Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TWD: Baking with Julia - Blueberry-Nectarine Pie

There were 5 Tuesdays in July, so we had 3 projects this month!  This week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie is Blueberry-Nectarine Pie.  I actually made mine for a July 4th party, hence the decorations you'll see below.  I have to say I am a real sucker for a good fruit pie.  Of all desserts, I love pie the most.  Which is not to say I don't like others.  I don't want any desserts to go off feeling un-loved by that statement.  I happen to like all desserts, fortunately for my baking endeavors but unfortunately for my waistline!  Pies just happen to be my favorites.

Now when I first saw that this was going to be a blueberry-nectarine pie, I had a slight worry.  The nectarines and peaches I had been seeing at the grocery store were more like rocks disguised as fruit.  Terrible!  They never ripen.  Some even SMELLED like fruit (tricky rocks) but remained rocks on my counter.  Grrr.  Then, a miracle occurred!  I happened by some nectarines at Costco of all places, which not only looked and smelled like nectarines, but they were soft and truly appeared to be fruit instead of rocks!  I bought a box and have been dancing the happy dance ever since.  Yippee!

To make a Blueberry-Nectarine Pie, you first start with Flaky Pie Dough.  The recipe can be found on page 31 of Baking with Julia, or here and here online.   I do have a favorite pie crust recipe and it gave me pause to consider making a different one, but this is a challenge and by golly I would try that different recipe!  And I am glad I did!  The dough was a bit harder to work with than my usual one (stickier to roll) but it did create a delicious flaky pie crust!  So if you are up for another recipe, here's how it goes:

First of all, this recipe makes enough for 2 double-crusted pies or 4 open faced pies or tarts, so the ingredients tested the boundaries of my food processor!  If you aren't making a bunch of pies, you can freeze the dough and then when you need pie dough, take it out of the freezer and you are ready to go!  The recipe also provided instructions for mixing the dough by hand or by using a stand mixer, but I tend to like the food processor method best.  First the flour and salt are added to the food processor and pulsed just until they are mixed up a bit.

Then you pile in  super cold chunks of butter and white shortening.  For readers in a humid climate like Houston, I think I may have discovered the key for pie crusts here:  FROZEN butter.  While all recipes call for very cold butter, I find that frozen butter works the best.  That way when you work with the dough, the butter doesn't get the chance to completely soften so you can maintain the chunks while you roll out the dough and line the pie pan.  Those chunks of butter/shortening are crucial for a flaky pie crust, and frozen butter helps it happen!  And while we are talking about pie baking in warm climates, one reason I do not mix the dough by hand is the simple fact of body heat.  I don't want my body heat to come into contact with those cold fats and foil my flaky pie crust plans!

Pulse the butter/shortening into the flour just until it seems well mixed and "resembles slightly moist cornmeal".  That is a funny way to put it.  I would have never thought of that description but it works!  The key, again, is making sure those fat chunks stay chunks!  There should be no chunks that are not covered in flour.

Now start adding ice water, a bit at a time, until the mixture has clumps and sticks together when you press it with your fingers.  If it sticks to the blades and forms a ball, you went too far!  The recipe actually calls for 1 cup of water, and I only used 2/3 cup.  At that point (above) I thought it looked right and I didn't want to chance adding any additional liquid.  Remove the dough from the processor, divide into 4 somewhat equal piles, shape into disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 

Now it is time to make the filling.  This recipe is found on page 384 of the book, or can be found online at the links I referenced above.  What I like about this pie recipe is that you cook half of the fruit and then add this to more uncooked fruit.  This is a benefit for 2 reasons, as far as I can see.  (1) it allows you to taste the filling so you can adjust the flavors as needed, and (2) it allows you to fill the pie with more fruit, as cooked fruit takes up less space than fresh fruit!  I will be trying this with other pies in the future.  This is brilliant.  Who can complain about MORE apples in an apple pie??

Anyway, half of the fruit is cooked with sugar, flour, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  The recipe called for a "large pinch" of lemon zest, which is a bit imprecise.  I was making 2 pies, and used the zest from 2 small lemons.  And I used all of the juice, which probably amounted to about 1 tsp or so more than the recipe stated.  I like lemon, so I felt safe erring on the side of extra lemon.

Another slight change I made is that though I intended to make the pie with all fresh blueberries, a little imp aka clever girl got into the blueberries before I made the pie so I didn't have enough!  Since half of the blueberries would be cooked, I used organic frozen blueberries for those.  These are really tasty frozen blueberries so I felt safe in my substitution.  Phew!

Once the cooked fruits have come to a soft boil and the liquid has thickened, mix it into the fresh fruit and let it come to room temperature.

