the essential northwest pie: blueberry and peach

lavender peach blueberry pie

The Northwest is home to many delicious fruits. Every summer we’re blessed with abundant yields of locally grown fruits, including peaches and blueberries. (Georgia may be the Peach State, but we hold our own here in Washington.) We are now entering the peak peach season, when it’s easy to find premium-quality fruits, even at the supermarket.

Last September, one of my husband’s colleagues gave us about 10 pounds of ripe golden peaches that he had just picked in an orchard. Those were the best peaches I had ever had: fresh, juicy and so intensively flavorful. The only inconvenience? The fruits don’t keep very long in the hot summer weather. So we took to canning — heating up our already warm kitchen filling jar after jar with peach jam and peach salsa.

peach & blueberry pie

Peach and blueberry is one of my favorite fruit combinations: The two flavors greatly complement each other, and the fruits look great together. Somehow, they just capture the fragrance and feel of summer. My go-to breakfast is a handful of blueberries, a sliced peach and a spoon of cottage cheese. Sprinkle some crushed walnuts on top and enjoy! I’m also a big fan of blueberry peach crumbles, pancakes, cobblers… But surprisingly enough, I had never made a pie. It was high time to give it a try. Nothing celebrates summer as much as a fruit pie.

fruits pie

A pie, yes, but with a twist: No double crust for my pie. I had something more subtle and delicate in mind, something that would enhance the flavors of the fruits rather than overpower them with a buttery crust: a crumb streusel with lemon zest and lavender buds (from my harvest session in Sequim few weeks ago). Just enough to add some layers to the taste of the pie without detracting from the sweetness of the peaches and the floral perfume of the blueberries. A true Northwestern pie with locally grown peaches, blueberries and lavender. All the flavors get a chance to shine and it makes a beautifully perfumed combination.

uncooked pie

The key to a delicious pie depends on the quality of the fruits you use — ripe but not too soft, sweet with a balanced tanginess — as much as on the consistency of the crust: Never settle for anything less than light and flaky. In a previous attempt, this pie gave me some trouble with the crust being too soggy and the blueberries turning into a soup. I finally nailed it after choosing to pre-bake my crust and add a little cornstarch to the blueberries to thicken their juices. (Note to self: Shortcuts are never good when baking.)

fruits pie with crumb topping

As for the final product, it’s definitely a keeper. The crust is nicely flaky and lemony, the crumb topping is light and airy which really allows the fruits to shine. This must be the taste of sunshine.

Blueberry, peach and lavender pie

yields one 9-inch pie

Ingredients

For the crust (with a zing)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • a pinch table salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, very cold and diced

For the filling and crumb topping

  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of the fruits)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lavender buds
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3 ripe peaches
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the lemony crust

Pour the water in a cup and add a few ice cubes. Keep aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Add the dices of very cold butter and, using a pastry blender (or your fingers), work the mixture for few minutes, redistributing it as you go so that everything is worked more or less evenly. Stop when the butter pieces are the size of small peas. Don’t worry if there are still some bigger chunks of butter. You actually want them to improve the flakiness of your crust.

Drizzle about 1/4 cup of cold water over the mixture and gather the dough together with a spatula. Add more water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently. Wrap in plastic and chill dough in the fridge for at least one hour (and up to two days).

Butter and flour your pie tin. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface and transfer to pie tin, gently pressing dough onto bottom and sides up of the dish. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork and place in the fridge until firm, at least 30 minutes. Trust me, the colder the better. It will help the crust keeps its shape and size while baking.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or rice). Place the pie tin in the middle of the oven, on a baking sheet and bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove parchment and pie weights and put the crust back in the oven for another 12 minutes, until crust is pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

For the filling and crumb topping

Mix together flour, sugar, lemon zest and lavender buds in a small bowl. Using the pastry blender (or your fingers), cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Set aside.

To peel the peaches, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Using a sharp knife, cut a small “X” through the skin at the base of each peach. Put the peaches in the boiling water and blanch them for about 40 seconds. Transfer the blanched peaches to the bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon. Let them cool for about 1 minute and then drain the peaches and pat them dry. The skin should easily pull away. Halve the peaches, remove the pits and set aside.

Toss gently blueberries and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle a third to half of the crumbs in the bottom of the pie shell (to absorb the juices). Place the peach halves face-down in the crust and spread the blueberry mixture between them. Drizzle with lemon juice and cover with the remaining crumb topping.

Bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling. Let cool before serving. The crust will be crispy and the filling should not run. Sometimes perfection is as simple as a pie.

