Monday, October 11, 2010
Everything is Peachy
I'm sad. Peach season is over. Costco has been carrying boxes of organic peaches and each week I'd buy a box. One week I bought two. Each peach was perfect - ripe, juicy, and amazingly delicious.
I had big plans of slicing the peaches and freezing them so I could make pies and cobblers throughout the winter. It never happened. We ate them all. The kids would beg for them for snacks, I'd slice them over homemade yogurt with granola, and I'd slice them over the kids' breakfast cereal as a special treat.
I did manage to make one pie with them. It's a good thing that piecrusts are such a pain in the patoot to make, otherwise I'd make (and eat) a pie every week. Sigh. Since I lack internal restraint, the external restraint of laziness is a good thing.
This pie lasted for exactly two days. Even my husband, the professed peach hater, choked down two or three slices. I told him he didn't need to make that sacrifice for me, but he selflessly ate his share.
Since I wanted to do the delicious peaches justice, I went to the pie Bible, specifically The Pie and Pastry Bible from Rose Levy Berenbaum. The crust used cream cheese and took two days to make, but was worth the wait. Tasty, flaky, without a trace of shortening, I think I'll be using this pie crust again. The next time I work up the energy to take on a pie again.
I especially like Rose's technique of cooking down the peach juices so the pie isn't a soggy mass. Because the peaches were so very juicy, I think I didn't sufficiently reduce the liquid. The bottom crust was a bit on the soggy side. Next year I'll do better. If I save enough peaches to make a pie. No guarantees on that, though.
Rose's Perfect Peach Pie for Perfect Peaches
- adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum
Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust (recipe follows)
2-3/4 lbs peaches (about 8 medium), peeled, pitted, and sliced into 16ths
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1- Remove the pie dough for the bottom crust from the refrigerator. Let it sit for about 10 minutes or until it's soft enough to roll.
2- On a generously floured surface, roll the crust 1/8 thick or less and 12-inches in diameter. Drape the dough over your rolling pin, brush the excess flour off with a pastry brush, and gently transfer the dough to your pie pan. Trim the edge almost even with the pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes (or up to 3 hours).
3- While the bottom crust is chilling, place the peach slices in a large bowl and sprinkle them with the lemon juice. Sprinkle on the sugar and salt and toss gently to mix evenly. Allow the peaches to sit at room temperature for a 30 minutes (or up to an hour).
4- Place a colander over a bowl. Transfer the peaches to the colander and allow the juices to drip to the bowl below. This will yield almost 1 cup of juice.
5- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, boil down this liquid to about 1/3 cup, or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid, but do not stir it. Meanwhile, transfer the drained peaches to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch and almond extract until no traces of cornstarch remain.
6- Pour the syrup over the peaches, tossing gently. It's OK if the syrup hardens when it touches the peaches; it will dissolve during baking. Transfer the peach mixture to the pie shell.
7- Roll out the top crust large enough to cut a 12-inch circle. Using a pan or cardboard circle as a template, use a sharp knife and cut the circle.
8- Moisten the edge of the bottom crust with water. Brush excess flour from the top crust and place it over the fruit. Fold the overhang around the bottom crust edge and press to seal it. Crimp around the edge using a fork or your fingers. Make 5 evenly spaced 2-inch slashes in the top crust, radiating from the center. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour before baking.
9- Set an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet covered with foil on it. Preheat the oven to 425 deg. F.
10 - When the oven has heated, remove the plastic wrap from the pie and place the pie directly on the foil-topped baking stone. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until the juices bubble thickly through the slashes and the peaches feel tender but not mushy when a cake tester or small sharp knife is inserted through a slash. After 30 minutes, protect the edges from overbrowning with a foil ring.
11- Place the pie on a rack to cool for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Serve the pie warm or cold, preferably with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
4-1/2 oz. cream cheese, cold
2 Tbsp ice water
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1- Cut the butter into small cubes. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it until frozen solid, at least 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a zip-loc reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
2- Empty the flour mixture into the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade in place. Process for a few seconds to combine.
3- Cut the cream cheese into 4 pieces and add it to the flour. Process for about 20 seconds, or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter is larger than the size of a pea.
4- Remove the cover and add the water and vinegar. Pulse until most of the butter is the size of small peas. The mixture will not hold together at this point.
5-Working with half the mixture at a time, spoon it into your flour zip-loc bag. Knead the mixture in the closed bag by pressing it with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.
8- Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into disc. Repeat with the other half of the mixture. Place both discs into the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.