pie crust

italian plum pie

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

Hello!

I’m writing you this week from Brussels. Beau and I are staying with friends and recharging between the Paris photography workshop we hosted and the retreat we’re leading in Portugal. Since we arrived, our days have mostly involved sleeping late, cooking with all the gorgeous fall produce, leisurely meals with friends and long walks through the forest. Needless to say, I do not want to leave.

Where Paris was cosmopolitan, sexy, hectic and loud, Brussels is slow and quiet. It’s a city of austere northern architecture and moody blue-grey skies and daily rain showers that necessitate frequent stops for coffee or tea. Our friends live in a lovely, rambling old house with creaky floorboards and cozy reading nooks and two friendly cats (who have been known simply as Le Blanc and Le Noir for as long as I can remember).

Image: Olaiya Land

All this comfort and sleep and home-cooked food makes me feel like a new person. The woman who obsesses about going to the gym and cleaning the house and Instagram analytics has vacated the premises. In her place is someone who sleeps until 11am, thinks walking is exercise enough and dips her French fries in mayonnaise (because, Belgium).

I’ve traveled enough to know that this supremely relaxed, well-rested version of myself won’t stick around forever. But that’s not the point. The important thing is stepping outside my day-to-day stresses and tribulations for long enough to gain perspective on what really matters.

This is the main reason I travel.

Image: Olaiya Land

Don’t get me wrong: the museums and wine and pains au chocolat are pretty compelling reasons, too. But the main thing is how foreign places create a space for me to slow down, reconnect with myself and do more of the things that bring me pleasure. Which in turn allows me to have more creative ideas, be inspired to head in new directions and be a better human, all around.

In this vein of taking time to recharge and do more things that bring us joy, I have a pie recipe for you this week.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

There’s a sensual pleasure to baking a pie from scratch. Mixing the dough by hand and rolling it out evenly. Smelling and tasting the tart, floral fruit as you season the filling. The satisfaction of weaving the top into place and crimping the edges in whatever pattern pleases you most. Arguably the best part is sitting down to eat the first still-warm slice with a melty scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Seen from this vantage point, a home-baked pie is like a work of art and a mini-vacation rolled into one; a space to slow down and settle into yourself that can be achieved within the four walls of your own kitchen.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Italian Plum Pie

  • 1 recipe flaky pie dough (see below)
  • 2 lbs (900g) firm-ripe Italian prune plums (or other plums, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 lb (450g) firm-ripe peaches (this is roughly 2 medium peaches)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 9 tablespoons (120g) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

Flaky Pie Dough

  • 1 lb + 2 oz (4 cups) all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

  • 5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) lard, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

  • 3/4 cup cold water

  • 1 whole egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (or 3 tablespoons cream or milk), to glaze

  • 1-2 tablespoons turbinado, demerara or sanding sugar (regular old sugar will work, too)

*Notes: If peaches aren’t available when you get around to baking this pie, you can use all plums or substitute figs for the peaches.

- I have a step-by-step tutorial for making pie dough with pictures here. (Scroll to the bottom of the post.)

- I also tried this pie with this Easiest Pie Crust Ever from Yossy over at Apt 2B Baking Co. This crust uses only flour, butter and cream cheese and comes together quickly and easily in a food processor. The tang of the cream cheese is a nice compliment to stone fruit. It’s a great option if you need to save time or are nervous about making the crust 100% by hand.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

For the crust: Before you begin, make sure your butter, lard and cold water have been in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If the weather is warm or your kitchen tends to be toasty, chill your flour as well.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Separate the pieces of chilled butter and toss them in the flour mixture to coat. Do the same with the lard. When all the pieces of fat have been coated in flour, pick up a piece of butter or lard between your thumb and first two fingers. Slide your thumb over the butter or lard while pressing down on it in order to form a long, thin strip. Drop this strip back into the bowl so it becomes coated with flour. Continue until all the pieces of butter and lard have been flattened. Some of the flakes will break and the dough will take on a slightly crumbly or sandy appearance, which is just fine. Place the bowl in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to re-chill the fat.

