Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Peach Blueberry Pie: Whole again

My TV broke on Friday morning.

I should have known it was coming. I'd had the TV in question – a Symphonic 19'' tube TV with built-in VHS – since my sophomore year of college, 10 years ago. I'd been so proud of it at the time. It felt like a big deal to spend $200 on anything, and the enormity of making that kind of financial decision without consulting my parents made me feel grown up – even if I did still send my mom all my essays to proofread before turning into my professors.

I loved the archaic TV. Loved it so much that when I graduated, I shipped it 2,000 miles across the country to meet me In Los Angeles as I embarked upon my post-collegiate life. I never intended to keep it as long as I did, never imagined that it would follow me through three different apartments, yet I never felt compelled to buy a new one. The
picture was clear, the volume worked properly, and I could still watch all the episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" that my (then) Patrick Dempsey-lovin' heart desired.

While logically I should have suspected that my TV had a shelf life, just like the open bag of Everything Pretzel Crisps in my kitchen cabinet that went stale two months ago, it came as a shock to me when it stopped working on Friday morning.

Even after the fifth time the TV snapped off mere moments after I'd turned it on, I still maintained an air of optimism (read: denial).

"It will be fine," I told myself. "It just needs to rest. When I come home tonight it will be just like new and I can watch the end of the Woman's Gymnastics All-Around while I eat chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bon bons with a cookie crust."

When I arrived home, however, it was still broken -- still defiant against my greatest efforts to save the soul of the 1990s in electronic form. The frustration slayed me. Exhausted from the work week, the silent echo of my TV-less apartment gnawed at my resolve, weakening it to that of a whimpering, whining three-year-old who wasn't getting her way.

And I was helpless to do anything about it.

It felt indicative of everything I've been feeling for the past six weeks. Helpless against the disinterest of a boy. Helpless against the ever-growing list of expenses infringing on my ability to eat at Osteria Mozza like its my personal pasta catering company. And
helpless against the ever-growing list of to-do's that keep shredding my free time into barely recognizable slivers -- ten minutes to read the new Jennifer Weiner book my friend Ali gave me, five minutes to call my mom on my walk home from work, two minutes to hit the delete button on the barely comprehensible message from the latest rocket scientist on OkCupid.

The feeling stayed with me through the night, asserting itself in the morning with the abrasive silence of my apartment, and pummeling me in the afternoon as the TV "specialist" at Best Buy tried to tick up the extras for the 32'' inch LED TV I never even wanted to begin with.

"Just a suggestion," He said, holding up a $39.99 surge protector to replace the one I currently own.

"Just a suggestion," He said, pointing to the 4-year warranty for again, $39.99.

"Just a suggestion," He said, leading me in the direction of the 47'' Plasma screens.

"No," I said firmly, desperate to get out of there so I could get home to the kitchen and feel something other than crushing frustration amidst the mounting uptick of "suggestions" and obligations and life interferences at the hands of someone else, something else.

I needed to be in control. I needed to massage cold pieces of butter into flour with my fingers. I needed to slice ripe peaches, pausing to drink in their sweet summer perfume before tossing them with blueberries and warm spices. I needed to carefully roll out a pie
crust, monitoring the dough with something akin to parental intuition – instinctively knowing when it's reached the right thickness to nestle gingerly into the pan.

I needed to feel unbroken.

And to find wholeness in the comforts of my very first pie.

Peach Blueberry Pie
Adapted from Miss Joy the Baker, the Queen of all things sweet
Makes one 9-inch pie

Notes: This pie is home. The sweetness of the in-season peaches, heightened by the rich syrup from the blueberries and fragrant spices is both nostalgic and complex. The filling is barely contained by the all-butter crust that stands up to its contents with a distinct personality of its own. It's a crust that you want to eat by itself – even when there's no oozy fruit filling to accompany it. Yes, it's flaky, but what seals the deal is the ample dusting of turbinado sugar and cinnamon on the top crust. Heated and topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it's the type of pie that demands to be eaten two slices at a time.

I hardly bothered to modify the original recipe from Joy (who, if you don't know  already, is a genius in food blogga form), but I did use Minute Tapioca instead of cornstarch and a smaller proportion of flour to thicken the filling, omitted the cardamom, and added a smidgen more lemon juice. Mostly because I wanted to use the word smidgen. (Though really because I have an absurdly indecorous obsession with lemon juice.) I also made a few changes with the process and finished the crust with turbinado sugar instead of regular sugar, but all other components from the original Joy the Baker recipe remain intact (as they should be).

Either way you mix or roll it, this pie is exactly what you need to be making now. Even if you don't have a broken TV. Or TV "specialist" trying to sell you a new surge protector.

