Take advantage of summer’s bounty and my trusted pie crust method to create your own celebration of pie all day.
Pie is a complicated summer muse. She graces us with the most pleasure when the gardens and trees bear the sweetest, juiciest fruits, but she demands the coldest of butter, the chill of a marble surface, and the lightest of touches. Like most muses, she is fickle, but she continues to lure us because a bite of oozing cherries and flaky crust is very close to the divine. Add a fleeting scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream, and you’re there.
In the spirit of devotion, I offer you pies for a full day of summer supplication. These are labors of love. They’re not instantly gratifying (with the exception of one cheat). Pies require careful scheduling to allow for a proper chilling of the crust. Typical instructions are wrought with a long list of stressful don’ts – don’t add too much water, don’t overwork the dough, don’t let the butter warm. Don’t lose your damn mind when the flour and butter refuse to form a ball.
Perhaps you’ve sworn off pie making forever (I get it). Having recently returned to this pastry and found a new peace, I come bearing good news: there is a better way! The steps may seem overwhelming at first, but the method I describe – fraisage – has restored my love of pie-making, hence this day-long celebration of butter and flour.
This method involves dumping the buttery flour mixture onto a lightly floured work surface, then smearing the mixture outward with the heels of your hands. Instead of the butter being cut into gravelly chunks, which annoyingly refuse to adhere to the dough, this method spreads the butter into long, thin, streaks. When baked, these layers melt, produce steam and create a crust that is flaky and crumbly, crunchy and tender, and a proper ode to the muse.
With this newfound peace, you’ll start your day with the nostalgia of a chocolate-cherry pop tart. The effort of it makes the processed, commercial version very understandable, but the light sweetness and the flaky, buckwheat and brown-rice flour crust is worth every step. For lunch, take a picnic of tomato tartelettes to your favorite shade tree, and languish in the only time of year when tomatoes taste like anything.
For dinner, I give you permission to spend more time around the grill and less time smearing dough. I give you permission to let puff pastry do the heavy lifting.
We conclude with a simple strawberry tart. The dough is your canvas, and you can be as creative as you see fit. The beauty is, the pie will taste just the same either way.
Stay tuned for the recipes!