It is no secret that I am obsessed with fruits and vegetables. Nothing makes me happier than sweet red bell peppers, crisp Pink Lady apples, elegant green kale, shiny delicate blueberries and glowing orange sweet potatoes. I cannot get through a day without consuming a wide palette of colors.
I am constantly experimenting with new ways to cook and bake with the most vibrant produce I can find. I especially love to discover new recipes to incorporate unusual produce in desserts. Sometimes the produce is hidden within the baked treat, which is the case with chocolate chip beet muffins, avocado pound cake or butternut squash cinnamon rolls. However, the best and most beautiful produce-themed desserts are fruit-filled pies, which not only feature and celebrate the fruit itself, but are dripping with its beautiful colors with each bite.
Making hearty pies filled with deep purple and red fruit and topped with buttery crumble is one of my favorite passions. In addition to the lovely aesthetic beauty of the pie, I find the process of preparing the crust, filling and topping therapeutic. I also love the comfort associated with sharing a delightful pie with a group of friends. I bake for people as a gesture to show that I care about them.
I have been waiting and waiting through the winter months for rhubarb season to arrive in order to create a breathtaking and scrumptious strawberry rhubarb pie. As soon as I discovered that this week’s farmer’s market would have rhubarb, I rejoiced. However, upon arrival at the market at around approximately 9:12 a.m. (the market was open just over two hours at that point) I was dismayed to find out that the market was already sold out of the red celery-like stalks. I was still determined to make a glorious pie this weekend, so as an alternative, I picked up some fresh and vibrant strawberries, blueberries and raspberries to fill up my pie crust, which turned out to be the best possible replacement for rhubarb.
Making a pie to me is an art form: chopping in ice-cold butter with whole-wheat flour to make a crust; tossing berries with sugar and fresh lemon juice to bring out the berries’ deliciousness and my favorite part: assembling the crumble topping, which is a mixture of brown sugar, butter, flour, cinnamon, and oats. I do not use a recipe… I have made so many pies that I have discovered the proportions of ingredients that I like the best, which always involves extra cinnamon in the crumble topping. I also pack in as much fruit that can possible be held in by the pie dish. I do not skimp. And most importantly, I pore in a lot of love into every pie creation I make.
A pie is not something that can be thrown together in a few minutes. Making a pie is not always easy or perfect. Often, you make a mess. However, I feel it is something everyone should try to make from scratch at least once in their lives. Whether you have some fresh rhubarb, apples, cherries, berries, or peaches, set aside time to make a pie. Fill a crust with something bright, colorful, juicy, and delicious. I have a theory that the more pie and pie bakers there are, the more love the world will have.
Note: This makes one regular size crust for a pie pan.
1 and 1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup COLD butter
Few tablespoons of ice water (depending on how much you need)
Mix the dry ingredients together. Cut in quarter inch pieces of butter until it is all incorporated. Continue mixing either with a food processor, mixer or by hand. When it becomes a coarse meal, gradually add in the ice water (you may only need a little) until the dough can hold itself together in a ball. It is not mandatory, but ideally, you would refrigerate the dough at this point until it is firm and chilled.
When you are ready, roll out the dough into your pie pan and you are ready to go!
It really is up to you as to what fruit you want to use. Sometimes, I make a fruit crumble in an effort to clean out the refrigerator of all the leftover fruit that no one is eating. For example, in one fruit crumble I included: one green apple, one plum, three peaches, a cup of cherries, a cup of raspberries and a few blueberries. With the exception of the berries, I diced all the fruit up in small pieces. When specific fruits are out of season (such as berries during any time of the year except summer) feel free to buy them frozen (just make sure the frozen fruit is only fruit and no other added ingredients).
Some good combinations to try are:
Blueberry, Raspberry, Cherry
Raspberry, Blackberry, Strawberry
But of course, all fruits taste wonderful together!
When you have all your fruit, simply mix them together with some fresh lemon juice (the amount you would get from one small lemon, or half a large one) and a small spoonful of granulated sugar. Then fill up your crust with colorful berries!
Crumble Topping: (the best part!)
Mix together the following ingredients until it becomes a coarse meal:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups oats
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup softened butter
When everything is combined, sprinkle the mixture on top of the berries. It is ok if you have to pack in the topping a bit in order for it all to fit without overflowing.
Bake your pie between 46 and 60 minutes, depending on how fast it browns. If you are worried about an overflowing pie in the oven, simply place a piece of foil beneath the pie dish to collect anything that drips.