strawberry sour plum pie

strawberry sour plum pie

Lately I’ve been revisiting a few recipes from way back when I first started blogging. In those first couple months, (like most brand-new blogs), I would get a slow trickle of visitors on a good day, and now that the Cardamom and Tea family has grown quite a bit, there’s a very good chance that you have never seen or heard of my strawberry sour plum pie (or if you have heard of it, then… hi mom!). And that just won’t do, because it’s one of my favorites, and I hope it becomes one of yours this spring. It’s the perfect thing to make for Mother’s Day next weekend, and the perfect way to get a head start on pie season.

While revisiting this recipe (originally posted May 30, 2017), I decided to update a few things for you guys to make it easier. I streamlined the recipe a bit, added grams to provide an option for folks outside the US as well as anyone who wants precisely consistent results, and updated the photos while I was at it. It’s fun seeing a the photos side by side, to appreciate how much I’ve learned since starting (like how to light a shot, how not to overexpose a photo, how to color balance a photo, how to crimp pie dough, how not to burn crust, how to lattice neatly…). The most I can hope for is to look back on these photos in two years and think the same.

strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie

But anyway, let’s talk about sour plums! We’re right at the start of the season, which is very exciting indeed. Jarareng is one of many names for green sour plums, which are available for just a few weeks, right after the trees have fruited but before they’ve had a chance to ripen. By the beginning of June, they will soften and sweeten, and will lose their crunch and tang, turning into an entirely different fruit.

Jarareng always makes me think of one of my family’s favorite stories. When my mom was three, she traveled from Baghdad to her mom's family's farm in north-eastern Syria, and her uncle, Badel, gave her a freshly-picked sour plum from their orchard. She absolutely loved it and asked if she could have some more, but Badel didn't want her to spoil her appetite, so he said no. My mom then insisted that if he didn't give her another, she would tell her mom not to be his sister anymore. Jarareng brings out the sassiness in us all.

Maybe we all love jarareng so much because super-seasonal produce is only around for a short time, and it never seems possible to have had enough once time is up. But there’s also something very nostalgic about fleeting fruits and vegetables—they transport us back to a specific time and place in a way that more ubiquitous foods can’t. While I’ve had asparagus in the heart of fall, and acceptably ripe tomatoes in the dead of winter, jarareng are pretty much impossible to find outside of those few weeks in May. And I think because of this, it always brings back memories with a little extra nostalgia.

So seek jarareng out and eat them plain, with a little salt, thinking of good memories or creating new ones (now! before it's too late! Seriously, stop reading, go to the store, buy some, and then come back and finish reading this—I explain where to find them in the note below the recipe). And if you've never tried baking with jarareng, if you (somehow!) have a surplus that's sitting around and slowly losing their tart crunchiness, it's time to bake a pie before it's too late.

strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie

strawberry sour plum pie

yield: 8 servings
active time: 1 hour
total time: 3 hours 45 minutes
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PDF to print

crust *

  • 400g all purpose flour (about 3 cups)

  • 7g salt (1 teaspoon)

  • 230g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (2 sticks)

  • 120g cold plain yogurt (1/2 cup)

  • 30g cold water (2 tablespoons)

  1. Place the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse several times, until the butter blends into the flour, and there aren’t any lumps bigger than a tic tac. Add the yogurt, and pulse 2 or 3 times to distribute. Drizzle in the water. Pulse a few times until it can be squeezed together into a pliable and smooth dough (don’t over-process). If the dough won’t come together, add a few more drops of water at a time.

  2. Shape the dough into 2 equal balls, flatten the balls into discs, cover each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for just 30 minutes. Work on the filling while you wait.

filling and baking

  • Chilled pie dough (above)

  • 370g pitted and quartered sour green plums ** (3 cups quartered, from about 500g whole)

  • 370g hulled and quartered strawberries (3 cups sliced, from about 450g whole)

  • 200g sugar (1 cup)

  • 1.5g teaspoon salt (1/4 teaspoon)

  • 50g quick cooking minute tapioca (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)

  • Egg wash: 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoon cream or water

  1. While the dough is chilling, combine the plums, strawberries, sugar, salt, and tapioca, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) .

