My favorite pies are the ones that are filled with fruit. Chocolate, pumpkin, pecan: I can take them or leave them. What I really want, particularly at summer’s end, is tender, buttery pastry that overflows with sweet-tart, jewel-toned lusciousness. What better way, then, to use end-of-season plums than baked into a pie?
Armed with nothing more than my newfound pie-making skills, a basic recipe for pate brisee, and a pile of plums, I set to work. If you don’t have a ton of time in the evenings, pies, though labor-intensive, are a great project because they can be neatly divided into steps. In this instance, I wanted a dessert for a Wednesday-night girls’ gathering, so I made the dough on Monday and let it chill until Tuesday, when I made the filling and baked the pie. Letting the finished pie rest overnight prevents it from turning into a runny mess when cut, as the filling can thicken slightly.
The crust-crimping I did turns this into a pie-crostata hybrid. While it’s not free-form like a crostata, by rolling out the dough slightly thinner than normal, you can create a larger surface area and more overhang when it’s placed in the dish. Now, rather than trimming it, you can fold it in so that it covers half of the filling, leaving a few gleaming plum slices visible in the center. The thinner crust also gets a bit crispier, all the better to stand up to the juicy fruit within.
1 pound unbleached, all-purpose flour (approx. 3 cups)
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 tb sugar, plus more for sprinkling
12 ounces (3 sticks, or 1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, very cold
1/4 cup ice water
3 egg yolks
1 egg, for egg wash
2 1/2 pounds plums, on the firm side
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tb cornstarch
2 tb tapioca powder
juice of 1/2 a lemon (approx. 1 tb)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
pinch of salt
To make pate brisee:
Chop butter into 1/2″ cubes; put back in refrigerator until ready to use. Whisk together dry ingredients, add cubes of butter, and cut in with a pastry cutter until mixture is composed of pea-sized lumps. Work as quickly as possible to ensure butter remains cold. [Alternatively, if using a food processor, put dry ingredients in, pulse to combine, then add butter, pulsing a few times until mixture is combined as above.] Note: for a crisper crust and to prevent sogginess, continue to cut or pulse mixture until it reaches a sand-like consistency. Turn mixture out into a bowl.
Whisk together egg yolks and ice water, and drizzle over the butter and flour mixture. With a fork, pull the edges of the mixture in toward the middle to incorporate the liquid, handling as little as possible; you just want the dough to be evenly moistened. Turn dough out onto a piece of parchment paper, flatten into a disk, and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes (an hour is ideal). If you chill overnight, let it sit for 30 minutes outside of the refrigerator before rolling out.
To make plum filling:
Halve each plum, then cut each half into quarters. To a large pot, add plum slices and the rest of the filling ingredients, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to combine. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until filling becomes very juicy. Place a large sieve over a mixing bowl and pour the plum mixture into the sieve, allowing the juices to collect in the bowl below. Let sit 30 minutes or so, or until mixture has cooled.
To finish up:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
While plums are cooling, roll out the dough. With your hands, shape the disc of dough into a circle, and place on a well-floured surface. Flour the surface of the disc and a small rolling pin. Place the rolling pin in the middle of the dough and roll back and forth in short movements, focusing only on the center of the dough. Lift the dough from one side, move it around on the board a bit to redistribute the flour, and turn it about 45 degrees. Repeat the rolling process: small movements, rolling only the middle region of the dough. Continue to turn it 45 degrees and roll out until it has reached a diameter of 14″. Fold the dough in half, then in half again, and place in pie dish. Unfold dough and arrange so that overhang is relatively even all around; do not trim. Chill again, for at least 15 minutes.
When fruit has cooled, remove pie shell from fridge and fill it with the plum mixture. Fold in the over-hanging dough to cover the edges of the fruit, leaving the middle exposed. Whisk egg and brush onto crust; sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake on bottom rack for 40-50 minutes, or until edges of dough are beginning to turn a dark-golden color, and fruit in center is bubbling. Let cool at room temperature for at least 5 hours (this is the most difficult part of the entire process), then enjoy.