Food & Entertaining - Garden to Table

A no-fail crust and fresh ingredients are the perfect equation for fall desserts

Half-moon plum pies
serves 8

½ cup dried figs, stemmed
¼ cup orange juice
1 tbsp Grand Marnier liqueur
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp minced crystallized ginger
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch allspice
2 cups halved, pitted and sliced plums
¼ cup finely chopped unsalted pistachios
¼ cup coarsely chopped dried cherries or cranberries
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla
Pastry for one double pie crust
1 egg yolk
1 tsp milk

Place figs with orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add Grand Marnier, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until figs are tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and purée mixture in a blender until it forms a smooth paste. Reserve.

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Com­bine sugar with ginger and remaining spices, and toss all but 2 tablespoons of the mixture with plums, pistachios, dried fruit, flour, zest and vanilla. Fold in reserved fig paste. Divide each round of chilled pastry into 4 equal portions, totaling 8 pieces. Roll each portion into a 6-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Whisk egg yolk with milk and brush over pastry.

Spoon filling just below the centre of each circle and spread out and down, leaving a slight border at the bottom and sides. Fold top of pastry over filling to form half-moon pies. Turn edges up, fold slightly and pinch seams to close. Carefully transfer the pies onto one baking sheet. Dot pies with the tines of a fork, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and spice mixture.

Bake on centre rack of oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350°F (180°C), and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until pastry is lightly browned. Serve pies warm, topped with dollops of crème fraîche (recipe follows).

Sweetened crème fraîche
makes 1 cup

1 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp buttermilk
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp fresh lemon or orange juice
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let mixture sit at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, or until it is as thick as sour cream. Refrigerate for up to one week.

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