One of the things that appeals to me so much about pie is that they are both incredibly versatile and incredibly familiar at the same time. You can put just about any kind of fruit into a pie, from apples to pineapples, and still enjoy a sweet dessert with a flaky pastry crust, even though the flavor is entirely different. The process to make pies with different fruits doesn’t change much from pie to pie, either. With this in mind, it was pretty easy for me to put together a plum pie in spite of the fact that I’d never really encountered one before, by making just a couple of changes from some of my other pie recipes.
Plums are a natural choice for pie: sweet, brightly colored and firm, yet juicy. Since they’re softer than apples (quite like peaches, actually), I cut them into fairly large chunks when I prepared the filling. I also left the skins of the fruit on because the skins contribute a lot of color to plums and I wanted to make sure to capture that in the filling. It also saves a lot of time when prepping the pie if you don’t need to skin the fruit. The skins of the plums are very thin, so they are not at all distracting (hardly even noticeable at all) in the finished pie, and just boosted the color and blended in with the rest of the filling.
I kept the flavor of this pie very simple to make sure that the pie delivered a big burst of plum in every bite, only putting a small amount of vanilla extract in the filling. The finished pie was just wonderful and hit the mark I was looking for exactly. The filling was thick enough that juice didn’t ooze everywhere, but not so thick that it seemed gummy or covered up the plum flavor. It contrasted very well with the flaky crust, which I brushed with milk (to help browning) and sprinkled with sugar before baking. The flavor of the plums was amazing, and it seemed like there was just the right amount of sugar in the filling to balance all the flavors together.
I couldn’t stop eating this plain, but the plums would go amazingly well with some kind of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side. Serve the pie warm or at room temperature, but make sure to cool it completely before you slice it so that the filling has a chance to thicken up and set as it cools.
1 recipe for double-crust pie dough (below)
2 lbs fresh plums (8-10, depending on size)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
3-4 tbsp [coarse] sugar
Preheat oven to 375F.
Wash plums and cut in half, removing the pits. Cut about half of the plums into quarters and half into sixths (the size variety helps them fit into the pie plate well). Place plums in a large bowl, add in sugar, cornstarch, salt and vanilla extract and stir well with a spatula. Set aside.
Roll out the bottom pie crust on a lightly floured surface, making sure there will be a bit of overhang around the edge of the pie plate, and transfer to pie plate. Fill pie crust with plum mixture. Roll out top pie crust, and lay on top of the pie plate, crimping or pinching edges to seal filling in completely.
Brush the top of the crust with milk and sprinkle generously with sugar, preferably coarse sugar. Cut 5-7 slits in the top crust with a sharp knife.
Bake for 65-75 minutes, until crust is well browned and the filling is thick and bubbling through the vents on the top of the pie.
Cool pie on a wire rack completely before slicing, to ensure that the filling thickens up and sets.
Double Crust Pie Dough
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into chunks
approx 2/3 cup cold water
Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter with your fingertips until mixture is very coarse, but no pieces bigger than a large pea remain. Using a fork, stir in cold water until dough almost comes together into a ball (you might not need to use all the water, so add it in as you go). This process may be done in the food processor, as well.
Divide dough in half and shape each half into a ball with your hands. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30-60 minutes before using.