Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Good Taste: Peach Pie (my favorite)

I like to make pies quite a bit. I have made many, many pies, but peach still stands alone as my favorite. There's the sweetness of the peaches that only lasts a few weeks a year, the beautiful lattice top (or not!), and the late-summer-sit-around-the-picnic-table quality to eating peach pies, requiring any pie-eating participants to slow down, tell some stories, laugh out loud, and get that old familiar feeling that life is so good....ahhh...

We made a weekend of our late-summer peach pie by going to the orchards and picking our peaches. Some of the peaches were truly bigger than a baby's head. Have you ever heard the pregnancy descriptions of size, like during such-and-such week, your baby is the size of a walnut? Well, I think the 36th-week fetus is the size of an August Peach at Lyman Orchards. These peaches are enormous, and most branches were nearly touching the ground, being heavily burdened by the weight of these incredible peaches.

Ta da! Here it is! I opted out of the lattice crust for this one. Why? Well, one, I was feeling lazy. If I had the neat-o fluted pastry wheel from Williams Sonoma, there would be a much greater likelihood that I'd go for the lattice (hint hint husband).

But, heck, it's summer, which is meant for sipping lemonade and not fiddling in the kitchen with my pizza-cutter and a ruler to create a lattice crust. I'll save the pretty pies for Thanksgiving.

I used my favorite pie recipe, which I rarely stray from, it's on page 862 of The Joy of Cooking, Deluxe Butter Flaky Pastry Dough....how could this not be good, right?!):

The key element of pie crust is the temperature. I cut up 2 sticks of UNSALTED butter and stick it in the freezer. Martha says to also put the flour in the freezer, which I guess could be helpful on really humid days, but seems to be just a tad much. You know how Martha can be sometimes...

I then get 1/3 cup ice water ready to go.

Next, I put 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon white sugar, 1 teaspoon salt in the food processor and pulse until mixed.

Then I put the butter and 1/4 cup of Crisco in the food processor, and pulse it just a few times until the butter is in pea-sized clumps.

I add the water next. This is the most tricky part of the whole process and can make or break your crust--too much water, and it's totally soggy, too little, and it's like eating flour. I remove the ice from the water, turn on the processor and stream the water in through the top until I hear what I call the crust rumble. It really is a rumbling sound that is the sound of the crust binding together. Here's what it looks like:

I take the dough out of the processor bowl and put it in 2 saran wrapped disks. I stick it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I roll out the first crust, put it in the pie dish, and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. There's kind of a tricky way I transfer the crust so it doesn't fall apart on me during the move--I roll it around the rolling pin and unroll it into the dish.

In the meantime, I made the filling. My favorite peach pie filling is also from Joy, Peach Pie on page 876:
2 1/2 pounds peaches (5 cups peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/4 inch thick*)
1/2 to 3/4 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch (use cornstarch for a lattice pie)
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt.
2 to 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour filling into the bottom crust and dot with butter. Roll out top crust and cover filling, sealing the edges by fluting the edges with my knuckles. And here's the big secret to a beautiful-looking crust: I always mix 2 tsp. heavy cream with an egg yolk and brush it on right before I stick it in the oven. I'm telling you, it does wonders.

If the crust seems warm and starts to stick, put it in the fridge for a half hour. If it seems nice and firmed and chilled, go ahead and slip a baking sheet underneath the pie and cook it for 30 minutes at 425. Reduce the temperature to 350 and continue to bake for 30 more minutes.

And who doesn't love a big dollop of whipped cream?! I just dump a cup of whipping cream with a 1/4 cup of sugar and a little vanilla if I think of it, and whip it in my KitchenAid on the highest setting for a minute or two. Whoop, there it is.

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