blueberry pie. She’s an avid pie baker all year round–pecan and custard pies when it’s cool out, and fruit pies when it’s warm. Nectarine-blueberry is her signature fruit pie, and I fell in love with it almost immediately. The two fruits work so harmoniously together: the nectarine is heady and sweet, the blueberries lush and jammy. The texture is gorgeous, with chunks of stone fruit and wilted nubbins of berry.
Recently I decided to try my own spin on the recipe. I adore spices and fruit together, so I spiked the filling with a bit of ginger and cardamom for warmth. Other than that, this is a fairly classic recipe, a bit elaborate to put together but lovely and homey when it’s baked. Like other stone fruit pies, it’s pretty juicy; I’ve found that the filling starts bubbling over well before the pie itself is done baking. After one particularly nasty mess on the floor of a friend’s oven, I’ve learned to bake this pie on a foil-lined baking sheet. It’ll still make a glorious mess, but at least it’ll be easier to clean up.
In testing this recipe, I’ve learned a couple nifty pie tricks. First, for a better crust, add an egg in two stages: the white gets brushed on the bottom crust to prevent sogginess, and the yolk gets brushed on the top crust to help it go golden. Second, a drinking glass makes a great lazy person’s pie crust cutter. Placing rounds of pastry on top of the pie is just as pretty and functional as weaving a lattice, with about half the effort. I’ll be making a lot of pies this way this summer.
Spiced Nectarine and Blueberry Pie (makes one 9-inch pie)
Adapted from PARADE
Note: Even though I’ve started baking by weight, I still use volumetric measurements for pie filling, where precision isn’t nearly as crucial. Basically, you need enough sugar to make your fruit filling taste good, and enough starch to thicken it.
Rye Pie Crust (or your favorite double-crust pie dough), refrigerated for at least 1 hour
2 1/2 lb ripe nectarines (white or yellow)
1 pint (6 oz) blueberries
1/2 – 2/3 cup granulated sugar (depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
1/3 cup (5 tbsp) cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 large egg, separated
1 tbsp water or milk
2 tbsp granulated sugar or raw (turbinado) sugar, for sprinkling
Remove the pie crusts from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes, until soft enough to roll. While they’re resting, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
On a lightly floured surface, roll one crust into a round about 12 inches across and 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the rolled crust to the pie pan, and flute the edges (if desired). Roll the other crust into a rough rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet. Refrigerate both crusts for at least 30 minutes.
While the crusts chill, pit the nectarines and cut them into thin wedges. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and add blueberries, sugar, starch, lemon juice, ginger, and cardamom. Toss to combine.
Preheat the oven to 425º F, and position an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Lightly beat the egg white, and gently brush it over the bottom crust. Transfer the filling into the pie pan, using a spoon or spatula to even it out.
Use a round cutter or the rim of a drinking glass to cut rounds out of the second crust. Arrange the rounds on top of the pie. Beat the egg yolk with water or milk, and gently brush it all over the top crust. Sprinkle over 2 tbsp sugar.
Place the pie pan on the lined baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375º F and bake for another 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling thickly. If the crust starts browning too quickly, cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil.
Remove from the oven and transfer the pie pan to a cooling rack. Let the pie cool completely (at least 2 hours) before slicing and serving. Leftovers will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days, covered with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.