Drizzle the cold water and vinegar onto the chilled flour and fat mixture, tossing constantly with a flexible silicone or rubber spatula or a large spoon. Continue adding water until the mixture is moist enough to form a dough when you pinch it together. If you have used ¾ cup of water and the dough seems dry, give it a few more turns with your spatula or spoon and then pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough. Squeeze it and see if it wants to come together into a dough.  If it is too crumbly and won’t form a dough, add a bit more water, a couple teaspoons at a time, until the mixture forms a dough when you pinch it together.

Turn out the dough (it will be shaggy) onto a large work surface and gather it together into a ball. Do not knead it as this will toughen the dough. Divide it in half with a bench scraper or knife. Form each half into a ball and then flatten each ball into a disk about 3/4-inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap or parchement and chill for at least an hour before rolling. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or placed in a resealable bag and frozen for up to 2 months.  If frozen, thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Roll out one disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Place the dough into a pie plate. Lift and press it into the edges of the plate.  Do not stretch the dough into the edges as this will make your crust shrink as it bakes. Trim and crimp the edges of your crust and place the pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the other disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut out a circle roughly 1 inch larger than the top diameter of your pie plate.  For a latticed pie, cut this circle into wide strips.  Place the strips on a plate and refrigerate while you make the filling.

When you are ready to bake the pie, arrange a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat it to 425°F.  

For the filling: Cut the plums into quarters if they're large or halves if they're small, discarding the pits. Cut the peaches into 1-inch thick slices. Place the fruit in a large mixing bowl and toss gently with the lemon juice, sugar, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Toss the fruit and any juices that have collected in the bowl with the cornstarch, mixing well to break up any clumps of cornstarch.

Baking the pie: Pour the fruit mixture into your well-chilled or frozen bottom crust. Place the dough strips from the refrigerator on top of the fruit, weaving them into a lattice pattern. Trim the edges to overhang by ¾ inch. Fold the top edges of the lattice over the bottom crust, tuck the edges under and crimp to seal the edges. Place the filled and topped pie back in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. 

(I know. There’s a lot of chilling and freezing and waiting around. But taking the time to par-freeze your pie will help keep your crust from slumping in the oven.)

Brush the top crust with the egg wash (or cream or milk) and then sprinkle with the sugar. Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until the crust is dark golden brown, about 45-60 minutes longer. You want to make sure you can see the filling bubbling up through the lattice or the cornstarch won’t set the filling and it will be runny. The top crust should be deep golden-brown when the pie is done. If you feel like it’s starting to burn, loosely tent aluminum foil over the pie and continue to bake until the juices bubble.

Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool before serving. (The longer you let it cool, the easier it will be to slice.)

Serves 6-8.

double-ginger blackberry plum pie

Image: Olaiya Land

Pie is a surprisingly divisive topic. I’ve seen perfectly sane bakers on the verge of a fist fight over whether the best crusts are made with butter or lard. I’ve heard pastry chefs talk mountains of trash over other chefs’ under-baked or over-browned pies. I’ve seen people almost in tears because of a soupy filling, ready to throw in the towel and give up pie-making forever.

I get it. Pie is not the easiest baked good to master. The different water and pectin content of fruit makes the filling tricky. A golden, flaky crust takes patience and attention to detail. I understand why so many of you are intimidated to bake up a pie of your own. 

But you shouldn’t be.

Image: Olaiya Land

I’m not going to go so far as to say that pie is easy. There are about a dozen steps for baking a lovely one. To do it right takes the greater part of a morning or afternoon. But a bubbling-hot pie, fresh from the oven is a thing of beauty. And a still warm slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is one of life’s great pleasures. 

