Train Museum Pie

September 9, 2012

By “Train Museum”, I mean the BC Forest Discovery Centre. By “Pie”, I mean, well, pie.

Many years ago, when my oh-so-cool Middle Schooler was a train-obsessed toddler, we would have to, have to, stop at the ‘Twain Museum’ on our way up and down the Island. Old-fashioned vehicles and machinery, and a steam train ride through the forest?! Little. Boy. Heaven.

During one September visit we walked to the end of the grounds to check out the old barracks area and found an old orchard! Apples and plums galore, overrun (of course) with blackberries. Magically, there was a clean plastic bag hung up in the brambles just waiting for us to fill with fruit. Ha, HA!

The fruit was a bit small and scabby – better for baking than anything else. So that evening I made pie: an apple-plum-blackberry foodgasm.

pie close-up

Now an annual tradition, Train Museum Pie was for many years made exclusively with fruit from the BC Forest Discovery Centre. (Please take a moment to recognize my motherly dedication, driving an hour and paying to pick scrubby old fruit?) But the last few Septembers, with an older son more interested in music and a younger son who was never that into trains, we have been making Train Museum Pie with fruit closer to home: blackberries from the roadside, plums and apples from the back path in our housing complex. The local grocery store has even made some fruity contributions from time to time.

Apparently, I must now make this pie every summer or suffer the horror and indignation of my children. And it most definitely has to be made with the same fruit we found on our first fruit-picking venture at the Train Museum: apples, plums and blackberries.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I have, despite all my shortcomings as a parent, created a childhood memory and a nice family tradition.

slice of apple plum blackberry pie

TRAIN MUSEUM PIE (Apple-Plum-Blackberry)
Makes one 9-inch double crust pie, 8 servings
This delicious late summer pie is named after our family adventures in fruit-picking at the BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan.

pastry ingredients
2½ cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour, measured by the dip and sweep method
1 Tb sugar
1 tsp salt
¾ cup (6 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
½ cup (4 oz) cold lard or shortening, cut into small cubes
6 to 8 Tb very cold water
2 Tb cold vodka

filling ingredients
3 cups blackberries
2 cups peeled, sliced apple
2 cups pitted chopped plums
1-1/4 cups sugar (use more or less, depending on your preference)
4 to 5 tsp tapioca starch (or tapioca flour)

topping ingredients
1 to 2 tsp water or milk
1 Tb sugar

Pastry method – Food processor:
In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Process for a few seconds to combine evenly. Remove the lid, scatter the butter pieces over the flour, replace the lid, and process again, using 4 to 8 pulses. Add the lard and pulse a few more times, until the fat is cut into the flour properly. The fat pieces should range in size between small peas and cornmeal, with fewer large pieces and greater smaller pieces. But make sure to leave some large pieces and some dry flour, because these two things help with the flakiness. Transfer the flour mixture to a bowl. Toss with fingers to ensure an even balance of fat to dry flour.

Pastry method – By Hand:
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the cold butter pieces and use your fingers or a pastry blender or two butter knives to cut the butter into the flour. Rub the butter pieces gently between your fingers, coating them in flour, until they are half the size. Add the lard pieces and continue cutting in, until the fat is the right size, ranging in size from small peas to cornmeal. There should be more smaller pieces than big.

To finish either method:
Mix together the vodka and water in a measuring cup. Slowly sprinkle in the liquid, one tablespoon at a time, using a fork or rubber spatula to mix the dough. Stop now after 8 tablespoons of liquid, no matter what the dough looks like. You may need more liquid in a minute, but do the following first:

Turn the dough onto a counter. The dough will be very dry and crumbly at this point. Use your hands to gently gather the dough into a ball, using gentle pressure to make it hold together. If the dough is still too dry, sprinkle on a tablespoon more liquid and mix the dough with your hands again, until you can form it into a ball. In rare cases, you will need to use the final tablespoon of liquid.

Divide the dough in two and form each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, while making the filling.

September fruit mix in bowl

filling method:
Put the fruit in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, whick together the sugar and the tapioca. Do not mix the fruit and sugar together until the pastry is rolled out!

Rolling out pastry and finishing the pie:
Preheat oven to 425 F. Make sure the rack is in the lower-middle position.

Remove one disk of pastry from the fridge. Unwrap and roll out on a lightly-floured counter using gentle even pressure. The dough should be about 14 inches in diameter and about 1/4-inch thick. Gently fold the dough circle into quarters and place in a 9-inch pie pan, with the point in the middle of the pan. Gently unfold the dough and settle the dough into the pan. Set aside.

Remove second pastry disk from the fridge. Unwrap and roll out on a lightly-floured counter using gentle even pressure. The dough should be about 12 inches in diameter and a liitle more than 1/4-inch thick. Gently fold the dough into quarters. Use a paring knife to cut some V-shaped vents out of the straight folded sides (the vents will open into diamonds when the dough is unfolded).

When the dough is ready like this, quickly mix the sugar mixture into the fruit mixture and stir to combine. Scrape filling into the pie pan to fill the bottom crust. Place the the point of the folded and vented top crust in the middle of the pan on top of the filling and gently unfold. Settle the pastry over the filling, giving it a bit of slack.

Use a sharp paring knife to trim the pastry even with the edge of the pie pan. Crimp edge with your fingers or a fork. Lightly brush the top crust with water or milk (water is better) and the sprinkle all over with sugar to add crunch and sparkle.

Place in the preheated oven. Bake pie for 20 minutes, rotate front to back, reduce heat to 375 F and bake for 45 to 50 minutes more, rotating the pie as necessary and shielding the edge crusts with strips of foil, if necessary, to prevent burning. The crust should be deep golden brown and the filling should be bubbling.

Remove pie to a cooling rack. Let cool at least 4 hours before slicing or the filling will run all over the place.

pie close-up

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