How To Use Up Your Summer Fruit

by Hilary Sheinbaum
(photo courtesy of @wellseasonedstudio)

Until the fall season comes around,  summertime means sunshine, seasonal fruits and delicious summer fruit pies. While the first two are easy to find during the warmest months of the year, making a pie takes a bit more time to create and perfect at home. 

As any baker knows: making a memorable treat is worth the effort and attention to detail. Whether crafting a satisfying snack for one, or sharing a craveworthy creation with a group, everyone wants to make the best dessert possible. 

To do so, here are some tips and tricks to consider while preparing and baking the best summer fruit pies this season.

How Do I Use Berries in Pies?

Strawberries are a popular choice for summer fruit pies because they are easy to pair with other flavors like chocolate, herbs, and citrus fruits, says Mary White, an International Culinary Center Pastry Arts graduate. White only uses fresh fruits for pies, and therefore only shops for fully ripe fruits. 

When preparing strawberries for pies, Jaimi St. John, a Menu Strategy and Innovation Consultant in New York City, separates the juice from the berries. She gently cooks the juice and thickens it with cornstarch. Made In’s 3 Quart Saucier will come in handy here. Then, she folds the berries back into the sweetened, thickened filling mixture. This method not only allows greater control over the consistency of the filling and preserves the integrity of the berries, but it ensures the final pie has plump, unbroken berries throughout. 

Are Peaches A Good Pie Filling?

Yes, however, stone fruits, like peaches and cherries (more on those soon), peak in flavor during certain months and locations, says St. John. So, it’s best to do some research ahead of buying!

Like strawberries, peach filling can also be prepared with the cooked juice method. St. John says another method for peach pie is commonly known as the 'old fashioned method' which involves mixing all ingredients gently in a bowl, then directly filling the pie and baking. “It's super simple, but the ratio of juice to thickening agent — cornstarch, tapioca starch, etc. —  is much harder to control with this method,” she says.

Tracy Wilk, Lead Chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, prefers to bake galettes (an opened faced pie) to showcase the color of the peaches. Made In’s ½ Sheet Pan is best for baking these. For this type of treat, Wilk will cut peaches into 1/2-inch wedges to “show off their beauty.”

What’s The Secret To Using Cherries?

Like strawberries and peaches, the cooked juice method is also used to prepare cherry pies, says St. John, who loves pairing a tart rhubarb flavor profile with cherries to balance sweetness.

Meanwhile, Wilk prefers using cherries in a hand pie, for personal homemade cherry pop tarts. Her hot tip is pitting each fruit and slicing it in half to keep the integrity of the cherry.

What Do I Need To Make A Pie?

Once you’ve done a fruit haul, it’s time to find a recipe (if you haven’t already). Your guide will dictate the time commitment needed to prep and bake a summer fruit pie. White says pies can take up to three hours (or more, for complicated instructions) in total, so it’s important to clear an accurate amount of time on your calendar before you get started.

In addition to a sufficient amount of time, preparing and baking pies with the right tools is key. Wilk uses a ceramic pie pan, scissors to trim excess pie dough and a pastry wheel for a decorative lattice. Other pastry chefs opt for rolling pins, cutting boards, chef’s knives, pastry cutters, mixing bowls, pastry brushes and, of course, measuring cups along the way.

How Do I Know When My Pie Is Done?

Once the ingredients are prepped and placed in the oven: it’s baking time! Pies are completely baked when the top crust is an even golden brown, and the filling has reduced and thickened, says St. John. “When the pie cooks, the fat [in the pie dough] will melt, releasing steam and creating the flakiness associated with a great pie crust,” she says.

When Can I Eat The Pie?

When a pie comes out of the oven — even if it looks done — it still needs to cool down before it’s served. St. John says a proper cooling off period allows the fruit filling to set in place. “If you slice too soon, all of your filling may ooze out,” she says. 

Thirty minutes in the refrigerator will suffice. Or, if you have more patience — and your housemates can resist sampling, too — you can let the pie cool on a countertop. Once it’s room temperature, it’s time to dive in. Slice, serve and enjoy!

So the next time you're faced with a surplus of fruit, or the peaches at the farmer's market are calling your name, don’t hesitate to get creative— go all in! The coming months will call for different (equally delicious) seasonal ingredients, so before the sunniest months are long gone: make your sweet and flaky fruit pies to celebrate summer!



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