In this respect, pie is like a lot of other great experiences. It’s daunting and takes work and sometimes feels unattainable. Like actually understanding wine. Or finally buying a pair of jeans that make your ass look amazing. Or finding that perfect someone to grow old and grey with. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Or venturing to a glorious city like Paris on your own--which is what I’m currently doing. Despite the fact that this is my favorite city in the world, and that I’ve been here more times than I can count, and that I actually enjoy being alone, I feel out of sorts and awkward. I woke up feeling like this whole trip was a bad idea and that I’d be much happier at home in my own bed. 

Luckily, I’ve had these feelings of homesickness and insecurity often enough to know that they aren’t real. They’re just my mind trying to trick me into playing it safe. 

Life, however, is way too short for always playing it safe. There are too many inspiring people to meet and too many new places to discover. And too many pies to bake.

Image: Olaiya Land

So I’m here to remind you that if you think there’s something spectacular on the other side of your dreams, it’s always worth the discomfort it takes to get there. Even if the thing or person (or pie) turns out not to be as life-changing as you’d hoped, the journey will leave you that much richer.

Image: Olaiya Land

Double-Ginger Blackberry Plum Pie

  • 1 recipe flaky pie dough (see below)
  • 2 lbs firm-ripe plums (I used Italian prune plums, but any mix of plums will work)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1½ oz. (1/4 cup) candied ginger
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 oz blackberries (about 2 cups)

Flaky Pie Dough

  • 1 lb + 2 oz (4 cups) all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

  • 5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) lard, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

  • 3/4 cup cold water

  • 1 whole egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (or 3 tablespoons cream or milk), to glaze

  • 1-2 tablespoons turbinado, demerara or sanding sugar (regular old sugar will work, too)

 

*Notes: I straddle the Great Pie Crust Debate by using both butter and lard in my crust. The butter adds flavor, but also extra flakiness as the water in the butter is transformed to steam in the oven and creates little pockets throughout the dough. The lard creates flakes as well, adds tenderness and, due to its higher melting point, makes the dough easier to work with. I render my own leaf lard or buy it from Bob's Quality Meats or Rain Shadow Meats here in Seattle. If you don’t want to use lard, I recommend an all-butter crust (just sub butter for the lard in this recipe)--it will be delicious and only a bit harder to work with. If you work quickly and your ingredients are super cold before you begin, you shouldn't even notice any difference.

- Freezing your lard before you begin will make it easier to cut into pieces.

- Some varieties of plums can release a lot of juice once you sprinkle sugar on them. If your plums give off a lot of liquid, you’ll need to pour most of it off before baking to avoid a soggy crust and loose filling.

- If you manage to save some pie for later, don’t refrigerate it! This ruins the beautiful, flaky texture of the crust. Just tuck it under a dish towel and leave on the counter overnight.  

Image: Olaiya Land

Before you begin, make sure your butter, lard and cold water have been in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If the weather is warm or your kitchen tends to be toasty, chill your flour as well.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Separate the pieces of chilled butter and toss them in the flour mixture to coat. Do the same with the lard. When all the pieces of fat have been coated in flour, pick up a piece of butter or lard between your thumb and first two fingers. Slide your thumb over the butter or lard while pressing down on it in order to form a long, thin strip. Drop this strip back into the bowl so it becomes coated with flour. Continue until all the pieces of butter and lard have been flattened. Some of the flakes will break and the dough will take on a slightly crumbly or sandy appearance, which is just fine. Place the bowl in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to re-chill the fat.

Image: Olaiya Land

Drizzle the cold water and vinegar onto the chilled flour and fat mixture, tossing constantly with a flexible silicone or rubber spatula or a large spoon. Continue adding water until the mixture is moist enough to form a dough when you pinch it together. If you have used ¾ cup of water and the dough seems dry, give it a few more turns with your spatula or spoon and then pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough. Squeeze it and see if it wants to come together into a dough.  If it is too crumbly and won’t form a dough, add a bit more water, a couple teaspoons at a time, until the mixture forms a dough when you pinch it together.