  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the first round of chilled dough out to between 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick; it should be quite a bit wider than the pie pan (about 13-13.5 inches). Rotate occasionally as you work, but try not to handle the dough too much.

  4. Once it’s rolled out, gently wrap it around your rolling pin to transfer it to the pie pan. Unroll it onto a 9-inch pie pan and gently press the dough into place so it’s in contact with the entire pan.

  5. Roll out the second crust to the same thickness, and then cut it into long strips, about 3/4 to 1 inch wide.

  6. Fill the pie shell with the fruit filling, gently pressing it down with the back of a spoon to get rid of any gaps.

  7. Assemble the lattice top: First, place half the strips going in one direction all along the pie, with narrow gaps in between them. Then fold back every other strip and place another strip perpendicular to them at the edge of the pie. Drape the lifted strips back over the perpendicular strip. Repeat, alternating which of the parallel strips are lifted, adding the next perpendicular strip each time, until the whole pie is covered.

  8. Once the pie is covered, dab a little water under the edge of each strip to make sure they stick to the bottom crust. Evenly trim the excess edges (both the top and bottom). Use a fork to crimp it all the way around. Place the pie in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

  9. Once the top feels firm, brush the pie’s surface with the egg wash and bake for 15 minutes at 400°F (205°C).

  10. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350°F (175°C) and bake for another 45 minutes. If the edges of the crust start to brown too quickly for your liking, use a crown of tin foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.

  11. Place the pie on a cooling rack for at least 2 hours, until it comes to room temperature.

* To make this dairy free, use your favorite shortening-based crust recipe, and use the water option instead of cream in the egg wash. Most recipes out there have a combination of shortening and butter, but you can usually use a combination of vegan butter substitute and shortening to make a crust recipe dairy free. Or to make this gluten free, use your favorite gluten free crust recipe (use a gluten free all purpose flour blend that includes xanthan gum to make sure the crust isn’t too flaky).

** Also known as jarareng, gojeh sabz, ume, méi, or erik, these plums are available in early to mid spring in Middle Eastern/Asian markets and some farmers’ markets. Some are a little on the crunchy side, especially early in the season. If yours are extra-crunchy, microwave them for a minute or two before mixing them in with the strawberries. Jarareng cling to their pits, so always cut away from your hand, and follow this GIF:

strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie

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banana cream pie with halva and cardamom

banana cream pie with halva and cardamom

When my husband and I got married about eight years ago, we hired Hoosier Mama Pies to cater the desserts at our wedding. This was back when they just had a tiny little storefront in Ukrainian Village with a couple bistro tables, and they delivered about thirty perfect pies to our big backyard wedding. The next day, there were two or three left over, which we packed up and took to the cute little A-frame we rented on the Gold Coast of Minnesota. Little did we know that we were honeymooning in pie country, so once we ran out of lemon meringue and sour cherry, we started finding excuses to drive by the local place, Bettys’. Their pies were the stuff of imaginary tea parties, and we spent the rest of the week accumulating empty bakery boxes in the kitchen.

While nothing can beat that summer, I have a feeling we’re about to have another summer of pies, and this one is the perfect way to kick things off. It’s not really berry or stone-fruit season yet, but I think it’s finally starting to feel like pie season (or maybe that’s just because I’m currently visiting Texas). This one in particular is inspired by my favorite toast, topped with honey-sweetened tahini, banana slices, and a little pinch of cardamom. Sesame halva has a very sharp and earthy flavor, which works perfectly with mellow creamy flavors like banana and cardamom. It’s the banana cream pie you know and love, with just a little extra something.

