Nothing is more quintessentially summer to me then a morning of fruit picking followed by an afternoon of pie-making. Despite an overall wacky 2020 so far, I’m thankful that we’ve still been able to make it out to the orchards. Candy-like strawberries, plump cherries, deeply hued blueberries, and blushing peaches — I love them all.
When we inevitably pick a little too much to eat out of hand (which is becoming increasingly rare — my kids are fruit fiends!), pie is the answer. I usually make one regular pie, then let my kids play with the pie dough scraps to form mini pies. When there aren’t enough scraps for a full top crust, I toss on a bit of crumb topping. Once, while enjoying one of these “scrap” pies, my husband asked me, with a twinge of guiltiness, “Is it wrong if I like crumb topped pies more than double crust ones?”
I had to laugh because I’ve suspected for awhile (and my very scientific IG polls confirm) that crumb-topped pies are the secret fan favorite. While we might ooh and ahh over intricate double-crust beauties, the crumb pies are always the first to disappear.
Now I personally love a double crust, especially a la mode. But I totally understand the appeal of a crumb topping. It’s an extra layer of texture and sweetness, and another opportunity to sneak in more flavors — spices, nuts, oats, and so on. Plus, I think crumb-topped pies keep better than double crust. I love a slice cold from the fridge after the topping has crisped up. All that to say — it’s high time for this streusel topped pie recipe!
A few notes:
- Fruit preparation and amounts: It can be tricky estimating how much fruit you’ll need for a pie. I don’t think approximate numbers of fruits are very helpful because it all depends on the size of your fruit! My sweet spot for summer fruit pies (using a typical 9-inch pie plate) is roughly 1 kg (or between 2 and 2 1/2 pounds) of prepared fruit — i.e. the fruit is skinned (if needed), pitted, and sliced/chopped. So if you’re baking with something like blueberries which can be used as-is, you can just weigh the fruit directly. If you’re using something like peaches which need skinning and de-pitting, you’ll want to start with a bit more, maybe 3 1/2 pounds. When filling the dish, I’m looking for the fruit to come up to the crimps with enough to slightly mound in the center. Fruit shrinks in the oven, so this ensures a nicely filled pie after baking. For large fruits like peaches and nectarines, I slice into 1/4″ slices; large berries I halve or quarter; small berries I leave whole.
- Pie thickeners: My personal favorite thickener for juicy fruits is arrowroot starch — it’s clear when cooked and has the least “gloopy” taste compared to cornstarch and tapioca starch. There’s a mix of art and science when it comes to thickeners, as well as personal taste. I like my pie slices to hold their shape once the pie has fully cooled, but not to be overly jelly-like. King Arthur Baking has a helpful pie thickener chart and their suggested amounts are usually pretty on for my tastes (if anything, I use just a touch less). The amount of starch below worked perfectly for both an all-peach pie and a pie with a mix of nectarines and blueberries.
- Streusel tips: My favorite way to make streusel is with cold butter. I like the resulting texture, and the crumbs hold their shape better than streusel made with melted or room temperature butter. Keep your streusel in the fridge and don’t put it on the pie until just before you’re ready to bake — if the butter warms up, the streusel will flatten and spread. I like streusels that are roughly 1 to 1.5 : 1 : 1 ratio of flour + add-ins : sugar : butter, which results in a shortbread-like texture with mild sweetness. You can keep it as simple as all purpose flour, white sugar, and butter (and please, just a pinch of salt!); but I love having a bit of fun with my streusels. Here I’ve added oats, almond flour, and a touch of warm spices.
- Bake your pie fully! If you’ve ever struggled with soggy bottoms and pies that don’t set up, you’re probably not baking your pie long enough. In general, with the amount of fruit I use, my full-size fruit pies rarely take under an hour to fully cook — usually closer to 70-80 minutes. You’re looking for the filling to bubble in the very center of the pie (where it takes the longest to cook). Thickeners don’t activate properly unless the liquid reaches a boil, so if the center of your pie isn’t bubbling your pie probably won’t set up. Be patient and tent your pie with some foil if the top is browning too fast.
- Cool your pie fully! Likewise, if you’re wanting clean slices, you’ll have to let the pie cool down fully — about 4 hours. Now between you and me, if the pie is just for family, I’m not waiting quite that long — I don’t mind a messy slice, and fresh warm pie + a scoop of melting ice cream is one of life’s great pleasures. But even at home, I try to wait at least 2 hours so that the juices don’t completely run all over the place and I don’t burn my tongue.
- Pie crusts and extra tips: My go-to pie crust recipe and method will be in my book, but I love this one or this sourdough option. For even more pie tips, see this post.
Summer Fruit Pie with Spiced Streusel Topping
Makes one 9″ pie
- Enough pie dough for a single 9″ crust, homemade or store bought (see notes above)
For the spiced streusel topping:
- 100g (3/4 c) flour, all-purpose or whole grain
- 20g almond flour
- 30g (1/3 c) rolled oats
- 100g sugar (1/2 c) — I like half granulated, half brown
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 98g (7 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
For the stone fruit filling:
- About 1 kg (2.2 lbs / 7-8 cups) prepared summer fruit (see notes above)
- 50 to 100g (1/4 to 1/2 c) sugar, or to taste
- 50g (6 Tbsp) arrowroot or cornstarch (see notes above)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 30g (2 Tbsp) bourbon (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice)
- 1 Tbsp almond flour or cookie crumbs, or 1 tsp each all purpose flour and sugar
- Prepare the pie crust: On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 13- to 14-inch round between ¼- to ⅛-inch thick. Roll from the center out, giving the dough a quarter turn after every roll to avoid sticking and ensure an even thickness. Dust off any excess flour. Carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unfurl into a standard 9-inch pie plate. Gently lift the edges and press the dough into the bottom and sides of the plate, being careful not to stretch the dough to fit. Trim the overhang to 1 inch all around, then fold the excess dough under itself to form a border. The edge should be flush with the pie plate. Crimp the edges as desired. Cover and chill until the pastry is firm, at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven: While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) with a rack in the lower third. If you have a baking steel or stone, preheat that as well. If not, preheat a large foil-lined baking sheet.
- Prepare the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, sugar, spices, and salt. Scatter the cold butter pieces over the top. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a clumpy cookie dough with no dry bits of flour remaining. Refrigerate until needed.
- Prepare the fruit filling: Place the prepared fruit in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, arrowroot starch, and salt (this helps prevent the starch from clumping). Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit and stir until combined. Add the bourbon and stir to combine.
- Assemble and bake the pie: Remove the prepared crust from the fridge and place on a foil-lined baking sheet (unless the sheet is pre-heating in the oven — see notes above). Sprinkle the almond flour over the bottom — this helps absorb extra juices and keep the crust from getting soggy. Scrape the fruit filling (and all the juices) into the crust. Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 350F and continue baking until the filling is bubbling in the very center and the streusel is deeply golden, about 35-55 more minutes. Cool to room temperature before slicing, about 4 hours. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.