Liddie’s Traditional New Mexican Recipes: How To Make Apricot And Pineapple Pastelitos

Apricot pie. Courtesy photo

Española Valley

Apricots have always been a revered arrival in Northern New Mexico, and on the rare occasions when blossoms don’t freeze with the late frost, we rejoice in their arrival.

Apricots were introduced to New Mexico during Spanish Colonization in the late 1500s and have remained a beloved but elusive fruit. In my youth, green apricots were often the weapon of choice for our mischievous neighbor boys who pelted my sister and me from hidden posts as we wandered to the neighborhood acequia to gather the jewels.

We would come home with our shirts rolled up in makeshift belly baskets and share the tart taste of a much anticipated summer with our family and friends. This pie recipe reminds me of those youthful summers, tart, sweet, delicious and all too rare.

The trick to this recipe is mastering a flaky crust. You can use any crust recipe that you’d like or even substitute with store bought pastry in a pinch but nothing compares to homemade.

I’ve included my no-fail pie crust recipe and you will note that it is just six simple ingredients. I use butter for my pastry but you can substitute with lard or shortening or a combination; use whatever you have on hand, I have not found that the fat type makes much difference.

The secret to a flaky crust is to touch the dough as little as possible once the water has been added to dry ingredients and to work quickly so that the fat does not soften with the heat from your hands. Don’t let pie crust intimidate you! It takes practice but once you get the hang of it, you will be able to make it in your sleep and produce a perfect pie every time. Trust me!

Enjoy a slice of remembrance!

No-Fail Pie Crust (makes one 9-inch double crust)
2 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
¾ Cup Cold Butter, cut into small cubes
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt Ice Water Egg wash (one egg beaten with a splash of cold milk or water)

Combine flour and salt. Add butter and quickly cut into flour mixture with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse sand. Add water a little at a time raking fingers through the mixture and removing the dough that binds together in small pieces from the bowl until the bowl is empty. Divide the dough in half and form two balls by gathering the dough together- never knead! Then place dough balls back into the bowl, cover and let it rest in the fridge or in a very cool place while you make the filling.   

About the water – the amount you need will be different every time. It will depend on the weather, humidity and even the kind of heat you use to heat your home. If you are making a pie on a snowless winter day and are using forced air to heat your home, you will need much more water than in the late summer during the monsoon season. Don’t fret about measuring. Just use as much as you need and don’t get over zealous and make it wet. Add just enough water to form dough into a ball.

Apricot-Pineapple Pie Filling (makes one cookie sheet of pastelitos or two 9 inch double-crust pies)
6 cups Apricot halves (if frozen, thaw)
16 oz. Crushed Pineapple, drained, reserve liquid
1 ½ Cups Sugar
3 Tbsp. Corn Starch
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Double crust pastries, chilled

Slice apricot halves into quarters and place in large, heavy pot. Add sugar, pineapple and lemon juice. Stirring frequently, slowly bring to a boil over medium heat; lower heat and simmer until fruit collapses and thickens, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add cornstarch to the pineapple liquid and stir creating smooth slurry. Set aside.

Press dough balls into flattened disks. Using bench flour on rolling surface, roll out pastry until thin but manageable and line bottom of baking sheet. Trim pastry to edge of pie plate.

When fruit collapses and thickens, stir in butter until it is melted then add slurry, stir and cook for two full minutes. Remove from heat. Turn oven on to 425°.  Roll out top pastry using last two pastry disks on floured surface until thin but manageable. Fill and cover with second pastry sheet trimming allowing ¼ inch of pastry overhang.  Tuck top sheet under bottom and press lightly to seal the edge and then pinch to flute the edge. Brush pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar for a beautiful, glossy golden color. Don’t forget to cut vents into top of pie before baking.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425° then turn the heat down to 350° and bake an additional 40 – 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Apricot and pineapple patelitos. Courtesy photo