Turn out the dough (it will be shaggy) onto a large work surface and gather it together into a ball. Do not knead it as this will toughen the dough. Divide it in half with a bench scraper or knife. Form each half into a ball and then flatten each ball into a disk about 3/4-inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap or parchemnt and chill for at least an hour before rolling. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or placed in a ziploc bag and frozen for up to 2 months.  If frozen, thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Image: Olaiya Land

Roll out one disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Place the dough into a pie plate. Lift and press it into the edges of the plate.  Do not stretch the dough into the edges as this will make your crust shrink as it bakes. Trim and crimp the edges of your crust and place the pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the other disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut out a circle roughly 1 inch larger than the top diameter of your pie plate.  For a latticed pie, cut this circle into wide strips.  Place the strips on a plate and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Image: Olaiya Land

When you are ready to bake the pie, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 425°F.  

Cut the plums into quarters if they're large or halves if they're small, discarding the pits. Place the plums in a large mixing bowl and toss gently with the lemon juice and ½ cup of the sugar. Set aside to rest for 20-30 minutes. Pour off the juice from the plums, discarding all of it except for ½ cup. Toss the plums (and ½ cup juice) with two tablespoons of the cornstarch, the candied and dried ginger and a pinch of salt. 

Place the blackberries in a medium mixing bowl and toss with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of sugar. 

To fill the pie crust, pour half of the plum mixture onto your well-chilled or frozen bottom crust. Arrange half of the blackberries over the plums. Top with the rest of the plum mixture and then the rest of the blackberries. Place the dough strips from the refrigerator on top of the berries, weaving them into a lattice pattern. Trim the edges to overhang by ¾ inch. Fold the top edges of the lattice over the bottom crust, tuck the edges under and crimp. Place the filled and topped pie back in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. 

(I know, I know. There’s a lot of chilling and freezing and waiting around. But taking the time to par-freeze your pie will help keep your crust from slumping in the oven.)

Brush the top crust with the egg wash (or cream or milk) and then sprinkle with the sugar. Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until the crust is dark golden brown, about 45-60 minutes longer.  I like my crust deeply caramelized.

Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool before serving. (The longer you let it cool, the easier it will be to slice.)

Serves 6-8.

Image: Olaiya Land

peach-raspberry pie

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

At 6:42 Monday evening I could be found standing on my (somewhat precarious) kitchen table in my pajamas photographing a slice of pie. This slice, to be precise:

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

The past weeks have been a bit frenzied around here and so I had decided to forgo my usual routine of putting on real clothing, applying makeup and perhaps even showering that day. (Who can keep track of such details?) Which is why, frizzy-haired and bra-less, I hesitated for a long moment before answering the door when I heard a knock. 

I poked my head cautiously around the door to find...our neighbor Lindsay. She and her boyfriend had just returned from Vashon Island with an abundance of oysters. And did we want to come over and have some? 

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com
peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

Every fiber of my un-scrubbed being wanted to say no. The light was changing quickly and I needed to shoot this pie for the blog. Beau was off running errands so I’d be on my own making small talk with neighbors I don’t know very well (an introvert’s nightmare). I’d be forced to emerge from my state of unkempt comfort and make myself presentable to the world. 

But a tiny piece of me thought: Why not? You’re tired of working anyway. Plus, oysters! I told Lindsay I’d finish up my shoot and be right over. 

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

I’m not sure if it’s because we’re having a heatwave. (Yes, temperatures above 80°F constitute a heatwave in Seattle. Don’t laugh.) Or because I’ve logged a lot of hours on various projects in the past weeks. Or because I figured our neighbors’ kitchen window looks right into our house and so they’re probably going to see me in my pyjamas many, many times in the coming years. But I decided I couldn’t be bothered to change out of my PJs for a trip across the lawn. I did, however, wrangle a little of the frizz out of my curls and put on a bra. I slid on a pair of flip-flops for good measure and headed out the door. 