At this point I covered it and put it in the refrigerator so I could make the pie the next day.  Before getting started the next day, I brought the bowl out to warm to room temperature again.

It was a good thing I made some of this pie in advance, as right after I finished this point, I stubbed my toe in some ridiculous crazy way and literally couldn't walk or stand on my foot for the rest of the night!  Days and days later my toe was still sore and swollen and discolored.  Kitchens can be dangerous!

When it was time to make the pies, I took 2 crust disks and the fruit out of the refrigerator.  The fruit just hung out on the counter while I made the pie shells.

Not bad for standing on one foot, huh?  I did find the dough  a bit harder to work with than my usual recipe, but not terrible.  These photographs cleverly disguise the pieced together spots.  I had troubles with the dough sticking to the rolling mat, no matter how much flour I used.  Anyone know what was happening there?  Should I have used even less water in the dough?  I'd love to figure this out.  Regardless, the dough worked well enough and I got it gently into the pie pans.  Here's a pie tip:  When you are putting the dough in the pan, be very careful not to stretch the dough in any way.  You want to lay it in the pan like you are covering the pan gently with a blanket.  Ease it down into the sides but do not pull or stretch it.  Doing so encourages your pie crust to shrink!

The bottom crusts were rolled out and the filling was split between the two pans.  Each pie gets 1 tablespoon of butter cut up into little pieces and put on top.

Roll out the top crust and cover the pies.  Pinch the sides in some sort of decorative way and cut some slits on the top of the pie.  I re-rolled out the remaining dough and used cookie cutters (and some free-hand) to make a flag and stars for the top of the pies.  I have no idea where the flag cookie cutter came from.  I am certain I never bought it but there it was in my stash of cookie cutters, begging to be used!

Brush the top of the pies with an egg wash and sprinkle with decorating sugar.  Now refrigerate for 20 minutes.  You could also freeze it for 20 minutes.  Just whatever apparatus where you have the space!  You could freeze the entire pie for good at this point as well, just do another coat of egg wash when you take it out of the freezer, and bake for a bit longer!

They came out of the oven with the National Anthem playing in the background.  Well, they didn't really, but they did make me giggle a bit when they came out.

I brought them to a July 4th party and the reviews were completely positive.  The extra lemon flavor in the filling gave the fruit just the right amount of zing, and the crust really was super flaky.  Even though I swear by my Foolproof Pie Dough recipe, I will have to through this one into the mix periodically as well.  It was really good.  It could use a little more salt, but it was wonderfully flaky!  I have to admit I got a little bit of a thrill when some guests at the party asked me how I got my pie crusts to be so flaky!  My heart sang for joy!!

I will definitely make this recipe again.  It was delicious! 

Do you have a favorite dessert?  Please share what it might be in your comments!  Thanks!


  1. I love the cutouts on your pie! Really good idea. I bet these were gone in no time at all.

  2. Yum yum yum!! We loved this pie too; it's so simple and perfect. Yours look great, and your rolling mat with the circles is genius! I'm always fussing with a ruler like an amateur, haha.

  3. You made two great pies, good for you! The decorations are so nice and am glad you found the right nectarines, it´s such a different kind of pie when the fruit is good!

  4. This pie looks absolutely gorgeous ! I love the first shot served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Just the way I would like to eat it.

  5. Love your patriotic pies!

  6. Both are absolutely stunning! Love the flags and stars! :)

  7. i am glad to know that i am not the only one wondering what it would take to get some ripe fruit!!! lovely pies!

  8. hahaha I love the different versiones of the pie you did, great job!!!

  9. The decorations a definitely a win! Your pies look positively patriotic.

  10. I love the stars and flags. I haven't ever decorated pies like that but I plan to in the future. Your sweet pies have inspired me to decorate!! Thanks, Catherine http://praycookblog.com

  11. You were so creative with the decorations! So glad that everyone liked them. Now you are the Flaky Pie Crust Queen!

  12. I like your holiday themed decorations :-)
    Beautiful job!

  13. Beautiful! And great pictures. You are right, kitchens can be dangerous. I hope your toe is better.

  14. Lovely! Lovely! Lovely decorations!
    It's Swiss National Day, today ... but I was not as patriotic as you :-)
    The filling is a winner in my family.

  15. You make me want to make a pie again, just so I can decorate it. Nice job.

  16. Those pies are so fun! I have never done cookie cutter shapes on mine (I have no idea why) but I'm definitely going to start now. I agree with everything you said about the crust - kind of hard to work with but great results. I don't know that it'll be my go-to recipe but I was pleased with it too. Again, your pies look amazing!

  17. Cute decorations! I especially love your photo of the pies before they got their tops.


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