I wish I had a better story to go along with this pie. But in all honesty, the past 6 weeks have been some of the most difficult in my life. I made this peach blueberry pie last Sunday in an effort to keep myself busy, to keep from crawling into a hole. My dad passed away almost 4 weeks ago after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer just two weeks before. There are no words to describe what this summer has been like. And even though he was 82, this was too soon. It was just too soon. I wasn’t ready to let go.
My parents came to visit over Memorial Day weekend and dad showed no signs of being sick. He and I went on a shopping spree at the nursery for flowers for our yard – he pulled the wagon around like a spry young guy would have and helped me pack the car to the gills with flowers and ferns. We made Cobb salad for lunch that day. He helped us set up our deck furniture the next day. We made rotisserie chicken on the grill that night. A few weeks later, he played 18 holes of golf with a friend and flipped burgers on the grill at my brother’s house on the 4th of July. His decline was rapid and utterly heartbreaking. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a parent.
There’s no association I have between this peach blueberry pie and my dad. But aside from all of my other memories of him, the food we shared bonded us. His favorite was the humblest of meals – chicken parm. It was one of the first meals I could could cook while living on my own. It’s one of the last we shared as a family the night my dad came home from the hospital to spend his last days at home with his family. And it’s the one we honored him with during the luncheon following his funeral service.
It was as humble a meal as dad was a man. He was kindhearted, selfless, always smiling, and had a hilarious sense of humor. He grew up of the most meager means: the son of an Italian immigrant, one of four children, living in the Arthur Ave. and 187th St. area of the Bronx in the prewar era, moving around like gypsies throughout his childhood. In winters, he shoveled coal into the basements of his apartment buildings for heat and in summers, he hauled blocks of ice off the ice truck for the apartment’s ice box. As a kid, he learned to drive and smoke at the age of 12, hopped the wall at the Bronx Zoo to visit the animals, ran numbers, played dice in back rooms of local businesses, and played stick ball with friends in the park where the new Yankee Stadium now stands. As a teenager, he slept on the couch for a few years because the two bedrooms in their most recent apartment were for his parents and sister. This was life in the Bronx at that time.
Money or not, those Italians could cook. It was my grandmother who taught my mom how to make pasta e fagioli. And it was dad who passed his family’s gravy recipe on to me. It was that gravy, the smell of it permeating the house throughout my childhood, that inspired the name for this site.
This pie is humble in its own right. It’s one my dad would have loved, especially warm with a scoop of ice cream on the side. There’s no fuss happening here, except for maybe the lattice top. Sliced summer peaches at their peak of ripeness – not boiled and peeled, just sliced – blueberries, sugar, spices, natural thickeners, and lemon juice. The pie dough is different from my usual (and favorite) all butter, really flakey pie dough but in this case, it gave me a much firmer dough to work with than the all butter version, a quality needed when weaving this lattice pie lid.
Peaches and blueberries just work so well together, with their sweet and tart flavors playing off of each other. And this pie showcases these fruits – two of my summer favorites – so beautifully. I added just the right amount of thickeners to the fruit so that there’s no slumping or running away of the fruit and juices when you slice the pie. Each piece stands up on its own and holds an overzealous scoop of ice cream like a champ. The bottom crust is actually crispy, thanks to some shortening in the dough and 30 minutes baking on the bottom rack at a high temperature – and that crispness holds for 2 full days when kept at room temperature. I couldn’t have been happier with how this peach blueberry pie turned out. It’s one I’ll continue to make each summer; hopefully next summer with a lighter and more healed heart.
- 3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp table salt
- 7 tbsp (about 2 1/3 oz) vegetable shortening, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
- 10 tbsp (5 oz) unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces and frozen for 30 minutes
- 10 - 12 tbsp (1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups) ice water
- 4 medium peaches
- 1 ½ cups fresh blueberries
- 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- ¾ tsp table salt
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- To make the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the shortening and process for 10 seconds until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Scatter the cubed butter over the flour mixture and pulse it into the mixture with 10 to 12 1-second pulses. The butter should be about the size of small peas. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
- Drizzle 8 tablespoons of the water over the mixture and with rubber spatula, fold the water in until it comes together when you squeeze it lightly, adding the remaining 4 tablespoons of water as needed if the dough seems too dry.
- Divide the dough into two pieces - one a little larger than the other, about 16 and 14 ounces each. Shape each piece into a flat disk, about 4 inches each, and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days before rolling.
- Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for a couple of minutes until malleable. Roll the smaller piece into a 15 × 11-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut the dough into 8 long pieces, 15 × 1 ¼ inches. Separate them slightly and freeze for about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, roll out the remaining dough on well-floured surface into a 12-inch round. Roll the dough up on the rolling pin and transfer it to a 9-inch pie dish, rolling it out in the dish and gently coaxing the dough snugly into the dish, leaving the sides to overhang the dish. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- To make the filling: Pit and slice the peaches into ¼-inch slices. Mix them together with the blueberries in a large bowl. Stir the 2/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, flour, cornstarch, and salt together and then stir in the lemon juice. Transfer the fruit mixture to the cold dough in the pie dish.
- Remove the dough strips from the freezer and position 4 of the strips evenly spaced next to each other over the fruit. Fold the 1st and 3rd strips two-thirds of the way back and lay one of the remaining strips perpendicular and atop the two flat strips already on the fruit. Return the folded strips back to their original position and repeat with the 2nd and 4th strips and another remaining strip of dough, spacing it evenly away from the side of the dish and the other strip of the same direction. Repeat each step once more until all of the dough strips are snuggled into the lattice shape. Trim the edges of the strips back to the edge of the dish and crimp the bottom dough up into the strips.
- Preheat the oven to 500° F with racks in the lowest and middle positions. Refrigerate the pie while the oven preheats. Reduce the oven temperature to 425° F and place the pie on a baking sheet. Brush the top dough and crimped edges with the heavy cream and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
- Bake on the bottom rack for 25-30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° F, cover the edges of the pie with a foil strip or silicone pie shield, and move the pie and baking sheet up to the middle rack. Bake for another 25-30 minutes. Cool the pie on a wire rack for at least 3 hours before cutting and serving. Leftovers can be kept loosely wrapped with foil to prevent the crust from getting soggy at room temperature for a few days.