Yes, we're a little prolific with the food posts lately. Chalk it up to the time of year when the availability of fresh produce makes cooking and baking so enjoyable.
We picked up some plums on sale this week. I wait all year for fresh summer fruit and it disappears around here pretty quickly. So I had to make this pie right away because I'm sure that in a few days all the plums would be gone.
Family legend has it that my grandmother made the most wonderful plum pie. But by the time she baked it for me, her eyesight was poor and she'd fallen out of the habit of baking. Add to that the fact that she made her pie crust with olive oil and I begin to wonder if her plum pies weren't better in retrospect than actuality (a bit like camping trips).
The sad thing about fruit is that it's become increasingly hard to find any that taste good. Strike that. It's become increasingly hard to find any that tastes -- period. Organic produce around here is way beyond my means and I've not yet found a local source for plums. Peaches and apples, no problem. Plums, forget it.
Anyway, this was one of those tasteless grocery store buys that every once in awhile produces a good plum. Unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky with this batch, but I had hopes that the baking might bring out some flavor.
Well, anyway, that was the plan.
Appearance-wise, they were lovely (which seems to be the primary goal of grocery story produce -- all appearance and no substance. I'll leave you to make the obvious metaphorical connnections...)
Now, let's talk pie crusts.
There is a school of thought that says either you are a person who can make a wonderful pie crust or you are a person who cannot. Whenever someone tells me they can't make a pie crust -- excluding the people who say that because they don't want to make a pie but feel under some moral obligation that they should -- I tell them they're trying too hard.
There is a reason they call it "easy as pie." Crust too tough? You fiddled with it too much. Once the water is in, bring the dough together and let it alone in the fridge for awhile. So what if you can't get the rolled-out crust into the pie plate in one piece. Piece it together and seal it with your wet finger. No one is taking pictures for Bon Apetite. Pie is pie.
Besides, once you slap that sucker on a plate, no one is going to care that their slice isn't a perfect equilateral triangle; double so if you serve it with ice cream.
Of course, you can buy a passable ready-made pie crust, but here's my thought about that (yes, I have an opinion about pie crust): Making a pie crust is a little bit of a workout; all that cutting in and rolling out stretches some muscles and burns a few calories, making pie consumption a little more justifiable -- not the whole pie, mind you -- a nice, conservative piece. Anyway, that's what I tell myself.
So, for the record, for an 8-inch pie:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. vegetable shortening (or cold butter, if you are so inclined)
approx. 5 T. ice cold water
You know the drill: Mix the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until the size of baby peas. Add water in tablespoon increments and stir with a fork just until dough comes together. Divide in half, wrap and refrigerate for 20 min. or so.
Roll out one half of the dough and place in pie plate. Dump in plum mixture and dot with 2 T. butter.
Roll out second half, top pie and crimp edges. If the fruit is particularly tart, I'll brush the top with milk and sprinkle on some sugar. Using a fork, stab the crust all over making steam vents (By family rule, I am required to form my stabs in the shape of the letter that the filling begins with, as if I'm churning out a large variety of pies on this particular day and won't be able to remember what this one is. I continue to do this because...well, I just do.)
Bake at 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes, drop the temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake for 40 to 45 min. more. Cool on a rack.
(This crust comes from the label of the Crisco shortening, which my mother copied down in her recipe file and we've always used. It's probably still on the label -- I never bothered to check)
Unfortunately, the crust was the best thing about this particular pie. Other than that, it could have been a styrofoam pie for all the flavor you could taste. But, I whipped up some cream and slapped it on top and everyone was satisfied but me.