Summer fruit pies are America’s birthday cake. Just as the blueberries are ripening in Maine, the peaches blushing in Georgia and the olallieberries deep-purpling in Washington, we gather in backyards and on patios to cheer the founders and make best wishes for our national future.
So, of course, we celebrate (now and all summer long) with the dish that defines us as Americans.
Honey-sweet apricots and winy cherries together under one flaky-crisp crust, a trio of berries thickened into a jam-like filling in another, the rich fruit flavors of nectarine and blackberries playing off each other in a third -- thanks to the abundant fruit of orchard and bramble, pies that we make at this time of year can be a glorious blend of flavors.
Some of our best-loved pies are single-ingredient classics, but there’s great reason to mix and match: The more complex interplay of flavors in a two- or three-fruit filling is admirably set off by the simple sweet flakiness of pie crust.
And you don’t have to peel the apricots. Or blanch the nectarines before peeling. For baking, the nectarines should be firm but not hard; they should give to gentle pressure when pressed with your thumb.
Use less sugar and a smaller amount of thickening agent (such as tapioca) than you might have seen called for in the past. With the wide availability of gorgeous farmers market produce, it’s best to use both sparingly and allow the true fruit flavors and textures to be enjoyed. Which is not to say these pretty pies are plain-Jane creations in any way. Well-chosen details give them originality and oomph.
A judicious pinch of black pepper in the crust of a nectarine-blackberry pie adds a mysterious and intriguing dark note; vanilla bean enriches an apricot-cherry filling.
To bring the combination of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to their full expression of flavor, add a little Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, the sweet peach-scented wine from the southern Rhone region of France. You could also use another sweet white wine such as Sauternes or Monbazillac.
A few notes on technique are helpful, even if you’re an experienced pie maker. Use glass pans to make fruit pies; they won’t react with the acid in the fruit. And chill the dough before rolling it out. If you’ve gotten distracted and left it in the fridge longer than an hour, let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling it out.
Don’t shy away from making lattice or cutout crusts -- they’re not hard to master and it’s so rewarding to see the glowing colors of caramelized fruit revealed through the windows of golden brown crust.
Stars and pies forever.
Place the flour in a food processor with the salt and pulse to mix. Cut the three-fourths cup plus 2 tablespoons butter into 1-inch chunks and add them to the flour. Pulse four to six times to break up the chunks of butter. Combine the vinegar and egg yolk in a measuring cup and add enough ice water to bring the volume up to one-half cup. While pulsing, add the liquid in a steady stream until the flour looks crumbly and damp. You may not use all of the liquid (we used one-fourth cup). Between 25 and 30 pulses should be enough. Don’t let the dough form a ball. The crumbs should adhere when you gather them in your hand. If not, add a few more drops of ice water. Divide the dough into two parts. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Alternatively, the dough can be made by hand. Combine the flour with the salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1-inch chunks and add them to the flour, using a fork, a pastry blender or your hands to break up the butter into the flour so the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine the vinegar and egg yolk in a measuring cup and add enough ice water to bring the volume to one-half cup. Drizzle the liquid, a few tablespoons at a time, over the mixture and stir with a fork until the flour looks crumbly and damp. Again, you may not use all of the liquid. Combine the dough with your hands to form a single ball. Divide the dough in half and cover each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, lightly toss together the apricots and cherries. Use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean onto the fruit and toss to coat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch and pour over the fruit. Toss to coat evenly. Stir in the lemon juice. Let stand while rolling out the dough.
Roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 14-inch circle about one-eighth-inch thick. Roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin and carefully lift the dough onto a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Gently press the dough onto the bottom and sides of the pie plate, leaving the excess hanging over the edge.
Roll out the second round of dough into a 12-inch circle about one-eighth-inch thick. Use a 1 3/4 -inch round cutter to cut a circle out of the center of the dough. Using the same cutter, cut five other circles out of the dough around the large circle.
Fill the pie shell with the fruit and juices. Sprinkle over the remaining butter. Fold the second round of dough (with cut-outs) into quarters. Place the folded dough on top of the pie so that it is centered when you unfold it to cover the pie.
Pinch the edges of the dough together and fold the edges under to fit the pie plate. Pressing the rim of the dough between two fingers, flute the edges. Brush the crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with Demerara. Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. If the crust browns too quickly, loosely tent the top of the pie with foil. Let cool on a wire rack.
Get our new Cooking newsletter.
Your roundup of inspiring recipes and kitchen tricks.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.