Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blueberry-Peach Pie - Guest Post!











Dear Reader, let me introduce my friend and colleague, Mary Lewis. Mary is a school librarian who occasionally "moonlights" at my public library.  She loves to cook, provided all today's photos, and ... well, as long as she is guest posting, I'll let Mary do the talking:

 I'm an avid reader of cooking magazines. I love to cook - and, until a year ago,  only had 9 linear inches of counter space to do so.  Since building a kitchen addition, I've been making up for lost
space....or something to that effect.

My blueberry-peach pie resulted from a conversation, a craving, a compromise, and a challenge. And it has changed my life in several small ways.











From a leisurely conversation on a warm August afternoon, at a farm market, over a basket of peaches – my favorite fruit – the relevant part was this: “I've never made a peach pie. I cannot bring myself to cook the fruit that I wait nine months every year to eat.”

Really (fortunately, I don't have similar reservations about cooking cranberries, which have an even shorter season).

That leisurely conversation simmered just below conscious thought until I found myself craving a fruit pie a week later, at about the same time as the grocery store put up a pyramid of (irresistible-to-my-husband) two-pound boxes of local blueberries.


I confess, I've never made a blueberry pie either, not because it's against my principles to cook blueberries, but because however beautiful they look, often I'm disappointed in how bland they taste. Blueberry pancakes are ok once in a while, when my husband makes them, but I just don't like blueberries enough to want to expend much effort over them.


When my husband came home with two pounds of blueberries for the two of us, I was faced with the urge to sabotage another meal of blueberry pancakes and realized that using the berries in a pie would effectively do that and simultaneously satisfy my pie craving. As I looked at a pile of large ripe peaches on the counter, I knew that if I compromised by sacrificing just a few of them, I'd enjoy the pie a whole lot more than if it contained just blueberries.

The challenge of a mixed fruit pie is in combining recipes for two different pies (peach and blueberry) and trying to get the balance of flavors and the consistency of the filling right. This is an ongoing challenge, since, even if you keep everything else the same, each batch of fruit will vary in flavor and texture, making the resulting pie more or less sweet and more or less firm.

The pie in the first photograph is the second blueberry-peach pie I made this summer. The first was beautiful to look at, fresh from the oven.  It was delicious, but the filling was too soupy.

For this pie, I increased the amount of cornstarch and the filling set perfectly. The peaches were from New Jersey, instead of South Carolina as in the first, and were slightly smaller, and less juicy and sweet. I didn't change the amount of sugar, and the second pie was noticeably more tart than the first – a flavor my husband says he prefers, though I liked the sweetness of the first pie a little more.

You may wonder how a pie can change a life. One way is that now that I've taken that first step and cooked a small quantity of peaches, I think I'm ready to make a whole pie of them, though it may have to wait until next summer. Also, because I wanted to remember the beauty of these blueberry-peach pies, I took a photograph of the second one – even though I don't usually take pictures of my food. And, although I never before shared cooking photos on Facebook, I posted one there. The result was that Dena saw it and asked me to write about it. And my first blog post, which will not be my last, was born.

The 1997 edition of The All New Joy of Cooking is often my go-to cooking manual when I try something new, and it is the source of the recipes from which the blueberry-peach pie is adapted.

Blueberry-Peach Pie 
Adapted from The All New Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. New York: Scribner, 1997.

2 12-13-inch flaky pie crusts
3 large ripe peaches (about 3 cups), pitted, peeled, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cups (1 pint) blueberries, washed and dried thoroughly, stemmed and picked over
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbl. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
3/4 cup granulated sugar ( increase by up to an additional 1/4 cup if fruit is tart)
3-1/2 to 4 Tbl. cornstarch (depending on juiciness of fruit)
1/8 tsp. table salt
 
1 Tbl. butter (optional)
2 Tbl. milk (optional)
1 – 2 tsp. granulated sugar (optional)

Combine and gently mix the peaches, blueberries, lemon zest and juice, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl, and let it sit, stirring once or twice for 15 minutes.

Set oven racks so the pie will bake in the lower third of oven, and there is room for an aluminum foil tray or baking sheet on a rack underneath it to catch drips. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Fit one pie crust into a 9” pie pan, and trim the edge even with the outer rim of the pan.

Pour the filling into the crust.  Note: To be sure the fruit is distributed evenly, I pick the peach slices out and arrange them in a layer on the bottom of the crust, then spoon in a layer of blueberries, and repeat this process with another layer of peach slices, pouring the remaining blueberries and accumulated juices in on top. The first time I made the pie, I thought it might make the pie slices look nicer also, but when it is all cooked, you cannot distinguish the peach slices from the blueberries.

If desired, dot the top of the filling with small pieces of the butter.

Brush the rim of the bottom crust with cold water, and place the top crust over the pie. Seal the two crusts together (I fold the overhanging top crust under the lower crust and then press the crusts together and crimp).

Cut vents in the top pie crust. If desired, brush the top with milk and sprinkle evenly with sugar.

Place the foil or pan in the oven below the pie to catch the dripping juices. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350ºF and bake for 25 – 35 minutes more. Remove the pie when the crust is golden brown and the juices bubble through the vents.

Cool completely on a rack before serving.

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