It was an ambush. There I was, walking innocently through my neighborhood market, when these folksy little boxes of miniature plums winked at me. They were tiny and round; some were deep red and some were a mellow yellow. They had been brought in that morning from a local farm. I couldn’t say no. Clearly, there would have to be pie within a few hours.
I hurried home with the new objects of my affection, washed them off, and tried one. Oh. My. God. Juicy. Intensely sweet. And packed into a tart little skin. Wow. All I had to do for these little guys was make a simple platform on which to worship them.
So I made a couple batches of leaf-lard-and-butter pastry dough (after all, I had been unable to resist those leggy red stalks of rhubarb, either), and while they were chilling, I pitted the plums and piled them in a bowl.
I rolled out my bottom crust and laid it in the pie pan. Then it was time to toss my little plums in the lightest possible coat of thickeners, sweeteners and spices so I didn’t mess too much with Mother Nature. Sugar, a little nutmeg and salt, and a squeeze of lemon–a veritable ode to my pie sister, Kate McDermott–along with flour and quick-cooking tapioca.
I’ll include the recipe below, but I’ll tell you that the written version adds sugar to the version that I made last night. My officemates proclaimed their love for the tartness of the pie, but to me, it still felt unbalanced. The tartness of the plums’ skins, in my view, called for more sugar than I gave them last night. So this recipe is closer to what I’ll use when I do it again. Ditto for the tapioca: the recipe below reflects more than what I used last night, since the fruit’s juices tended run away from the pie instead of staying put.
I decided to finish it the way Kate does, by rolling the bottom crust up and over the top one, toward the center of the pie.
Then I made a rope-like pattern by pressing the side of my index finger down onto the dough at a diagonal. At the risk of messing up your chronology, I’ll show you a picture of how it looked after baking, since I forgot to get a pic right when I made it:
In the past, I’ve finished pies by rolling the dough the opposite way: tucking the top crust under the edge of the bottom one, like this:
For old times’ sake, I finished the rhubarb pie–which I was making alongside the plum–the top-over-bottom way, and crimped it the way I always have, too, using my left index finger to push little indentations of dough into the V of my right index finger and thumb, like this:
I chilled them both while the oven was preheating to 425. I brushed them with egg white and sprinkled some sugar on top. They baked happily, side by side, for about 15 minutes at 425, and then another 40-45 minutes or so at 375.
My coworkers gobbled up the plum pie, and I liked it myself. But I adored the rhubarb, which I had given that morning to my friend Shaiy, in the week’s second pie-by incident. She was nice enough to share. And I must say, that pie was damn near perfect; a tribute to Kate’s awesome recipe. I’ll try to post that one soon, as well.
- 1 batch of pie dough, enough for a double-crust pie (the best choice is a recipe that uses butter and leaf lard)
- 3 pounds of ripe plums, halved and pitted (larger plums may need to be quartered)
- 3/4 c. sugar, or more/less, depending on your taste
- 1/2 c. flour
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- A dash of Kosher salt
- A couple of rasps of fresh nutmeg
- 1 egg white
- Sugar for sprinkling
- Cut and pit the plums and put them in a bowl. Add the sugar, flour, tapioca, lemon, salt and nutmeg. Stir until coated.
- Roll out the bottom crust and ease it into the pie plate. Spoon the filling into the crust and top it with the second crust. Trim, roll and crimp the edges to finish.
- Put the pie in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 425. Give it at least 20-25 minutes to make sure it's fully preheated.
- Lightly beat the white of one egg. When the oven is preheated and the pie comes out of the fridge, cut a few decorative (but also functional) vents in the top crust. Brush the top crust and the edges lightly with the egg white and sprinkle sugar over the top.
- Place the pie on a parchment-lined, lipped baking sheet, and bake it at 425 for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for 40-45 minutes more, until you can see juices bubbling through the vents.
- Remove the pie from the oven and let cool on rack. The filling will hold together best if you give it 6 to 8 hours to sit.