Mt. Evans Ride for Pie (Summer Stone Fruit Pie Recipe)
I'll come clean and say it straightaway...originally I baked this pie (mostly) just so I could tell you about how much fun it is biking up Mt.Evans, but with a legitimate food tie-in, healthy (and healthy-ish) food being the ultimate reason for this blog. The real inspiration to begin with, really was Mt. Evans however, because Mt. Evans, one of Colorado's spectacular 14ers and home to America's highest paved road, is amazing. And there is truly a pie connection, albeit a tad loose, which I'll explain in a minute. So, just to be clear, the pie was intended as an excuse to share the details of a bike ride, which I can't help but be proud of myself for not only completing, but for actually organizing (though Gail was the real force behind getting the details arranged) ... something that, given my descending (read: lack of) skills, was highly unexpected, even to me. Then I actually made this pie, rich and radiant with summer stone fruits exploding with ripeness so they only pale with much in the way of added sugar. That's when I realized the pie had established itself as the hero in this blog post, and rightly so.
If you're someone who ascribes to, or is even slightly intrigued by, the New England notion of pie for breakfast, this pie is for you. Healthier than your typical breakfast pastry, there is lots of range on either side, whether you choose greater austerity or a hint of decadence. The whole wheat and olive oil crust is a little bit fiddly, but not really in the sense of being difficult. It does require a little bit of patience, but nothing rolling between two layers of waxed paper can't ameliorate.
In addition to being, of course, a healthy (for pie) pie, this is also a lazy baker's pie. Traditionally, a pie like this would mean peeling the fruit. As aforementioned, however, at the time of baking I had not long since ridden up my first 14er, I was hungry, I didn't feel like peeling fruit, and I was feeling stubbornly entitled to a piece of pie. Plus, I make crisps and crumbles without peeling the fruit, and they are lovely, so why the extra step and work?
OK, so here's your choose your own adventure point in this post. If you are ready to get the recipe and haven't already done so, skip ahead now. If, however, you're interested in a few little details about biking Mt. Evans, my recap begins now.
Gail graciously picked me up at 5 am, and we headed to the high school just off I-70 in Idaho Springs, where we met with Jen, Laurie, and Andy. Given the sweltering temperatures we've been suffering through this summer, the morning felt startlingly coolly brisk, and I had leg warmers, a jacket and a skull capo to start. All these were removed by mid-way, but they were definitely handy, initially and later on.
The entire ride really consists of one big UP, then the giant DOWN, with the exception of two minor instances, but the first 7 miles or so are pretty mild. Ironically, it's here that I felt the relative thinness of the air a little more acutely than any time during the ride to come. It didn't take long to get used to it, but for this reason, I think it's always a wise idea to start at the base as opposed to the fee station at about mile 12, if you have the time.
Just before the fee station, there's a visitors' center, by Echo Lake. This is a beautiful spot to stop, use the restroom, rearrange your clothing/gear as needed, and, if you're hungry, there's even homemade pie. There is my pie connection! It is supposedly delicious, too, but I don't actually know for sure, because we didn't eat any. (This is why the connection is so very loose!) Then again, with the combination of altitude and exertion, how could pie not taste heavenly??
Up until this point, we all rode together conversationally, which was wonderful. There is nothing like biking someplace beautiful and new with a great group of people. After we passed the fee station, however, it began to get steadily steeper, as well as increasingly exposed. Gail, who is a former pro, was crunched for time, and determined to get her heart rate up a little bit, which would have meant upping the ante a lot for me; Andy had the kind of "dancing on the pedals" frame Phil Liggett exults in, and Laurie is a rock solid climber. That left Jen and I representing your average workhorses (no offense intended, lumping you in with me, Jen!). We stayed together pretty much the whole ride, and I was so glad to have the companionship.
About 5 miles before the top is Summit Lake. This is another gorgeous lake, but here it gets COLD. The road is in poor condition, too, with bumps and cracks, gravel and holes. It definitely doesn't hurt to come prepared with some Advil. The remaining 2,000 foot climb is rife with switchbacks, and I must admit that I spent a lot of time dwelling on how horrible the descent would be. I started to feel a little light-headed, too. By this time, however, you know you've pretty much made it, you just have to hand on and slog it out.
I must confess, I "cheated" a little bit. Not on the way up, at least. On the way down, I very gratefully accepted a ride from a friendly forest ranger named Ryan who was heading back to Summit Lake, and offered to take me that far. Bypass the very 5 miles I was dreading?! It was a no-brainer. I didn't even take time to get a picture, just leaped in the truck, thinking all the way what awesome luck that was. Next time, I think I can handle the whole thing, but this first experience, I'm pretty sure I would have ended up tearfully walking my bike down some of the switchbacks.
From Summit Lake onward, the descent was beautiful. Smooth and gorgeous. Confident my little leap frog move meant I wouldn't be slowing the others down as I'd expected, I stopped a few times to take pictures, and really reveled in the amazing day, brimming with moments of exhilaration, peace, and feeling connected to the earth, and its great big mountainous playground. And along the way, if there was one tinge of regret, it might have been that we did not stop for homemade pie, after all. : )
For the crust:
- 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup almond (or skim) milk
- Approximately 8 cups sliced, pitted stone fruits (I used 3 peaches, 4 apricots, and 3 plums)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/3 cup plus 1-2 tablespoons raw sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca or flour
- Prepare the crust: mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add milk and oil. Stir until mixed, and shape into two balls. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate twenty minutes or more.
- Roll out one dough ball between waxed paper and place in prepared 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle with a little of the raw sugar.
- In a bowl, combine sliced fruit, lemon juice, tapioca/flour, and 1/3 cup raw sugar. Pour into crust.
- Roll out second ball between waxed pastry. Make a lattice crust, sealing edges.
- Bake at 400 F for 40-45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.