One of my favorite things about this pie is that it has halva in two different places: crumbled into the pie filling and sprinkled on top with a few extra banana slices. This gives it a really nice combination of textures. The halva sandwiched between the banana slices and cardamom custard gets a bit gooey, with just the slightest bit of grit, and the halva on top has that familiar honeycomb crunch. If not for the topping, it wouldn’t have the texture you expect of something with halva in it, and without the halva in the filling, the topping would feel like an afterthought. But together, it’s my perfect banana cream pie.

banana cream pie with halva and cardamom
banana cream pie with halva and cardamom
banana cream pie with halva and cardamom
banana cream pie with halva and cardamom

a note on blind baking

Since the filling doesn’t get baked, banana cream pie requires blind-baking the crust, which usually means using pie weights, but I absolutely can’t stand pie weights. Blind baking with weights is annoying… but to be honest, blind baking without them is also kind of annoying, so you just need to pick your poison and decide which sounds like the best option to you. I’ve made peace with blind baking without weights, and I don’t mind it anymore, but either case will take some getting used to if you’ve never done it before.

If you do bake with weights, you’ll need to make sure the bottom browns nicely, but that the edges don’t over-brown. You can bake it with parchment and weights for the first half, then remove the weights once it’s pretty set, make a foil crown to shield the edge of the crust, and let the bottom bake the rest of the way without the weights (see? Such a pain). In my experience, it’s really hard to get it to bake perfectly evenly this way, and the edges usually get a little too toasty even with the foil shield. Plus the bottom doesn’t turn out quite as flaky and tender as I like.

If you choose to bake without weights (yes, join the dark side!), just make sure that the edges of the crust extend over the side very slightly, be sure to let the dough rest and chill long enough, and dock the heck out of it (including once again a few minutes into baking, because it will probably start puffing up a little bit). There’s kind of an art to letting the edges protrude slightly to make sure they don’t melt down the sides, and an art to making sure the bottom doesn’t puff up too much, but once you get it right, it results in a perfectly evenly baked and flaky crust.

I describe this method in the recipe below (and you can look at the photos above to get an idea of how to shape it), but here’s the gist: trim just a little of the excess so it still hangs over the side. Fold the edges under so that they still slightly extend beyond the edge of the pie pan (you shouldn’t be able to see the pan from above). Crimp as usual.

And if you just can’t be bothered, remember that there’s absolutely no shame in using a commercially frozen pie crust.

banana cream pie with halva and cardamom
banana cream pie with halva and cardamom
banana cream pie with halva and cardamom
banana cream pie with halva and cardamom

banana cream pie with halva and cardamom

yield: 8 servings
active time: 35 minutes
total time: 4 1/2 hours
very loosely adapted from a
King Arthur Flour recipe
download a
PDF to print

crust

  • 200g all purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 3.5g salt (1/2 teaspoon)

  • 130g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (9 tablespoons)

  • 60g cold yogurt (1/4 cup)

  • 15g cold water (1 tablespoon)

  1. Place the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse several times, until the butter blends into the flour, and there aren’t any lumps bigger than a tic tac. Add the yogurt, and pulse 2 or 3 times to distribute. Drizzle in the water.* Pulse a few times until it can be squeezed together into a pliable and smooth dough (don’t over-process).

  2. Shape the dough into a ball, flatten the ball into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out to between 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick; it should be wider than the pie pan (about 13-13.5 inches). Rotate occasionally as you work, but try not to handle the dough too much.

  4. Once it’s rolled out, gently wrap it around your rolling pin to transfer it to the pie pan. Unroll it onto a 9-inch pie pan and gently press the dough into place so it’s in contact with the entire pan. Use scissors to trim some of the excess off, but leave about 3/4-inch of dough hanging past the edge of the pan. Go back and fold the edge under itself so it still overhangs by just about 1/8-inch (you shouldn’t be able to see the pan from above). Crimp, let it sit at cool room temperature for 10 minutes, then refrigerate for 90 minutes.

  5. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) convection once the dough is almost done chilling.