One last thing: Do you remember the Presidents of the United States of America (which apparently is a band from Seattle)? Yes?… No?… Well, let me refresh your memory: “Millions of peaches, peaches for me“… It has become just impossible for me to think about peaches without having this song stuck in my head (thanks to the hubby for introducing me to such a monument of American music). I thought I should share it with you. You’re welcome!

Bee

Advertisements

have pie will travel

have pie will travel

Looking back to the summer vacations of my youth, I fondly recall the blistering hot days in New England when my mother and I would truck over to the u-pick berry farm and fill our bellies and pails with as many blueberries possible.  Most of the time the berries brought home were consumed by the handful. We enjoyed their perfection as nature intended.

No one complained that the berries weren’t safely nestled in pie crust because my mom never baked pie and we didn’t really know what we were missing. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is one of the best cooks ever. Her lasagna is so good that I can’t order it anywhere else because I’ll only be disappointed. But she’s never been much of a baker. Maybe it’s a sweet or savory thing. Sure, she makes brownies and sweet breads but never pies.

I get nostalgic for those hot summer days of blueberry picking. I miss the quietness of the farm. The scorching sun. Sweat mixing with sunscreen. Dusty feet in sandals. The long stretches of silence as my mother concentrated on picking out the best berries and I concentrated on stealthly eating more berries than the number that ended up in my pail. And consequently, my mother scolding me for eating too many berries.

Sure, I could drive up to the u-pick berry farms north of Seattle. But it wouldn’t be the same. Who would advise me not to eat all those blueberries? Gosh, I might not return with any… just a belly full of berries. And lately, I’ve been busy so it’s easier to run over to the traveling farmer’s market and pick up a few pints. As July runs out of days in the month it dawned on me that most of the berries purchased have been eaten by the handful. No berries have been safely nestled in pie crust. As a person who loves to bake, this feels almost criminal!

I know – I said I’d cool it on the baking for a little while but let’s be honest here, it was only a matter of time before I broke down and returned to the kitchen. (Must. Bake. Pie.) Plus, my hubby and I were getting ready for a road trip to Bend, OR (for yet, another wedding!) and I nominated myself to take care of the sustenance. The idea of a summertime road trip just beckons for a little picnic. And what picnic could ever be complete without something sweet? This road trip would be the perfect opportunity to try out blueberry pocket pies.

They are simple to make and super portable. All you need is love… and these ingredients:

all you need

Blueberry pocket pies

Yields 6 pocket pies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pie dough – insert your favorite recipe (I use a butter and shortening dough recipe)

Pre-heat the oven to 400°.

Mix the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt in a medium mixing bowl. To reduce trauma to the berries, simply mix by hand.

When the oven is just about done preheating, begin to roll out the dough. It was hot in my kitchen so I needed to return the dough to the refrigerator several times to keep the dough cold.

Once the dough is rolled out into a long thin sheet, divide it in half and then into thirds. Then scoop berries into each section and form into pockets.

A break down of the steps to pocket pie:

step by stepBake the little pies in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Here is the result of my first batch:

unciviled pocket piesI thought they came out rather uncivilized so I ended up making several batches. In the end… not a single batch looked perfect. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I kept trying to over-stuff the little squares of dough with too many berries. But oh! The taste was heavenly. The crust was buttery and crumbly and the fruit inside was sweet but not overly sweet. The blueberry flavor remained true with just a zing of lemon. At some point I told my husband that these little pies were “pie-crack.”

pies on a plateWe brought a pair of pies on the road trip to Bend. Between the piping hot coffee and the high I was riding from the pie – it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving.

I’m thinking about trying these out with sweet cherries or maybe a blueberry peach combo. Bridesmaid dresses (and any other fashion for that matter) be damned. I’m back in the kitchen baking and I’m going to enjoy the fruits of summer.

Have a super week!

XOXO, Em

sunny meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

Pure assumption, but let’s say you made some lemon curd (should I dare thinking you were inspired by our previous post?). Maybe you even made too much of it, and, again — pure assumption — you really don’t know what do with this big jar sitting in your fridge. (I would definitely know what to do with it; just give me a spoon!) Well, we have a solution for you: Make lemon tarts, but not just any kind of lemon tarts. For one thing, don’t expect any meringue.

Beneath their low-key profile, these tartelettes hide a little surprise: an intense layer of chocolate ganache. It’s not an easy combination to pull off, as lemon and chocolate are an unusual pair, but the result is sublime.

