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.
I made my first galette over the weekend. I’m quite proud, actually–I’m usually a bit of a pie wimp, and this was my first foray in a long time into the realm of flaky dough and bubbling fruit juices. As far as pie-type desserts go, I can now say from experience that a galette is an unfussy cook’s best friend: there’s only one crust to roll out, no pan-lining or crimping or pre-baking, and even the roughest and most haphazard attempts at folding the dough over the fruit end up looking like you meant to do it that way.
The real revelation here is the pie dough, a rye flour-inflected recipe I pinched from 101 Cookbooks. I love the old-country tang of good rye bread, and the notion of working that flavor into a pie dough was irresistible. Beyond the addition of the rye flour, the dough is pretty classic–flour, butter, salt, and cold fizzy water to keep the whole thing light. It was a dream to work with, rolling without complaint and baking to perfect crisp-flakiness. I could easily see this as the lid for a pot pie, or the wrapper for a batch of piroshki, and certainly as the base for any number of sweet or savory pies. This will be my go-to crust in future, no question.
As for what to wrap the dough around, there wasn’t much contest: nectarines are in their element in California right now, and few things make me weak at the knees like a sweet white nectarine. I found the perfect ones at the farmer’s market, fat and smooth and just coming into sugary ripeness. I cut the nectarines into wedges–more than a few of which disappeared along the way–and nestled them into the center of that simple gorgeous rye dough, on a bed of almond meal and flour to catch any oozing juices. Within ten minutes of putting it in the oven, the whole kitchen smelled like a little corner of summer: hot collapsing fruit and browning sugar and butter. It was the kind of dessert that makes you a little mournful when it’s gone, longing for just a little taste more of shattering crust and slumped fruit.
This was my first galette, and the first of many. I’m already planning my next one–perhaps something savory as we slide into fall. I’ll keep you updated.
You know, if I were in a more articulate frame of mind, today would be a great day to exercise my eloquence-muscle and use this little blog o’ mine to sing the praises of seasonal summer cooking.
But today is also a rain-soaked Tuesday, and I’m a working stiff in every sense–sleep-deprived and body-sore and generally about as lucid as an owl full of schnapps. So here’s all the eloquence I can muster right now:
IT’S NECTARINE SEASON. FINALLY.