Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Peach Pie

Peach pies are one of my favorite summer desserts. The combination of fresh, sweet peaches and a buttery crust could make anyone smile, but in my family that taste takes us back to long summer days by the water at the lake house in Chilton County, Alabama, the home of the best peaches in the South.

A few years ago, I came home from the farmers market delighted that I had found Chilton County peaches and ready to make a pie, but I quickly realized that I had only ever made crust in a food processor, a kitchen appliance that my tiny grad school kitchen does not include. I immediately called mom, and she reassured that this was not an impossible task and crust had been made long before the food processor was invented. With her ingredients list and over-the-phone guidance I learned how to make crust with two knives and a fork. It works surprisingly well and makes quite a crispy, buttery crust.

The Crust:
2 cups of AP flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of cold butter
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of cold margarine
5 tablespoons of ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Cut the butter and margarine into single serving sized pats. It is important that the butter and margarine have just come out of the fridge because chilled butter holds its consistency when cut into the flour.

Take two knives and cut the butter and margarine into the flour, starting with the knives crossed and pulling towards the edge of the bowl. This action cuts the butter into smaller pieces and binds the flour to all sides of the butter.

After about 5 minutes of cutting when the butter looks like large pebbles in the flour, take the fork and mash the butter and flour through the tines to further incorporate the mixture. This will also cause butter to build on the fork. Use a knife to scrape off the build up and keep mashing. In between mashing, move the fork around the wall of the bowl, making sure that all of the flour is incorporated. The mashing step is complete when the mixture looks like coarsely ground corn meal (see photo below).

Now add the water a tablespoon at a time, first mixing with the fork and then kneading with your hands. The ice water helps the mixture come together without completely incorporating. 

You should be able to see swirls of butter in the kneaded crust. These swirls make the crust flakey and buttery without density, so don't over knead.

If you are using a round pie plate, separate the crust into two equal sections, wrap them separately in plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge for at least 1 hour. There is no need to separate the crust if you are making a larger cobbler that will only have a top crust. 

Side note: I use this pie crust for most of the pies that I make, and if I am making a pie that only requires the bottom crust, I put the other crust in the freezer and save it for the next pie or quiche.

The Peach Filling:
7 to 8 peaches peeled and sliced
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
2 tablespoons of butter

Slice the peaches, and mix in the sugar and cornstarch.

Roll out the bottom crust.

I use this folding technique to move the pie crust to the pie plate without stretching or tearing the crust.

Place the crust in the pie plate, pour in the peaches, and slice the butter on top of the peaches.

Roll out the top crust and arrange it on the pie. The look of the top crust is completely up to you. I normally cut strips and make a lattice top, but a one piece top crust works just as well as long as you cut slits for the steam to escape.

Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until bubbly. Keep on eye on the crust, and if it is taking longer for the filing to bubble cover the edges of the crust with tin foil to keep them from burning.

Steve and I celebrated the first day of classes with peach pie. It was a nice way to end the summer. Hope y'all enjoy the recipe!

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