“I elect something I can love and absorb myself in it.” – Anaïs Nin, Winter, 1931
February, my month of thwarted longing and despair. The dark days, the rainy days. The lucid dreams and wild silence. It felt like an eternity of feelings abandoned. Unwillingly becoming serenaded whilst the nocturnal melodies of mind trembled with the longing for somewhere else, someone else. You see, I fall easily. Feel easily. I’ve forged an entire career out of feeling too much. And in that moment, all needs become secondary. I lose, lose, lose myself. I have no desire for anything other than the thing that has it’s knuckles to my throat. And I accept it. And I live with it. And I wait for it pass. Until the next thing comes.
I write to remind the world that moments like this, still exist. That people like me, still exist. The kind of person that erupts in all directions. A culmination of fragmented parts, interlaced to become a whole. I don’t always live in an enlightened state of grace. And to some extent, I hope I never will. It’s the artist inside. I write better in turmoil than I do in happiness. I write to those that live sheltered, delicate. Who believe they are living, lulled to tedium. I write to those that live violently. Who understand raging monsters and see the world for what it truly is. We recognise each other on soul level. Never the physical, only in deep schisms of the human heart.
This Black Plum, Fig and Berry Pie with Brown Butter Oat Streusel served as a saviour for the present. It’s hard. To not dream or map the future. To exist in the current, here. This Black Plum, Fig and Berry Pie with Brown Butter Oat Streusel, well, it’s my favourite pie to date. It has the most satisfying balance between sweet, tart and juicy. You see, it’s all down to the fruit. Fruit doesn’t need much – a little bit of sugar, a little bit of zest, which always yields the most sweet and juicy flavour. The soft, sweet filling perfectly balances out against the textured, nutty oats and golden, flaky pie crust. You could vary the recipe too. Use your favourite pie crust, switch up the fruit and play around with the berries – but keep the ratio all the same. Serve a slice with a generous dollop of crème fraîche or vanilla bean ice cream for something even better.
BLACK PLUM, FIG AND BERRY PIE WITH BROWN BUTTER OAT STREUSEL
the pie crust (or your favourite double crust recipe)
340 grams all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
130 grams unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
20 milliliters apple cider vinegar
145 milliliters ice cold water
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add in the butter and use your fingers to coat it in the flour. Using a pastry cutter or metal spatula, begin to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles a coarse meal-like texture with pea-sized pieces of butter running through it. Combine the apple cider vinegar and iced water. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the iced water mixture over the flour/butter mixture. Use a bench scraper or spatula to mix until incorporated. Keep incorporating the iced water mixture, adding in a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough is beginning to come together to form a ball with some dry and flaky bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch the dough to form a smooth ball, adding a few drops of water if necessary. You have added enough water when you can pick the dough up and squeeze it together without it falling apart. Split the dough into two discs, flatten each and cover the halves in a layer of plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour before using, or preferably, overnight.
the brown butter oat streusel
75 grams unsalted butter
100 grams rolled oats
40 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
Place the unsalted butter into a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, stirring often, until the butter is golden and melted. The butter should begin to foam but will subside as it continues to cook. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue to cook the butter, swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until the butter is beginning to turn brown in colour and smelly nutty in fragrance. Some solid burnt bits should have also formed at the base of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the rolled oats, sugar, flour, cardamom and a pinch of salt into a small mixing bowl. Pour in the brown butter and stir until evenly combined. Place the streusel into the refrigerator to chill before assembly.
the black plum, fig and berry filling
500 grams black plums, cored, sliced and stems removed
230 grams fresh figs, sliced and stems removed
150 grams blueberries, blackberries or a mixture of both
125 grams granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl, combine the black plums, figs and berries. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and flour. Toss with your hands to evenly coat the fruit in the other ingredients. Set aside.
1 lightly beaten egg, for the egg wash
raw sugar, for sprinkling
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease a 23 cm (9”) pie dish. Set aside.
On a floured surface and with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out one of the dough pieces into a 30 cm (12”) circle, about .4 (1/8”) thick. Let the dough sit out at room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling, if it’s too cold the edges are likely to split. Carefully place the dough circle into the prepared dish and use your fingers to press the dough down and into the edges of the dish. Set in the refrigerator whilst you roll out the remaining dough.
Roll out the other half of the dough into a circle, about the same dimensions as above. Use a ruler to measure and cut out 8 x 3.8 cm (1 ½”) thick strips, using a very sharp knife or a fluted pastry wheel. Set the strips aside on a lined baking tray whilst you fill the pie.
Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and pour in the fruit filling, spreading it evenly over the base.
Remove the dough strips from the refrigerator. Begin to weave the lattice by laying 4 (half) of the strips horizontally over the pie so that they are nearly touching. Make sure to use the longer strips in the middle of the pie and the shorter strips towards the edges. Next, fold half of those strips back on themselves. Lay one piece of the remaining dough strips vertically over the pie so that it lays over the unfolded horizontal strips. Make sure that this strip is placed in the center. Unfold the folded horizontal strips so that they lay over the top of the vertical strip and fold the strips running under the vertical strip back over the top. Lay another dough strip vertically over the pie, making sure that it’s as close as possible to the preceding vertical strip. Continue this process, swapping the folded and unfolded horizontal strips and adding a new vertical strip each time until the pie is completely latticed. I know this sounds all very confusing if it’s your first time doing a lattice, so here’s a step-by-step lattice instructional that I find useful!
Trim any excess overhang with scissors or a sharp knife, then roll the edges inwards towards the center of the pie. Firmly crimp to seal. Remove the brown butter oat streusel from the refrigerator and scatter it over the top of the pie, focusing the streusel around the edges. Place the pie on a lined baking tray and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking.
When you are ready to bake, remove the pie from the refrigerator and brush the top of it with a light glaze of the egg wash. Sprinkle over the raw sugar to coat the top. Bake, for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and the pie crust has turned a deep golden brown colour. Remove the pie from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.