Nectarine, Living Reflections from a Dream

top crust nectarine pie; creme fraiche ice cream

We took a road trip up to Madison, WI two weekends ago to kick off a couple of busy months ahead. In addition to hanging out with a really cute kid and his parents, we also had the pleasure of attending a really awesome show of local fruits, veggies, oils, and herbs, the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Sure, the Green City Market here in Chicago is nice and is somewhat crowded (especially the crepe stand), but this WI market has a reputation to uphold – that of being the country’s largest farmers’ market. And uphold it did – as our friend put it – you are literally shuffling through the sidewalk like a herd of cattle. This herd happened to be pulling kids in wagons, pushing double seated strollers (I loathe those things and think they should only be used in large open areas without people around. You know, like nowhere), and making a bee line to the stand selling the best bread in the city, maybe the state (?), Stella’s. If you ever go to Madison, at least drive by this market – you will find a new respect for those teeny tiny neighborhood Chicago markets. [Oh, and run to Stella’s for the jalapeno cheese bread.]

cutting top crust

After the market, a loaf of jalapeno bread, and lunch, we headed to another foodie mecca, Brennan’s Market, in search of some great cheeses for the upcoming in-laws n’ friends’ visit. They’re a local business buying direct and stocking loads of cheeses, fresh fruits, and brews. Tasty indeed. The best part? They had little samples of every single fruit. And sample I did.

This, friends, is where I fell in love with the nectarine. I wanted to take that barrel o’ nectarines and run to the car with it. Please… I’d pay – you think I was gonna steal them?! Shame on you. But instead, I settled for 2 nectarines and a block of camembert and gruyere cheeses. Let’s be real – I only brought one pair of jeans for the weekend so I didn’t want to soil myself with nectarine juice. Not that having nectarine juice all over my pants was bad for me – I was saving others from embarrassment. Ya know – taking one for the team. I have to show class every now and then!

top crust

Despite my inability to take home multiple fuzz-less recessive peaches, we still had a great weekend. I enjoy hanging out with normal, laid-back parents – it makes me think that one day I might be able to have a couple rugrats of my own and not totally screw it up. But on the downside, I came home nectarineless. That was a sad state of affairs. And nothing against Whole Foods, but their nectarines just aren’t as good as the ones Brennan’s procured.


But it didn’t stop me. With a weekend full of house guests on the horizon, I knew I’d be able to talk someone into eating a pie if I 1) made it and 2) shoved a plate full of that warm, juicy, fresh-baked nectarine goodness in front of them. And I knew that chance of having said pie eaten would be increased three-fold if I also put a dollop of ice cream off to the side. But what flavor concoction would that be? I immediately remembered a dessert from Napa and an ice cream I swore I’d make – crème fraîche. Done & done.

This pie is great for three reasons: the obvious, it tastes delightful. In addition, it’s a show-stopper due to its beautifully scalloped crust that appears intricately designed and unique. But the best reason – it’s even easier to make than your typical pie crust even though it looks harder and so you definitely want to make this one for company. Definitely. Did I forget to mention the cardamom that’s added? Yeah, make that four reasons.

baked and ready

As if the pie isn’t good enough as is, when you add this ice cream to it it becomes a magical dessert that I could probably eat every day. I tell ya, when I had crème fraîche ice cream in Napa, I was gulping it up as if I’d never eaten a thing and when it was gone I was sad. I could never make another ice cream (well, maybe basil...) and I’d be happy. And sure, it sounds weird because crème fraîche by tranlation is “fresh cream” but by definition is a soured cream. It’s not quite as sour as sour cream but it’s definitely thicker. But weird tasting, it is not. Just ask the other 5 people who scarfed it down with the pie.

Love pie? Want more? Try these:
Strawberry-Mascarpone Tart w/ Balsamic-Thyme Glaze
Classic Key Lime Pie
Andouille & Sweet Potato Pie

almost gone
Top-Crust Nectarine & Cardamom Pie*
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2009; Serves 8

printable recipe

I think the topping is so cutesy on this pie. If you want though, you could use this same dough for a regular pie crust. Just par-bake it prior to baking the whole pie to prevent soggy bottoms (poke holes in bottom, line with parchment paper and weights and bake at 350 F until slightly brown, then remove weights and paper and bake a few minutes more). You could even double the recipe and make another top crust. Next time, I might do a top crust like this one but also add a bottom crust.

1 1/4 c unbleached AP flour
1 1/2 t sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 c (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 T + ice water

2 1/2 – 3 lbs firm, ripe nectarines; peeled and sliced ~ 1/2 inch thick
1/3 c sugar
2 T cornstarch or arrowroot
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t ground cardamom
1 egg, beaten (for glaze)
1 1/2 T raw or regular sugar

Other: 2-3 inch cookie cutter. I used plain but you can use shapes or scalloped edge too.

For Crust:
Blend flour, sugar, salt in food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 T water; pulse until moist clumps form, adding more water if necessary (I added about 4 T). Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly just until dough comes together, about 4-5 turns. Flatten into disk and chill at least an hour (or overnight if doing this in sections like I did).

Line baking sheet or other flat surface w/ parchment paper. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to sheet and chill 20 minutes. Using your cookie cutter of choice, cut out shapes, spacing close together. If needed, remove scraps and reroll to have about 20 pieces. Keep dough as chilled as possible.

For Filling:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400 F. Place peach slices in medium bowl. Add sugar, cornstarch/arrowroot, lemon juice, cardamom and toss to coat. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Carefully arrange cutouts atop filling in slightly overlapping concentric circles, starting at edge and working inward to cover filling completely. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet (or else your filling will spill into your oven and smell icky!!). Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling at edges, about 45 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool at least 30 minutes.

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream*
Adapted from multiple sources

printable recipe

2/3 c sugar
5 egg yolks
2 cups crème fraîche
1 1/2 c low-fat milk
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 t lemon zest
pinch of salt

Place eggs and sugar in bowl and whisk together to blend. In large saucepan, combine crème fraîche, milk, lemon juice and zest. Stir over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Gradually pour mixture into bowl of egg yolk/sugar mixture to slowly warm but not cook the eggs. Return all to saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat. It’s ready when an instant-read thermometer reads 170 F or when custard coats the back of a spoon and stays separate if you run your finger through the middle. You can strain here, but I usually don’t cause I’ve never had any chunks in the mixture, but if you do (from eggs partially cooking) you should strain. Pour into bowl and set over another large bowl filled with ice water to cool. Cover and chill.

Transfer to ice cream maker and process according to instructions. Move to ice cream container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

*Pie is not gluten-free; ice cream is gluten-free

3 thoughts on “Nectarine, Living Reflections from a Dream

  1. Emily says:

    You have my mouth watering at the mention of jalapeno bread, just so you know!I just bought nectarines from Whole Foods and they have been delicious lately! Very interesting take on creme fraiche ice cream – although I don't know if it could top the basil ice cream.

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