Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Stone fruit skillet streusel pie

In another life, I'd live in the country and I'd make pie. There'd be no deadlines, no peak hour traffic, just berries and quiet and time to work on the perfect crust. But in this life, the one I have right now, I have a new cookbook, and old friends to feed pie I make from it. Part of the reason I love travelling in the States so much I'll wager, is my proximity to pie. On this recent trip, I managed to eat quite a lot of it (though it's never enough).  

I didn't get to the east coast this time round - my nightmare travel scenario are those images on the news of people sleeping in airports below banks of screens of cancelled flights so I deliberately avoided any area with snow, which proved wise given the polar vortex - but next time I do, I'll be sure to stop in at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a pie place in Brooklyn, run by two sisters from North Dakota. They just published a cookbook, named for their store, and this weekend, in the midst of a mountain of work, it seemed a good time to christen it. This particular recipe had many things going for it. One, it was made in a cast-iron skillet, my all-time favourite piece of cooking equipment. Two, it involved summer fruit, which is currently at its peak here in the southern hemisphere. And three, anything with a streusel topping is a sure-fire crowd pleaser and an easy out for an over-stressed pie maker, who doesn't have the time for double crusts, fancy crimping or lattice tops.

Having returned from my trip more than a week ago now, I can't quite blame jet lag, but I confess I completely botched the crust by mistaking my 1/3 cup measure for my 1/4 one when parcelling out the dry ingredients. When the dough was chilling in the fridge and I was washing up, I realised I'd made a mistake but was reluctant to waste what I'd made. So I persevered with dough that was obviously too dry. Though it was significantly less malleable than it would have been in the correct proportions, it still tasted great, the cornmeal adding a wonderful texture to something so traditionally staid. And the filling! Oh my. You could use any combination of stone fruit you like but I've got a particular fondness for plums and nectarines, especially when their juices turn dramatically red and bubble up through the cracks in the crumbly streusel. Whatever the life you have or aspire to have, pie is possible. Right now. What are you waiting for?

Stone fruit skillet streusel pie
Adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily and Melissa Elsen

Though you can absolutely serve this with something decadent like ice-cream or cream, it goes really well with with a dollop of plain Greek yoghurt too.

Cornmeal crust for a 9 inch single crust pie (recipe follows)

1 2/3 cups streusel (recipe follows)

4 cups mixed stone fruit (I used nectarines, peaches and plums)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I used Maldon)

Position the oven racks in the bottom and centre positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 425 deg F.

Combine stone fruit, lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in a large bowl and mix well.  

Roll out crust and fit into a greased 8 or 9 inch skillet, trimming the overhang to 1 1/2 inches.

Place skillet on rimmed baking sheet and pour stone fruit filling into pie crust, top with streusel and fold over crust overhang. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the temperature to 375 deg F, move the pie to the centre rack, and continue to bake til the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 30-35 minutes longer.

Allow to cool to completely on a wire rack, 2-3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Keeps refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

Cornmeal crust
Adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily and Melissa Elsen

This makes a single crust 9-10 inch pie.

1 cup flour
1/4 cup stone ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I used Maldon)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
4 oz butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice

Sitr flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Add butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture useing a spatula. With a pastry blender (or a food processor), cut the butter into the flour mixture, until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay, be careful not to overmix).

Combine water, cider vinegar and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of ice water mixture over the flour mixture and mix and cut in with a bench scraper or spatula (or whizz briefly in the food processor) 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and mix til the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight to give the crust time to mellow. 

Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to a month.

Streusel topping
Adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily and Melissa Elsen

1 cup flour
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used Maldon)
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, at room temperature

Stir together the flour, sugars, and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the butter piece and toss to coat. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your finertips until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is chunky but not homongenous. 

Chill for at least 15 minutes before using.

Streusel will keep refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for one month.


  1. This looks absolutely fantastic Alice and the cornmeal pastry with the tartness of vinegar it sounds like an absolute winner