Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Early Peach Pie: Gift of Summer

You know, it's one thing 
to see a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach, 
where what with the glare nobody can look at each other much anyway, 

and another thing in the cool of the A&P

under the fluorescent lights, 
against all those stacked packages, 
with her feet paddling along naked 
over our checkerboard green-and-cream rubber-tile floor.
                                        ~ A&P by John Updike (1962) 


The first peaches are here. Not the solid, golden, freestone Elbertas (supermodels of the peach world) and not the crimson, exotic, chin-dribbling O Henrys. Those can wait for Labor Day harvest and a water-bath canner.

But these. Shy early girl peaches with no idea how gorgeous they are, tumbled just now into light woven baskets, renewing the creaky wooden pallets at your local farmstand. They're tender and blushing and sweet, carefree as a summer breeze. They'll bake up perfectly in the season's first peach pie.

Pies can be tricky. I made this one with thanks to Norma Mitchell's never-fail crust and Lyn Misner's baking directions, each a holdover from decades gone by. You can't beat a spattered Relief Society cookbook for foolproof tips and tricks.

While the pie bakes, check out John Updike's youthful summer story and see if it don't bring you the salty tang of a Massachusetts beach town. One where school won't start for a few weeks yet!

Fresh Peach Pie

Crust: (makes a generous 9-inch double or lattice-top crust)
    2 sticks (or 1 cup) unsalted butter, no substitutes
    2 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour (unbleached works well)
   1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
   1/2 cup ice water

   5 to 6 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
   1/3 to 2/3 cups sugar, to taste
   1/3 cup flour (more if you want a well-"set" pie; I like mine kind of relaxed)
   nutmeg, cinnamon, and a pinch of ginger to taste
   butter shavings

Slice the cold butter into small chunks and distribute in a large mixing bowl. Add flour and salt and cut the mixture together. Two butter knives slicing cross-wise works well, and so do cookie paddles in a Bosch or Kitchen Aid countertop mixer set on a slow pulse. I've used a Cuisinart food processor successfully too. The mixture should resemble pea-sized crumbles. Try not to overdo this step. Taste and adjust according to your preference for salt.

Add the ice water all at once. I like to swirl it over the entire mixture and then work it in gently, either on a slow pulse or with my fingers. The mix should be gentle, or the crust will be tough. When the dough is holding together pretty well (it is still a little crumbly), sprinkle half a handful of flour over a smooth, cool surface. I'm lucky to have a single-surface countertop. Silicone roller mats work really well too.

shaggy face, rough circle
Place half the dough on the flour and press down gently with a rolling pin. Work from the center out, in quick light strokes to get the dough into a circle shape (disk) of 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness. You'll find you can repair tears with a finger dipped in ice water; or just push the dough together and roll it again. Try not to overwork the dough — a single rollout is best. But if things get out of hand, gather it all together, spread the little bit of flour, and try again. You will get one!

the dough feels like cool, heavy sheets pulled off a clothesline

Fold the disk in half, and half again the other way. You'll have the folded, pointy corner and four rounded, disk edges, like a raggedy-edged cone shape. Pick it up carefully and set the point in the center of a glass pie baking dish. Unfold carefully and ease the crust down into the dish. Press gently so you have no air pockets,  You should have a bit of excess dough, so trim away all but an inch or so past the edge of the baking dish. 

goal: a tear-free crust, but a tear is easy to mend 
dip your finger in ice water and gently press the edges together

Sprinkle sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger over the peaches. Stir gently (use your hands if you like) until the sugar is dissolved. Spoon (or slide) the peaches into the waiting crust. Adjust to taste — I like a large mound of peaches. Slice and add one or two more if you want. Dot the fruit with butter shavings.
adding the top crust

Top Crust:
Roll out the remaining dough like the first. Fold as before and set it gently over the fruit (or slice gently into strips for a lattice crust). When the top crust is in place, fold the bottom edge over the top edge, and crimp together to adjust the crust. I press a right-hand finger against the V made between two left-hand fingertips. See how here.

Use a sharp knife to create small slits in the top crust, for steam to escape while the pie bakes. Sprinkle the top with sugar. A little goes a long way! Protect the edges with a foil shield so they don't brown too fast. See how here.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Then, turn the heat down to 300 degrees and bake for 30 minutes more. Cool on a rack and serve with vanilla ice cream. 


Sometimes classic is awesome!

I made this for my guys the day before leaving town. Gotta remind them to miss me!

1 comment :

  1. Ah, so gorgeous! We never managed to make pie with our fresh peaches, but I have plenty of frozen slices just waiting. Your descriptions are tantalizing--maybe tomorrow. :)

    Hope the writing is going well, and feel free to text, call, or email if you need a break.