The other night, I attended a pie making demo where Shery Yard baked up a beautiful looking plum and blackberry pie. Plums and blackberries are both great fruits to bake with. They have wonderfully rich flavors, but they also are known for their rich colors, and a pie filling that has both fruits inside is mouthwatering to look at. After the demo, we were given copies of the recipes that Sherry used to make her version of this pie. I’ve baked blackberry pies and plum pies before, but I hadn’t put the two fruits together in one crust myself. I knew that I wanted to make it at home right away, but I also knew that I wanted to make a few tweaks to the recipe based on some of the tips she gave out in class about turning her basic recipe into your own showstopping pie.
This Plum and Blackberry Pie with Almond Crumble is made in a slightly unusual way, where the crust, filling and topping are all cooked separately and then added together at the end. This method just about guarantees that you will have a crispy crust and a thick, well-cooked filling in your pie. I also like it because it can be done in stages and doesn’t need to be put together all at once. The cookie-like almond crumble topping, for instance, can be baked in advance and stored in an airtight container for a few days before using it.
Completely baking the pie crust before filling it with a juicy filling, like this one, was a great technique that worked extremely well. Anyone who bakes a lot of pies knows that very juicy fillings – no matter what fruit you’re using – often lead to a pie with a soggy lower crust. This crust was perfectly baked and not one bit soggy, even after letting the pie sit out to cool for hours before I sliced into it. I even snapped a picture where you could see the flaky bottom crust below all of that luscious filling.
I used Sherry’s recipe for a pie crust made with the addition of a little vinegar. The vinegar helps to tenderize the dough and keep it from getting tough even if you (accidentally, of course) over-work your dough as you are rolling it out. Only a small amount of vinegar is used so that you don’t taste it at all in the finished product.
The almond crumble topping had a wonderful balance of sweetness and nuttiness, and proved to be an excellent contrast in flavor and texture for the filling. The filling was sweet, but with the natural sweetness of the fruit and not very much sugar. I used a little bit of blackberry jam to give the filling a thick base to build on, which allowed me to add the blackberries towards the end of the cooking time so that they could hold their shape in the finished pie. If I were baking a cobbler, I might have left the filling to cook without any thickeners, but I added a small amount of all purpose flour to thicken up the jam and juices and ensure that the pie filling would be thick enough to slice and serve with relative ease.
I’ll be using this almond crumble topping on more pies in the future, and this particular pie recipe is a new favorite.
Plum and Blackberry Pie with Almond Crumble
1 batch Vinegar Pie Dough (or dough for 9-inch pie)
1 batch Plum and Blackberry Pie Filling
1/2 batch Almond Crumble Topping
Preheat oven to 375F.
Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 9-inch pie plate, removing the excess dough or crimping the edges. Refrigerate crust for 1 hour.
Cover the inside of the pie crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the top edge of the crust begins to brown. Take pie out and remove the weights and the parchment/foil liner. Return pie crust to oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until crust is dark golden and completely cooked.
When the pie crust has finished baking, fill it with the plum and blackberry pie filling (the filling can be warm from cooking; cold filling may require a few extra minutes in the oven) and top evenly with 1/2 batch of the Almond Crumble Topping.
Lower oven temperature to 325F. Place pie back in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until filling is hot and bubbling. If necessary, cover almond topping loosely with aluminum foil to prevent over browning.
Allow pie to cool completely before slicing.
Makes 1 pie; Serves 8.
Plum and Blackberry Pie Filling
1/2 cup blackberry jam
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp star anise (optional)
6 large plums (use 8 if they are small)
2 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
In a large saucepan, combine the blackberry jam, sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until the jam is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Add in vanilla extract and star anise.
While jam is cooking, halve the plums and remove the pits. Cut each plum half into thirds. You do not need to peel the plums. Add to blackberry jam mixture and continue to cook over medium heat until plums are tender, 4-6 minutes.
Add in all purpose flour and stir gently with a spatula until the flour is well incorporated and the sauce begins to thicken. Fold in blackberries. Cook for 3-4 more minutes, until sauce is thickened.
Set aside to cool slightly.
Filling can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.
Almond Crumble Topping
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into several pieces.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine all dry ingredients in the food processor and whizz until almonds are completely broken up into almond meal and the mixture is well-combined. Add in butter and pulse until mixture is sandy and no pieces of butter larger than a pea remain.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl. If you squeeze the mixture firmly in your hand, it should stick together in one large piece of crumble, which can be broken down into slightly smaller crumbles ranging from the size of a pea to the size of a walnut. Do this with the whole mixture to break it up into crumbles.
Transfer almond crumbles to the prepared baking sheets (it is fine if some of the crumbles break up).
Bake for about 15 minutes, rotating the pans and stirring slightly with a spatula every 5 minutes, until the crumble is light golden and crispy. When completely cooled, crumble can be stored for several days in an airtight container.
Makes about 4 cups.
Vinegar Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup butter, cold and cut into several large pieces
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
5-8 tbsp ice water
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add pieces of cold butter and toss to coat in the flour mixture. Rub butter in with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until it is broken down into pieces about the size of and almond. Some pieces of butter may be slightly larger, some may be slightly smaller.
In a small bowl, combine vinegar and ice water. While stirring your dough with a fork, gradually add in the water until the dough comes together into a slightly shaggy mass. If the dough becomes too sticky, add in an extra tablespoonful of flour.
Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and press firmly until the dough comes together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours before rolling.
Makes one 9-inch crust