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It's that time of year again, when we move into the land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. No, not the Twilight Zone—early spring. The thought of fresh fruit is so ripe in my mind I can taste it, but the farmers market is still bare. It's the perfect excuse for a bit of spring cleaning, a baking spree to polish off the last of the frozen fruit I squirrel away every summer.
Now, you can make a lot of desserts with frozen fruit, but my favorite option is pie. Despite what you might have read elsewhere, frozen fruit isn't any juicier than fresh, so it doesn't take any special precautions to prepare. There's no need to drain off the juices or add extra starch—simply thaw to about 50°F (10°C), and prepare the pie filling as directed.
The frozen fruit will deflate and release its water content as it thaws, so it will seem juicier. But looks can be deceiving. It's the same amount of liquid you'd find in fresh fruit; it just shows up a lot earlier in the process. That does give the pie filling a denser, jammier vibe—compared to a pie made with plump fresh fruits that wilt and release their juices only after spending some time in the oven—but it doesn't mean pies made with frozen fruit will be a soupy mess.
The only thing to keep in mind when baking a pie with frozen fruit is that it may warrant an extra 10 or 15 minutes in the oven, unless you thaw the fruit all the way to room temperature. For that reason, I don't like to egg-wash frozen-fruit pies, as that extra time in the oven can lead to excessive browning, even with a foil shield.
On the plus side, more time in the oven generally translates into an even crispier bottom crust—at least with my pie dough recipe, which is high in both butter and water, factors that help the crust crisp, puff, and resist absorbing moisture from the filling. Low-fat and/or low-moisture pie doughs tend to be thirsty, meaning they're more inclined to soak up a juicy filling, particularly when the dough is raw. With some doughs, that means baking with frozen fruit can lead to a soggy crust, so you may want to consider switching to a richer, more hydrated dough for the occasion.
So join me in the middle ground between science and superstition, between the (cherry) pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge—frozen fruit in a fresh-baked pie.
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