Saturday, August 09, 2003

make this pie

I've made two peach pies this season and I'm hoping to make several more before the peaches run out. It's my favorite pie, the sweet/tart soft juiciness of the peaches perfectly complementing the flaky crust. Really, it's so good. It's good warm, with vanilla ice cream melting all over it, and just as good cold. (Mark says it's better cold.) And it's really not that hard--or somehow I've convinced myself that it's not, and I've had years of pie-phobia brought on by my mother's pie-perfection. (She does bake the best pies in the world--and she'll tell you so. But I don't actually remember ever eating a peach pie that she made.)

OK, enough talk. Here's the recipe.

First start the pie crust. For a 9- or 10-inch pie pan (mine's a lovely pottery one that Mom bought me, and I think it's about 10 inches in diameter) you need 2 cups of unbleached white flour, 1/3 cup crisco in sticks, 1/3 cup unsalted butter, and 1/3 cup very cold water. Maybe a pinch of salt, but I do without and it's fine. DO NOT USE crisco in a tub. Get the hardened stuff in the sticks. I don't care if it's bad for you. You could use lard for your shortening--Mom used to--but if you are going to feed vegetarians, or people who are grossed out by lard, this will work fine. Maybe even better than lard. It's better if the shortening is very cold but don't put off making the pie if, say, your crisco just came from the store. It will be fine.

Put the two cups of flour into the food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Cut the shortenings into 1/2 inch bits and toss them into the flour. Put the top on the machine and pulse it a few times until the shortening is in little pea-size bits. Turn the processor on, open the feed tube and pour in the very cold water. Process until the dough begins to pull together into a ball--it should only take a few seconds. Don't do this for very long!

Dump the dough out onto a large piece of waxed paper. Divide it into two roughly equal lumps--one can be a little bigger, and you can use that for the bottom crust. Pat the lumps into rough circles, wrap each one in waxed paper, and put them in the freezer.

If you're not going to make the pie that day, take the pie crust out of the freezer a couple hours before starting to peel & slice the peaches. You want it cold but not hard when you start to roll it out.

Preheat the oven to 400.

While the piecrust is chilling, peel and slice about 6 cups of peaches into a large bowl. If the skins are recalcitrant, or the peaches are a little less than ripe, plunge them into some very hot water for a few minutes before peeling. It may help loosen the peel.

Sprinkle the sliced and peeled peaches with 1/4 - 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tbl flour, and some cinnamon if you like it with peaches. (I do.) Maybe some lemon juice--no more than a tablespoon or two.

Now roll out the crusts, fitting the larger one into the bottom of the pie plate and mounding the peaches over it. If you are scared of pie crust, as I am, a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover will really help out here. Or you can flour your rolling pin generously and roll the dough out on a (new, unwrinkled) piece of waxed paper. Roll it slightly bigger than you think you need it. Don't worry if it cracks a little--or even a lot--as you put it in the pie plate. You can patch it and no one will ever know. Both a pastry cloth and the waxed paper can help you get the pastry into the pie plate--just pick up the cloth/paper and, centering it, invert it over the pie plate. You may have to peel the pastry off it in places. That's ok.

Roll out the top crust and place it over the peaches, sealing the pie by pressing fork tines down all the way around the edges. Or press them together with your fingers. Slice a curve or two into the top crust with a sharp knife to release the steam and allow you to see the juices bubbling. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar, if you like.

Put the prepared pie on a cookie sheet (to catch any drips) and then slide it into the 400 oven. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 375 and set the timer for 30 minutes. It may not be done then--mine usually isn't--so keep checking until the top is lightly browned and you can see peach juices bubbling through the decorative slits you cut. It won't take more than another 10 minutes or so, depending on your oven and how ripe the peaches were.

Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes or so, if you can stand to. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or just plain on a plate (Mark says this is best). Then stand back for compliments.

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