As Em and I were trying to picture the outcome, we could already imagine ourselves diving into layers of zingy lemon curd and robust chocolate ganache. But we wanted to make it even more special and decided to add some ginger to the ganache. With its zesty taste, ginger is a harmonious match for the lemon.

I have to be honest with you: I bought unsweetened chocolate and forgot to taste the ganache before spreading it over the tartelettes. When I finally tried it, I was surprised by how bitter it was. Good, rich and velvety but bitter. Em was surprised too, but very politely did not make any comment. I worried. Would it ruin our tartelettes? Should we try to remove the chocolate ganache from the shells? We decided to keep the chocolate, and it turned out amazingly. The lemon curd and the shortbread crust being so sweet, the bitter ganache creates a delicious contrast, enhancing all the other flavors. I would not change it now. I would actually advise you to use unsweetened chocolate as well.

meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

The uncrystallized candied ginger we bought (from Trader Joe’s) was not as strong as we were expecting. As it turns out, the package calls this ginger “sweet and smooth”. Next time we’ll try their other sort (“sweet and spicey”), or just buy some at an Asian supermarket.

Finally, we decided to use candied lemon slices to decorate the tartelettes. Citrus fruits can be candied whole (apart from their seeds), and the candied slices make beautiful garnish for desserts and cocktails. Besides, they’re very easy to make. But they do take about 12 hours to dry completely, so I would recommend making them ahead of time.

One thing is sure: These tartelettes were a hit! The flavors melted together wonderfully. And what better way to brighten your day than by having a bite of this sunny treat?

meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

Meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

Ingredients

Yields 6 4-3/4 inch tartelettes

For the shortbread crust

  • ½ lb (225 g) pre-sifted flour
  • 5 oz (140 g) icing sugar
  • 1 oz (30 g) ground almonds
  • 4 oz (110 g) unsalted butter, softened and diced
  • 1 medium sized egg

For the chocolate ganache

  • 4 oz (115 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup (15 cl) heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 30 g candied ginger finely chopped
  • 8 oz lemon curd
  • Candied lemon slices

For the crust

In a bowl, mix together the flour, icing sugar and ground almonds. Add the diced butter to the bowl and, using your fingertips, rub it into the flour mixture until it looks like sand. Add the egg and knead until the ingredients come together to form a soft, moist dough. Be careful not to overdo it. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can make the dough a day ahead of time and keep it covered and chilled.

Remove the dough from the fridge and divide it into 6 equal parts. Take one part and roll it on a slightly floured work surface. Work quickly so that the dough stays manageable and does not soften too much. Roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unroll over the tartelette pan, being careful not to stretch it. Gently press the dough into the pan. Run rolling pin over the top the of pan to remove the excess dough, and pierce the shell with a fork in several places. Repeat with the other pieces of dough and place all the pans in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

shortbread crust

When ready to proceed, preheat oven to 380°F. Line the chilled shells with a piece of parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the shells are lightly colored. Let the tartelette pans cool for 15 minutes and unmold. You can make the shells up to two days ahead of time and store them covered and chilled.

shells

For the ganache

While the tartelette crusts are cooking, make the ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of cream and reserve.

Pour the rest of the cream into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Pour it over the chopped chocolate, let sit for 30 seconds and, using a whisk, gently stir to blend the preparation. Let cool for another minute and add the egg mixture, the butter and the candied ginger. Mix well until the mixture is smooth.

Assembling

Spread the ganache into a thin layer over the pie crust and let sit for about 30 minutes.

ganache

Spoon the lemon curd on top of the chocolate, filling each shell to the top. Smooth with a rubber spatula and refrigerate for at least an hour (a good couple of hours allows for a firmer consistency).

ganache and lemon curd

Before serving, garnish with slices of candied lemon or (and!) some whipped cream.

meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

And because I’m feeling generous, here is the recipe for those candied lemon slices.

Candied lemon slices

  • 1 Meyer or regular lemon, finely sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and, separately, prepare a bath of water with ice cubes in a large baking dish.

Blanch the lemon slices in the boiling water for a couple of minutes, to soften the skin. Gently drain them and plunge into the ice bath.

Mix the 2 cups of sugar and the cup of water in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer and add the lemon slices, making sure they don’t overlap.

Let the lemon slices simmer for 1 hour.

simmering

Remove the slices from the syrup and let them dry on a cooling rack over a pile of paper towels for about 12 hours. Keep in an airtight container. You can keep the syrup for further candying or for use in dressings.

candied lemon