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com
peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

Sitting on Mark and Lindsay’s front porch slurping briny oysters out of their shells turned out to be the most relaxing, carefree evening I’ve spent in ages. Beau showed up at some point. Mark poured us several glasses of a beautiful rosé. We learned about our neighbors’ jobs and hobbies and favorite restaurants in town. We discovered that Mark assembled a traditional Italian pizza oven at his family’s house on Vashon that we might one day be able to help put to good use. They informed us that we definitely shouldn’t miss the upcoming block party in our street. And that there are so many fruit trees in our neighborhood because it was once an orchard. 

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

The next day, I took over a couple slices of pie to thank Mark and Lindsay for their hospitality. I would have baked this pie regardless, because it’s summer and summer = pie. But after I dropped it off, I felt extremely grateful to be living in a neighborhood that’s as diverse and neighborly as ours. On our multicultural street, people know each other. We wave when walking past or stop to chat about each other’s gardens. We share oysters and pie. In the midst of all the hate and violence that have monopolized headlines in the past months, this feels like a small miracle. And a huge comfort. 

I’m happier than ever that we managed to find our way into a sense of community here on Findlay Street. And that I’ve got so many pies to bake in the summers to come.

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

Peach-Raspberry Pie

  • 1 recipe flaky pie dough (see below)
  • 3 lbs firm-ripe peaches (about 6 large)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 oz raspberries (about 2 cups)

Flaky Pie Dough

  • 1 lb + 2 oz (4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) lard, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 3 tablespoons cream or milk (or a whole egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), to glaze
  • 1-2 tablespoons turbinado, demerara or sanding sugar (regular old sugar will work, too)

*Notes: Peaches can release a lot of juice once you sprinkle sugar on them. If your peaches give off a lot of liquid, you’ll need to pour most of it off before baking to avoid a soggy crust and loose filling.

- Cutting your peaches into large slices (about 1 inch) limits the surface area and also helps limit the amount of liquid they give off.

- Lots of recipes say you need to blanch and peel your peaches. I don’t recommend it. I think it’s fussy and also makes the peaches feel a little slimy. Plus leaving the peels on gives your filling beautiful blush tones.

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

Prepare the crust according to this recipe.

When you are ready to bake the pie, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 425°F.  

Cut the peaches into slices about 1-inch thick and place them in a large mixing bowl. Gently toss with the lemon juice and ½ cup of the sugar. Set aside to rest for 20-30 minutes. Pour off the juice from the peaches discarding all of it except for ½ cup. Toss the peaches (and ½ cup juice) with two tablespoons of the cornstarch, the ginger and a pinch of salt. 

Place the raspberries in a medium mixing bowl and toss with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of sugar. 

To fill the pie crust, pour half of the peach slices onto your well-chilled or frozen bottom crust. Arrange half of the raspberries over the peaches. Top with the rest of the peach slices and then the rest of the raspberries. Cover your fruit with your top crust. (Here’s a great tutorial on how to weave a lattice-top crust if you want to go that route.) Trim the edges to overhang by 1/2 inch. Fold the top edges of the lattice inside the bottom crust. Place the filled and topped pie back in the freezer to chill for 15-20 minutes. 

I know, I know. There’s a lot of chilling and freezing and waiting around. But taking the time to par-freeze your pie will keep the crust from slumping in the oven and make sure that lattice turns out gorgeously. :)

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com

Brush the top crust with cream, milk or egg wash and then sprinkle with the turbinado, demerara or sanding sugar. Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until the crust is dark golden brown, about 45-60 minutes longer. I like my crust deeply caramelized; if you like yours less dark, feel free to take your pie out earlier.

Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool a bit and firm up before slicing. Leftovers keep best covered at room temperature overnight. If you need to keep your pie for more than a day, cover tightly and store in the fridge.
 
Makes 6-8 servings.

P.S. Try to save at least one piece for breakfast the next day. Coffee + pie = breakfast perfection!

peach-raspberry pie on millys-kitchen.com