There are certain foods I call “white shirt” dishes. These are foods that, like a white shirt, are a can't-go-wrong choice for almost any situation. In my view, a good fresh-baked fruit pie is one of these. Pie has been served by people in all walks of life for centuries, and with good reason: it’s basic, classic, delicious, and will be welcomed practically anywhere food is being served.
Another bonus: despite what you may think if you've never made one, pies are stunningly easy to make, even if you’re working completely from scratch. And even if you’re using a lattice top, simple step-by-step instructions for which are included below.
If all of that seems like a big responsibility for a humble baked good to carry, don’t worry. Pie can handle it, including the one I’m happy to bring to you today: Peach-Blueberry Pie.
A few cook’s notes:
Pie Crust: Use any you like, home-made or purchased, but to reduce the fat content I recommend a reduced-fat version I use on pretty much anything requiring a pie crust. The recipe, which is a slightly jazzed-up version of the one previously posted here under the title, “Impossible Pie Crust,” follows.
Fruit for the Filling: Although I’m not usually a fan of canned ingredients, for recipes like this I don’t at all mind using canned peaches if fresh, juicy ones are not in season. Similar to the reason canned tomatoes are often used in cooking by people who would otherwise never get near a can opener, canned peaches have a more consistent quality than fresh ones. (Just be sure to drain them very well, since they can bring a lot more liquid to your filling than fresh peaches will.) Fresh blueberries, however, are much better to use than the frozen ones. For reasons best left to the chemists to figure out, I’ve found that blueberries tend to toughen up when frozen and thawed.
Tapioca: While it’s possible to thicken with corn starch, using tapioca leaves a cleaner taste. For pie fillings, use instant tapioca; regular tapioca will still thicken but miniature tapioca pearls will be visible. Also, tapioca works best at fairly hot temperatures; I usually bake pies at 350 degrees, but with a tapioca-thickened filling I’ll bake at 425 for a shorter time. Letting your fruit come to room temperature before adding it to the filling also helps the tapioca’s thickening effect.
Thank you, Chef Alex: Credit to Alex Guarnaschelli for the simple but near-genius idea of adding preserves to pie filling.
Enough chit-chat…let’s make some pie! This recipe makes one 9” pie.
First, the low-fat pie crust. Since it’s just as easy to make four crusts as it is to make two, this recipe makes four crusts. (You’ll need two for the Peach-Blueberry pie, and can freeze the other two for up to three months.) Once you have the other two available in the freezer, you’ll think of all kinds of things to do with them!
Combine 1 cup of apple juice, ½ teaspoon cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt and put into freezer until almost icy.
In a mixing bowl, combine 1-1/2 pounds of all-purpose flour, 8 ounces of cake flour, and 6 tablespoons of sugar. Blend in 16 ounces of firm-textured butter substitute (cut into cubes or chunks) until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with visible pieces of butter substitute.
Now let’s make our filling!
Preheat the oven to 425.
Blind bake pie shell. (If you’re not familiar with how to do this, fear not; click here for a short tutorial video!)
While shell is blind baking, combine the following filling ingredients: 3-1/2 cups room temperature peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced into wedges; 1 cup room temperature fresh blueberries; 3/4 cup light brown sugar; juice and zest of one lemon; 6 tablespoons instant tapioca; 12 ounces peach preserves; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg; and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let the mixture rest for 10 – 15 minutes so the tapioca can absorb liquid.
When the bottom crust is ready, put the filling in, using a slotted spoon and draining the each spoonful very well before placing it in the pie shell. (Reserve the liquid for use to glaze the pie later.) Dot with butter substitute. [Ed. Note: When making the pie in the photo, I confess to having forgotten to add the butter substitute. Fortunately, since this was a lattice-top pie, I was able to apply it later.]
Apply solid or lattice top. To make a lattice top:
- Fold down the strips that weren’t folded the first time and lay a strip across the unfolded strips as shown.
- Using a kitchen scissor, trim the excess length from the strips. (Don’t pull it off by hand, which can overwork the gluten in the dough and make it tough.)
After about 35 minutes, brush the reserved liquid onto the top crust as a glaze, and continue baking until the top is golden brown, about another 10 minutes. (Check the pie periodically during the entire baking time and, if the edges start to brown before the rest of the pie, cover the edges with foil or an aluminum collar.)
Let the pie cool before serving to allow the filling to thicken properly.
All that’s left is to put up a pot of coffee and invite some friends over to share your delicious pie! (Just don’t tell them how easy it is to make.)
Come back next week for another reduced-fat, easy-to-make, home-tested recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)