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A blackberry-peach fruit pie inspired by The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I grew up on the film adaptation of The Princess Bride, to this day it’s probably my favorite movie of all time. Like the kids of Florin and Guilder, I spent my childhood terrified of the Fire Swamp and the ROUSs, but the humor, adventure, and romance of the movie woke something story-hungry in me at an impressionable age. However, even knowing every line from the movie by heart (my family and friends refuse to watch it with me anymore), I had never read the book! Inconceivable! I figured if I was going to call myself a true fan, I had to go back to the beginning.

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Spoiler-Free Summary:

Buttercup is just a girl from the Florinese countryside with the potential for great beauty when her true love, the farm boy Westley, is brutally murdered by the Dread Pirate Roberts while seeking his fortune across the sea. Polished by grief, Buttercup becomes the most beautiful woman in the world and is promptly picked up by the prince of Florin, Humperdinck, to be his future bride. After years of training to be a princess, just before the royal wedding, Buttercup is captured by a Spanish sword wizard (wizard being the designation above master), a Turkish giant, and a Sicilian hunchback. A masked man all in black follows the kidnappers, besting the Spaniard with steel, the giant with strength, and the Sicilian with his wits before absconding with the princess. In a dramatic unmasking, the man in black reveals himself as Westley, now marauding under the name and flag of the Dread Pirate Roberts. Repeatedly separated by ill-circumstance, poor timing, and the boorish Prince Humperdinck, Westley and Buttercup (but mostly Westley) must fight to stop the royal wedding and find their happily ever after.

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Notes from the Piebrary:

William Goldman not only wrote the original novel, he also adapted his own work for the screen. In certain scenes it’s evident that Goldman streamlined and refined the original text, so the movie features only the funniest, wittiest, most moving lines from the book. The book itself is supposedly cobbled together from the “best bits” of a historical piece from the fictional country of Florin. As a result Goldman has written extensive introductions wherein he weaves pseudo-fictions about the original text by S. Morgenstern, his own Florinese parents, and his relationship with his obese son (Goldman has two daughters). Even the cast and crew of the film become characters.

The fictional meta-text is interesting, but the same young romantic in me that loved the movie from an early age was dying to get to the swashbuckling. In addition to all the parts fans of the movie know and love, there are differences in the book that make it fresh and interesting. For example, Goldman provides extensive background on the secondary characters and instead of the cinematic “Pit of Despair,” Prince Humperdinck keeps a “Zoo of Death,” which Inigo and Fezzik must conquer. Even Buttercup, who is sometimes a bit of a helpless damsel (night swim in the Florin Channel aside) is much more interesting in the book; the way she and Westley banter and bicker gives her some dimension. Westley is probably even dreamier in the book. You know, just in case you were wondering.

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Parsing this Pie:

If I had to choose just one pie to make and eat for the rest of my life, this would be it. Luckily I don’t have to make that decision, but blackberry-peach is still my true love. It just smells so good, even before you bake it.

Blackberries seemed like the obvious choice to represent Westley, the Man in Black, mostly because I’m a sucker for cheesy wordplay. Although the color of Buttercup’s dress upon the lovers’ reunion is never explicitly stated in the book, I also wanted to pay homage to that iconic image from the movie of Westley in black and Buttercup in her orange-pink dress as they run into the Fire Swamp. I gave it less weight, using fewer peaches than blackberries, but still the color and flavor combination was too good to pass up.

There’s something rustic about a classic, lattice-covered fruit pie and something elegant and regal about the rich, deep purple of blackberries in a filling. Just as a person can be a farm boy and a pirate, a small-town girl and a princess, so too can a pie contain dualities.

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Recipe:

Crust:
– 2 cups flour
– 2/3 cup butter, cubed
– 4 tbs water
– 1 tbs cider vinegar
– 1 egg
– handful of sugar

Filling:
– 4 peaches, sliced, skin on
– 2 pints blackberries, washed
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1 tsp nutmeg
– 1/4 cup cornstarch (I usually add a couple more tablespoons just to be sure the filling sets)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is my tried and true crust recipe. I’ve tweaked it over the years, but it’s always been my go-to. There is enough flour to the amount of butter that it is durable and holds a liquid well, while still remaining flaky and crispy.

Combine the flour, butter, water, and vinegar in a large mixing bowl. Some people use crossed knives or a pastry cutter to keep the warmth of their hands from melting the butter (you want that to happen in the oven, moisture released from melting butter makes air pockets for a flakier crust), but I prefer to knead by hand. You want the mixture to come together kind of shaggy; there shouldn’t be a lot of extra flour floating around the bottom of the bowl, but there should still be some visible veins and chunks of butter. If you overwork the dough until it’s uniform in texture it will get tough and difficult to roll out. Wrap the dough in plastic or foil and pop it in the fridge to keep it cool.

Wash your fruits. Slice the peaches about a fourth to half an inch thick. In a large bowl combine the berries and peach slices and top with the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Scoop down to the bottom (again, I like to use clean hands) and begin to turn the fruit over and over in the bowl, coating the filling in the sugars and spices. Add the cornstarch and do the same until the liquid coating the fruit has a uniform color and texture and there are no visible chunks of cornstarch.

Allow the filling to settle and sit while you roll out half of the chilled dough to line the pie plate; it should hang about an inch over the edge. Pour the filling into the bottom crust. Try to keep as much of the excess liquid in the bowl as possible. While cornstarch is a thickener and will help the filling gel nicely, too much liquid and it will still be watery when you cut into it. (I have been known to tip the whole pie plate over the sink just to get a little extra runoff out of the way, no one will judge you, no one has to know.)

At some point I should probably do a tutorial with pictures on how to weave a lattice crust, but for now I will give you the cliffnotes. I don’t know if this is a thing exclusive to elementary schools in Ohio, but we learned how to weave baskets at the tender age of seven. We also did some work with miniature looms. Weaving a lattice crust is the same. You have a set of six to eight parallel strips of crust and another set of six to eight that you are going to weave in and out, up and down, above and below in an alternating pattern through those original strips. Where one strip goes up and over, the one parallel to it goes down and under. On a basket, each set of reeds is perpendicular to one another, but in a diamond lattice like this one the angle of the strips is smaller than 90 degrees, making tiny diamond holes instead of square ones.

Fold over and pinch the excess inch of dough you left hanging over the edge. Beat the egg with a fork and use a pastry brush to lightly coat the top crust. Take that handful of sugar and sprinkle it into the still-wet egg, this will create a crispy, sweet, sugary glaze on the browning crust in the oven. Pop the whole affair in the oven until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the fruit filling is bubbling thick and slowly. Approximately 45 min.

Enjoy this pie with someone very near and dear to you. After a long day in the Fire Swamp (of life) it helps to come home to pie and a loved one. And if he or she happens to ask you to cut them a second slice, respond, “As you wish.”

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