I love you Mark, but this ain’t a pie

If you read my blog regularly you may know that I have a bit of a thing for Mark Bittman. So do my dad and my sister. (My mum prefers Nigel; she actually gets a bit annoyed that my father insists on doing everything in the kitchen ‘Mark’s way’.) This week I found another reason to love Mark.
First I’ve got to say that I am not a pastry person. Oh, I like to eat pastry just fine. It’s the making of it where I come unstuck. Despite coming from a long maternal line of skilled pastry makers, the gene seems to have skipped a generation. For this reason I tend to shy away from making pies, which is a shame because a pie is the ultimate way to enjoy the fruits of summer, no? So when we picked up a few punnets of fruit at the farmer’s market and Edward asked if I would make a cherry pie, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at the request. But I can’t deny his cute little face. Make a pie, I would.

Or at least something pie-like. Because Mark came to my rescue with a recipe that’s perfect for the non-pie maker. I was browsing the New York Times for food ideas (I love the New York Times Dining & Wine section almost as much as I love Mark) when I hit on his technique for what he calls a mock lattice top. This is an idea for those of us are scared of pastry and pies; instead of having to roll out the pastry into a perfect circle and transfer it successfully onto the pie dish (I rarely accomplish this properly, instead ending up with a ragged perimeter that falls short of the rim) you just cut the pastry into squares and throw it with wild abandon on top of your filling. Even I managed to do this beautifully, if I do say so myself.

The result is a pretty, rustic and very tasty dish. But it is not, ahem, a pie. Because a pie has a bottom crust, right? And the top crust isn’t really even mock lattice since the finished product – lovely though it is – is a rough, haphazard arrangement that bears little resemblance to ordered latticework. In fact when he gets around to giving us the written recipe, Mark actually calls this pudding a Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake – he knows it’s not a pie either.

Nevertheless, this is a terrific pie-like dessert for people who weren’t blessed with the pie gene – like me.

You can watch Mark’s entertaining how-to video about making the mock lattice top here.

Pie-like Fruit Bake
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake at nytimes.com

Pastry:
8 Tbsp (1 stick / 125 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour, more for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Filling:
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3 pounds nectarines or peaches, stoned and sliced (about 5 large)
1 cup cherries, stones in or pitted
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make the pastry: Place the salt, sugar and flour in a food processor and give it a quick whiz. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal – about 15 to 20 seconds. Now with the machine on, pour 1/4 cup ice water through the feed tube and process just until the dough clumps together into a ball. Don’t overprocess. Flatten the dough into a round disk and cover with plastic wrap; place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to a couple of days.

When ready to make the dessert, preheat the oven to 400F / 205C.

In a large bowl, toss together the fruit with the flour, sugar and lemon juice until the fruit is well coated. Transfer to a 9″x13″ baking dish.

Remove the dough from the fridge. On a well floured surface, roll it into a 12-inch circle. Cut the dough into roughly 3″x4″ rectangles and scatter the pieces over the fruit filling in an overlapping pattern. Brush the dough lightly with water and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sugar.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbling. (If the top starts to brown too much at any point, cover the dish loosely with foil.) Serve warm or at room temperature.