  6. Once the pie shell is ready to bake, dock it all over with a fork, and bake for about 20 minutes total, until golden brown. About 5 minutes into baking, check on it to see if it’s sliding or puffing too much on the bottom. Take it out and dock it again with a fork to make it collapse, and nudge it back into place if it’s shrinking/sliding. Put it back in the oven, and check on it again after another 5 to 10 minutes, repeating if it’s puffing up again. Or feel free to use pie weights instead if this all sounds like a hassle (see note). **

pastry cream filling

  • 270g milk (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)

  • 50g sugar (1/4 cup)

  • 8g all purpose flour (about 1 tablespoon)

  • 10g cornstarch (about 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon)

  • 2g salt (1/4 teaspoon)

  • 1 large egg (60g)

  • 40g butter (3 tablespoons)

  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (0.5g)***

  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract (0.5g)

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom isn’t scorching.

  2. Combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, and egg in a medium stainless steel mixing bowl. Whisk together until it’s totally lump-free. Once the milk comes to a simmer, slowly drizzle it into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Return it to the medium saucepan, and set it over medium heat. Don’t stop whisking as it heats—remove from heat once it thickens and big bubbles start to break to the surface.

  3. Immediately add the butter, cardamom, and vanilla, and whisk constantly until the butter melts from the residual heat and and fully mixes in. Move onto the next part while the custard is still warm (or let it rest off the heat for 1-2 hours, and then reheat over very low heat while whisking constantly, just until it is pourable again).

banana halva filling and toppings

  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced between 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick (190g out of their peels)

  • baked pie shell (above)

  • 75g sesame halva****, crumbled (3/4 cup)

  • warm pastry cream (above)

  • 20g sugar (1 1/2 tablespoons)

  • 175g cold whipping cream (3/4 cup)

  • pinch of salt

  • more halva and bananas for topping (I used 1/3 cup more halva and 1 banana)

  1. Arrange the banana slices on the bottom of the baked pie shell. Top with the 3/4 cup/75g halva crumbles. Pour on the warm pastry cream, and halfway through give the pan a few bangs to make sure there aren’t any trapped air pockets. Smooth it out, and refrigerate for at least 90 minutes, until it’s completely chilled.

  2. While you’re waiting on the pie to chill, place the sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer (or a stainless steel bowl), and place it along with the whisk attachment (or a regular whisk) in the refrigerator to chill.

  3. When the pie is ready to come out of the refrigerator, whip the cream: add the whipping cream and a pinch of salt to the sugar, and beat at medium-high speed, until it reaches medium peaks (don’t beat it all the way to stiff peaks unless you plan to pipe it).

  4. Top the pie with the whipped cream, not quite spreading it all the way out to the edges, and making little swooshes on the surface with a small offset spatula or knife. Top with a few banana slices, some halva crumbles, and a tiny pinch of cardamom. You can also serve it at the table with extra toppings (especially extra halva for anyone who can’t get enough sesame). Store in the refrigerator.

* If you measured precisely in grams, you can add the water all at once. If you’re using volume, you should add the water in 2 installments, and you might even need to add a bit more to get it to hold together (volume is less precise).

** To prevent shrinking and puffing in the first place, you can use pie weights. If you go the pie weight route, you don’t need to do the whole thing with the folded-under crust, and you don’t need to let it rest in the refrigerator for so long. I hate pie weights, and always use this method to avoid them, but some might find this technique more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s totally a matter of preference. If you use pie weights, your pastry won’t be as flaky and puffy, and you’ll need to bake it for a few minutes without the weights to make sure the bottom browns. If you’re new to baking, you might want to try using weights, because it’s a little easier and failproof.

*** The cardamom should be a background flavor, so make sure you don’t add too much. If you add too much it will taste like soapy perfume, so remember that less is more.

**** You can find halva in most Middle Eastern markets, as well as some supermarkets with good international aisles.

banana cream pie with halva and cardamom

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