What makes White House pastry chef Bill Yosses‘ pie crusts so addictive that President Obama, who calls Yosses the “Crustmaster,” joked Monday they must be spiked with crack cocaine? Turns out, it’s a lot of butter. And lard. And cream.
At Monday’s LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House, Obama saluted the retiring Yosses — and blamed him. “His pies — I don’t know what he does, whether he puts crack in them,” joked Obama. “I’m just saying that when we first came to the White House…the first year, my cholesterol shot up. And the doctor was like, ‘What happened?'”
“…And I thought, it’s the pie! It’s the pie.”
For the record, First Lady Michelle Obama, laughing, chimed in: “There is no crack in our pies.”
And, as if to prove it, Yosses agreed to share with PEOPLE one of his favorite recipes from his 2010 cookbook, The Perfect Finish.
Flaky Nectarine Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie to serve 8
20 tbsp. (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
7 tbsp. heavy cream
3 tbsp. rendered lard (or use more butter)
3¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling the dough
3 tsp. granulated sugar
1¼ tsp. salt
8 cups (about 7) ripe nectarines, unpeeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
⅛ tsp. salt
4 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. brandy
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg white, beaten, at room temperature
1½ tsp. granulated sugar
For the Crust
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream, and lard until smooth. In another bowl, thoroughly mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter and beat until the mixture comes together like a fairly wet dough. Add the remaining flour and mix until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and gently knead it into a smooth ball. Divide the dough in half, wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap, and flatten into disks. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight (or up to 3 days).
For the Filling
1. In a large bowl, toss together the nectarines and lemon juice. Add the sugars and the salt, and gently mix to combine without mashing the nectarine chunks. Set aside to macerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Return the nectarines to the bowl and add the cornstarch, mixing until it has completely dissolved. Stir in the brandy and vanilla. Reserve.
To Assemble and Bake
1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out both disks of dough to a 1/4-inch thickness and fold in half. Then re-roll to rounds about 12 inches in diameter and 3/16 inch thick (about the thickness of two quarters). This will create the layers of flakiness in your pie dough. Transfer one round of dough to a black steel or Pyrex 9-inch pie pan, and trim the edges so they are even with the rim of the pie pan. Place the second round on a flat baking sheet and put it in the freezer. This will become the top of the pie.
2. Freeze the dough in the pie pan for 1 hour. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the pie pan from the freezer and line the dough with aluminum foil. Fill with baking beads, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool. When cool, preheat the oven again to 350°F.
3. Pour the nectarine filling into the pre-baked pie shell. Use a pastry brush to moisten the edges of the bottom pie crust with some of the egg white. Remove the top dough from the freezer and place over the fruit. Press down around the edges with your fingers to seal and tuck any excess dough under the edges. With a paring knife, cut 12 slits in the center of the raw dough, barely piercing it, to create air vents. Then, brush the top dough with the remaining egg white and sprinkle with Demerara or granulated sugar.
4. Bake on an aluminum-foil-covered rimmed 11-by-17-inch baking sheet on the center rack until the pie is deeply golden and you can see the thick juices bubbling through the vent, for 1 hour. Let cool before serving.
—Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
Reprinted from The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2010 by Bill Yosses. Photographs copyright © 2010 by Marcus Nilsson. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.