Published July 1, 2004.
Few things are better than a summer fruit pie, but that takes time and skill. We wanted an easy recipe with a short list of ingredients that would produce an extra-flaky crust.
Without the support of a pie plate, tender crusts are prone to leak juice, and this results in soggy bottoms. A quick glance at a couple of dozen recipes revealed that many bakers solve this problem by making a sturdier (and so tougher) dough. Several recipes skirted the tough-crust issue by utilizing a different sort of dough. Cookielike crusts, short and sandy in texture, were common. However, these recipes usually include sour cream, cream cheese, egg yolk, and/or cornmeal--ingredients that mask the pure flavor of simple pie dough.
A buttery, flaky crust paired with juicy summer fruit. What we wanted was a lazy recipe, one that produced both crust and fruit with half the work of a regular pie. A freeform tart--a single layer of buttery pie dough folded up around fresh fruit--seemed the obvious solution.
We used a high proportion of butter to flour, which provided the most buttery flavor and tender texture without compromising the structure. We then turned to a French technique in pastry making called fraisage. It refers to the process of smearing the dough with the heel of your hand, thereby spreading the butter pieces into long thin streaks between skeletal layers of flour and water. Now our crust was more sturdy (the melted butter left behind no gaping holes), but it was also incredibly flaky, interspersed with long layers that we could pull apart with our fingers. We rolled out the dough to different thicknesses and found that 3⁄16 inch (about the height of three quarters) was ideal: thick enough to contain a lot of fruit but thin enough to bake evenly and thoroughly. The dough was then lifted up and back over the fruit (the center of the tart remains exposed) and loosely pleated to allow for shrinkage. The bright summer fruit needed only the simple addition of sugar. The amount of sugar varied from 3 to 5 tablespoons, depending on the type of fruit.list of recipes