For the Crust:
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ice cold water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

For the Filling:
3 pounds ripe peaches (about 6 peaches)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 to 2/3 cups granulated sugar (depending on the sweetness of your peaches)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Minute Tapioca
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for topping
crust before baking

Take a deep breath, and make the crust.

Keep in mind: The key to flaky crust is keeping the butter as cold as humanely possible. Cut cold butter into cubes then stick back in the refrigerator or freezer while preparing other ingredients for the crust. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Measure out the water into a small bowl and whisk together with the apple cider vinegar. Place in the refrigerator to keep cold. (Are you sensing a theme here?) Using your fingers, quickly massage the cold cubes of butter into the flour mixture until the dough is somewhat shaggy and the butter pieces are no larger than the size of a pie. Make a well in the middle of the batter and dump in the cold water/vinegar. Stir together with a fork until all the floury bits are moistened and the dough is starting to come “loosely” together.

Dump out the dough on a floured surface or cutting board and divide in half. Gently knead into two flat disks. Don’t worry about visible butter pieces – that’s exactly what will help ensure a flaky crust!

Wrap the discs in saran wrap or press 'n seal wrap (I prefer the latter) and refrigerate for at least an hour. If short for time, pop in the freezer for 20-30 minutes and it should do the trick nicely also. The point is to re-chill the butter so it's as cold as possible when it goes into the oven.

While the crust is chilling, prepare the filling. Quarter peaches (with skins still intact!) into quarter-inch thick slices. Toss with blueberries. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle over the peaches and blueberries and gently stir until just integrated to avoid bruising the fruit. Combine Tapioca with the lemon juice and the juices that are starting to form at the bottom of the bowl of fruit. This will begin the dissolving process and start to thicken up at least some of the juices prior to baking. Add to the fruit bowl, again, stirring gently until just combined. Place in the fridge to chill.

Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk to form an egg wash. In another small bowl, use a fork to combine the cinnamon with the turbinado sugar. Set aside while rolling out the dough.

Remove one of the dough discs (don’t you just love alliteration?) from the wrap and roll out into a 13-inch round, pausing to re-flour the rolling pin to keep the dough from sticking. You’ll want to roll a few strokes in one direction and then rotate around the pie to ensure an even thickness and somewhat circular shape. It won’t be perfect, but that’s okay since you’ll have extra dough to snip off.  Fold the dough in half to transfer to the pie pan, and then gently unfold and nestle into the pan. Place in the refrigerator while you roll out the top crust.

Follow the same instructions to roll out the top crust to create an identical 13-inch round circle. Remove the bottom crust from the refrigerator and gently spoon the filling into pan. Fold the top crust in half and use kitchen shears or a knife to cut four, one-inch diagonal slits approximately one-inch apart in the center so the steam can escape while the pie bakes. Cut three, smaller, half-inch diagonal slits between those slits. This will create an almost “lattice-like” effect without all the effort of cutting the top crust into strips.

Transfer the folded crust to the pie tin, unfolding to cover the filling. Use the kitchen sheers or knife to trim the edges of the crust so there’s just about 1-inch (or ¾ inch if you prefer less crust) overhang. Use your fingers to press together the top and bottom crusts, pinching to crimp the edges. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the top crust and pinched edge with the egg wash and then generously sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the preheated oven to capture the escaping juices, and bake pie at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 375 for the remaining 45 to 55 minutes. The pie is done when it’s golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving so the juices have time to solidify a bit. Slice and serve topped with vanilla ice cream. Store in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days.


Ashley said...

This is reminiscent of my favorite dessert of all time - the Gourmet peach/blueberry cake (that's really a pie without the top crust). I approve.

weezermonkey said...


Frances said...

TOTALLY get it!!! Baking is such a fun way to take control of your life! I too love JTB, do you have her cookbook? It's wonderful! We should have a JTB recipe potluck! I'm sorry about your TV, but not sorry that such a sexy lookin pie came out of it. :)

yutjangsah said...

This is a gorgeous pie. It belongs in my mouth cave.

Jai said...

I tried baking a pie for the first time yesterday, but it I messed up on the cooking time so it got a little dried out. Your's looks amazing, I think I'll try your recipe next. I like the way you put holes in the top, and how you connected the top, and bottom crust, it looks awesome!


Diana said...

Ashley - Looove that dessert! If you ever feel like, you know, making it again while blueberries and peaches are still in season, I'm more than happy to help you eat it. ;)

Weez - ME TOO! Pie kicks the crap outta cake!

Frances - Joy is the best! Have you tried her tangerine curd? OMG, I die! I could eat it by the spoonful!

Sook - I'll bake you and Sang a really fressssh pie someday.

Jai - Oh no! I'm sure it still tasted great... just need to cover it with some extra ice cream, right? ;)