Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie

No, it didn't actually contain jelly. It was made from apples mixed with Concord grapes, whose flavor is that classic 'grape jelly' grape. This time last year, when Concord grapes were in season and their autumn-y perfume wafted through the farmers markets, I was inspired to put them in my entry for a local apple pie contest. My pie didn't win the competition, but it did win a lot of compliments. So I decided this year I'd give it another try.

Adding peanut butter was the idea of my girlfriend Karol, who's a pretty formidable pie maker herself (the impeccable lattice top in the photo is her handiwork). If the Concord grapes in the pie filling remind you of grape jelly, she reasoned, then naturally there should be peanut butter in the crust. Genius!

Concord grapes have seeds, so a few steps are needed to turn them into pie filling. To de-seed them, pinch each grape to squeeze the tart green pulp out of the sweet purple skin. Cook the pulp briefly to soften it, then push it through a sieve to remove the seeds. Stir the hot, de-seeded pulp back over the skins and you're ready to make a pie.

In upstate New York there's a tradition of making Concord grape pies entirely with the de-seeded grapes. If you want to use them to flavor an apple pie, as I did, just combine them with sliced apples, a little sugar, some lemon juice, a pinch of nutmeg if you wish and tapioca, cornstarch or flour for thickening. Spoon this into a pie crust with a slotted spoon to control how much juice goes into the pie. (My recipe for Concord Grape and Apple Pie--sans peanut butter crust--can be found here.)

And the peanut-butter crust? Our approach was to make a basic pâte brisée - that is, a standard butter-and-flour pie crust - but with all-natural peanut butter substituted for half of the butter. The oil in the peanut butter, we reasoned, would replace part of the fat from the butter.

The result? Karol and I both rated the crust a "pretty good." It had the amount of peanut butter flavor we were aiming for, but its texture was a little on the dry side. All told, not bad for an experimental recipe. If we make this pie again (and by "if" I mean "when"), we'll try for a moister, cookie-like crust by basing the recipe on a pâte sucrée, the sweeter, cookie-like crust that's often used for tarts. We'll be aiming less for a peanut butter-flavored pie crust and more something like a giant peanut butter cookie that can be rolled out and used to line a pie pan.

But if the true measure of the success of a pie is how long it lasts on the counter after it's baked, then this pie was a hit: it was gone by the next day. I hope there's time to make another one before Concord grapes are done for the year.

Concord Grape and Apple Pie with Peanut Butter Crust

Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb concord grapes
  • 1 -1/2 lbs tart, firm apples such as Granny Smith, peeled, quartered, and cored
  • 2 tablespoons instant or quick-cook tapioca
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2-3 teaspoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated if available (optional)
  • 1 Peanut Butter Pie Crust dough (see below)
  • heavy cream

Preparation

Make pastry dough and let rest while making the fruit filling.

Preheat oven to 425˚. Rinse grapes well. Pinch skins off grapes, reserving the skins in a large bowl and placing the green pulp into a small saucepan. Simmer the pulp at medium-low heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Strain through a food mill or strainer, pressing against the seeds with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all remaining pulp. Pour hot pulp over reserved skins and set aside to cool. Discard seeds.

Slice the apples thinly (approx 1/8 inch) for very firm apples, less thinly (up to ¼ inch) for less firm varieties. Place sliced apples into a large bowl and pour cooled grape mixture over them. Add tapioca, sugar, lemon juice and nutmeg, if using. Stir well.

Roll out dough and spoon apple-grape mixture into pastry-lined pan using a slotted spoon, and adding enough of the mixture's juices to moisten. Dot generously with butter. Top mixture with the pastry lattice and brush top and edge with heavy cream.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350˚ and continue baking until top is browned and filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes longer. Cool completely before cutting.

Peanut Butter Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter, stirred and chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into pieces
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

Preparation

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. In a food processor or with a pastry knife, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Add the peanut butter and cut in until flour mixture is the consistency of coarse bread crumbs with some small pea-size chunks of butter and peanut butter remaining.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk together with 2 tablespoons of the water. Add this to the flour mixture in drops, mixing with a fork and adding more water as necessary until the mixture begins to hold together. Divide dough into two balls and flatten each into thick disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out first portion to a circle large enough to fit your pie pan with a 1/2 to 1 inch overhang of pastry. Roll out second portion to a thickness of approximately 1/3 inch and cut into 1-inch wide strips. Place filling into the lined pie pan. Weave dough strips into a lattice and crimp edges. Bake according to pie directions.

By David Klopfenstein

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