Saturday, December 02, 2017

Plum and Marzipan Pie

I like to think that I am a pretty proficient baker, but I do have a kryptonite.... pastry.  It's a completely unreasonable fear, as all pastry is, is a mixture of fat, flour and water - fundamentally not scary at all!  But I've had a few bad experiences with pastry not working and I must admit that I usually just buy pastry ready made cos its easier.... But no more! I refuse to be scared of a food, so I am going to practice making pastry til I can do it properly (and I'll get pie!), it shall be my pastry project.  I've managed a pecan pie and a lemon meringue pie so far, but I thought I'd do a blog about a lovely pie I found in my BBC Goodfood magazine which uses sweet shortcrust pastry.  It's a Plum and marzipan pie, two of my favorite things.

For the pastry
225g cold unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
350g plain flour
50g icing sugar
1 large egg yolk (save the white for brushing the pastry)

For the filling
1kg plums (Victoria or Excalibar plums are delicious if you can find them), halved, stoned, then halved again
100g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp ground almonds or fine polenta
1 tsp almond extract
200g marzipan, chopped into 1½ cm cubes
egg white, for brushing (reserved from making the pastry)
cream or ice cream, to serve

  1. Put the butter and flour in a food processor with 1/4 tsp salt and blend until the mixture resembles damp breadcrumbs.  Or do this by rubbing the butter and flour together in a big bowl with your fingertips. (Or you can use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment).  Add the sugar and stir to combine.
  2. Whisk the egg yolk with 2 tbsp ice cold water and drizzle over the flour mixture.  Stir with a knife to blend the mixture until it starts to form larger clumps.  If the mixture is too dry add a little more water a tsp at a time.
  3. Tip out onto a work surface and briefly knead the dough to bring it together as a smooth ball.  Avoid overworking or it will become tough.  Flatten the dough into a puck shape and wrap well in cling film.  Chill for at least 30 mins, or for up to two days, or freeze for 2 months.
  4. Tip the plum,s sugar and cornflour into a large pan and toss to coat.  Simmer for 3-5mins stirring now and then, until the plums have just begun to soften.  Tip them into a sieve suspended over a large bowl and leave for 30 mins - 1 hour stirring every 10mins, until the juice has all collected in the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 2 pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. Re-wrap the smaller piece of dough and set aside.  On a lightly floured surface (or a piece of bake-o-glide, seriously nothing gets stuck to it!) roll out the dough to the thickness of a 50piece, or until large enough to line the base of your pie plate or tin, with a little pastry overhanging.  Roll the dough on your rolling pin and lift onto the plate or tin and press it well into the corners.  Scatter the almonds or polenta over the base.
  6. Stir 2 tbsp of the strained plum juice and the almond extract into the plums.  Spoon the filling into the pie dish, dotting the marzipan between the layers of plums as you go.  Heat the oven to 190c/170c fan/ gas mark5 and place a baking sheet on the middle shelf.
  7. Top the pie with a lattice crust. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into 1.5cm wide strips.  You can see step by step images on creating a lattice crust here.  First, arrange the pastry strips on top of your pie, with a small space between each one.  Fold back alternate strips from the centre then lay a strip across the middle near the folds.  Next flip the folded strips back to cover the middle pastry strip.  Fold back the strips that are woven under the middle piece.  Lay another strip across the middle and flip alternate strips back again.  Repeat until you have a woven pattern.
  8. Once covered, whisk the reserved egg white and brush over the pastry/  Scatter with a little extra sugar and bake for 45 mins until golden and bubbling.  Cool for 10mins before serving with cream or ice cream.
Now I must admit I got a bit of pastry shrinkage on baking, which probably means I added a bit too much water when making the dough.  Also, the recipe does not chill the pastry once in the the dish, which I've seen recommended on other websites as helping to stabilise the dough.  Next time I'll try this and hopefully get less shrinkage.  But the pie tastes lovely and was definitely a successful attempt at sweet pastry.

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