Summer is always a time for baking in my house. I know it seems like more of a winter pastime, but I love baking with fruit, and the best fruit happens in the summer. I know we can technically get fruit in winter now too, but one of the best things about eating local is getting excited about things coming into season. Garlic scapes are out now (or are they over already?), one of the few things we can only get for a few weeks out of the year. They are delicious, but I obsess over them mostly because they are special. If you're really committed to eating local food, then all your food gets to be special. Isn't that much more fun?
Last weekend, my friend and I drove to the Dalles and had a picnic, then found a farm stand with nothing but piles of cherries and peaches. We ate 2 pounds of cherries in the car on the way home and still had 2 pounds left over, so I made a pie.
Okay, here is the caveat for my pie obsession. If you had to do only one thing to improve your diet, cutting out sugar would be it. Sugar is terrible, and artificial sweeteners are worse. I don't make a lot of universal recommendations, I know some people think that everyone should be gluten free or vegetarian or whatever, but I really believe that everyone's body is different and there is no one-size-fits-all diet plan. However, sugar is pretty much universally bad for you, and any kind of "healthy" substitute like agave or stevia is just as unhealthy. We should all stop eating sugar forever. However, I'm not going to do that, and probably neither are you, so as usual the reasonable solution is thoughtful moderation.
I think a good "sugar rule" is that you can eat sugar if it's a piece of fruit, or if you have to put work into it. Buying a pint of ice cream doesn't take any work, so you can do it every day without thinking about it. Making your own ice cream takes planning, so not only are you less likely to overdo it, you get the satisfaction of having made something delicious. Plus, you can be selective about the quality of your ingredients.
My favorite fruit pie recipes are the simple ones, pretty much just crust and fruit. When you get good seasonal fruit, you don't need to do much to it.
Filling (my recipe)
4-ish cups pitted fresh cherries
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Cut the cherries in half and put in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook until very juicy, about 10 minutes. Add the other ingredients and cook until thick, adding a little water if too thickened or a little more cornstarch if too watery. Let the mixture cool slightly (it doesn't have to be cold, you just don't want it boiling).
Roll out the bottom crust and press into 9-inch pie pan, leaving about an inch hanging over the edge. Pour the filling over the crust. Roll out the top crust and cut into strips. Weave the strips over the top of the filling, alternating which strip is on top, until you have a lattice. Cut the strips so they hang over the edge about the same amount as the bottom crust, then fold both crusts under and press into a ruffly edge with your fingers or a fork. You can sprinkle the top crust with sugar, or brush an egg yolk over it, if you want, neither is necessary.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour, until the top crust is golden brown and flaky-looking.
Crust (from Inspired Taste)
2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
1 cup (227 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar (optional) to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined. Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly). Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water and continue to press until dough comes together. Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).