To bottle summer- to capture its fleeting spirit- pie. Always pie.
It starts with a good, flaky crust. It contains the prettiest of summer’s bounty. Hopefully, maybe if you are lucky, it is made at dusk, when the air is thick and the fireflies are dancing. Maybe, if you are like me, a midnight baker, it is made in the early AM, with an inky black sky as background, crickets breaking the silence.
Feel the August heat as the butter melts through your fingers. Even the late hour can’t tame the month’s fever. Cut the butter into the flour, spelt, stoneground. Spelt makes it light, flaky, wholesome. Finish things up. Put the pie dough away for a cold rest.
Now, take white peaches. Floral, sweet, mild. Inhale them, their perfume. When you slice them, marvel at their beauty. Pale, and then with a marbled shock, a splash of red and maroon veins at their center.
Combine the sliced peaches with the gooseberries. They are not very common, not very beloved, a little misunderstood. Gooseberries are tart. Prickled. See through, beautiful. They capture light and they enliven sweet. They were made for white peaches, and for pie.
Mix it all together. Sugar. Vanilla. Lemon juice. Thickener, to unify. The pie dough is rested, relaxed. Roll it out! Drape it over your rolling pin and nestle it gently into your pie dish. Be soft. Spelt is low on gluten, and thus low on resistance and thus prone to breakage.
Pour your fruit into your pie shell. One destiny meeting another. Lattice the other half of the dough. If your hands work by memory, they will do it easily, effortlessly, they will let you close your eyes as they do the work. If you need a little reminder, visualize the outcome you are hoping for. A proper lattice takes a bit of practice. Then it becomes as second nature as breathing.
Freeze the pie for a bit. Ten minutes, fifteen. Just, you know, make it sturdy. Prepare it for its imminent transformation.
When you are ready, send the whole thing off, egged, sugared, into the oven. Get it hot hot hot. The cool butter will be shocked into place by the heat. No messy, drippy, crusts over here. Only your hard work, science, and the wonderful alchemy that is butter, steam and heat.
The pie bakes for an hour or so. If it is late at night, you can get some shuteye. Or read cookbooks. Or jot down ideas, notes, flavor combinations that come to your head as you wait.
When the pie is done, resist the urge to cut in right away! Let it gel. Consider this the last step of the recipe, as important as any other. You will be rewarded. Shortly!
The reward is this: a tender, flaky dough, a sweet, botanic mixture of fruit, an homage to August, which is slipping away, sneaking as we speak. The reward is this: the tangible work of hands, the enjoyment and the love of the people around you.
The reward is this: you have captured summer. You have won.
Yield: one 9″ pie
Why I love this recipe: naturally sweet and floral white peaches are paired with tart, vibrant green gooseberries and just a little bit of sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. The spelt pie crust is light and impossibly flaky, thanks to frozen butter and vinegar and spelt’s lower gluten content. This is a delicious, wholesome late summer pie.
Notes: be sure to let the pie cool for a good amount of hours (3-4, at least) in order to cut neat slices.
For the pie crust:
- 2 1/4 cups spelt flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 sticks butter, one frozen, one cold
- 6 oz. ice cold water
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 egg, mixed with a drop of water, for egg wash
- turbinado sugar, for egg wash
For the pie filling:
- 6 white peaches, skin on, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups green gooseberries, end “tails” removed
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 4 tablespoons tapioca starch
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Use your fingers to cut in the stick of cold butter until it is the size of peas. Then cut in the frozen butter, leaving it in bigger, visible pieces.
- Add the apple cider vinegar to the water and make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix the water into the flour and butter combination until just combined.
- If the dough seems dry, add more water a couple of teaspoons at a time. Press the dough together, split it in half, form into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough overnight, or freeze for at least one hour.
- Combine all the ingredients for the filling. Let sit while you roll out the dough.
- Remove your dough from the freezer or fridge. If the dough is frozen, let it defrost a bit, until it’s cold but pliable. Working gently, roll out one disk of dough into a 12″ circle on a floured surface. Trim the edges.
- Transfer dough to pie plate. Fill it with fruit.
- Roll out the second disk and cut into 6-8 wide strips. Lattice it on top of the pie.
- Crimp edges, or simply fold under. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle liberally with raw sugar.
- Bake for 15 minutes on the highest rack of the oven. Lower heat to 375 and bake for another hour, until the top is sufficiently browned and the juices have thickened and are bubbling.
- Let cool for 4 hours or overnight, until thickened and set. Serve!