Saturday, August 8, 2009

Peach Pie

© Ellen Blonder
At our local farmers' markets, peaches are at their peak, smooth-textured and juicy with a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Time to get out the rolling pin.

These are more watercolors from the peach book that never happened. At least I learned to make a good pie; here's the recipe from my manuscript.

© Ellen Blonder

Yield: One 9-inch pie

My first pies with truly ripe peaches had problems: Much of the peaches’ wonderful extra juiciness leaked out early on, before the thickener kicked in, and the bottom pie shell turned soggy from so much moisture. I finally added a couple of simple extra steps. First, I drained the sweetened juice and cornstarch mixture from the prepared peaches and pre-cooked it until it thickened, then stirred it back into the fruit. Second, I baked the pie in a metal pie tin—not a glass pie plate—on the bottom rack of a very hot oven for the first 25 minutes before finishing it on the middle rack at a lower temperature. By paying attention to those small steps your pie should turn out both shatteringly crisp and wonderfully juicy.

1 recipe All-Butter Dough (recipe follows)

About 3/4 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of the peaches
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, cut in 1/4-inch dice
2 teaspoons milk
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand 20 minutes to reach room temperature.
Mix the cornstarch and sugar in a large bowl. Add the peaches and lemon juice and mix gently with a wooden spoon or your hands. Let stand.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger disk of dough into a 12-inch circle. Fit the dough into a 9-inch metal pie tin, leaving the extra dough hanging over the edges. Refrigerate while rolling out the remaining disk on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch circle. Let it rest.
Pour off the accumulated juice mixture from the peaches into a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until bubbly, then reduce the heat to medium low and stir constantly about 4 minutes, until the mixture is thick and slightly translucent. Pour the mixture over the peaches and mix in gently with a wooden spoon.
Remove the pie tin from the refrigerator and pour the peaches into the bottom pie shell.
Brush the edge with some of the milk. Lay the other circle of dough over the top and press around the edge to seal. With kitchen shears, cut off the excess dough 1/2 inch past the edge. (I put the scraps in a pie tin and bake them about 25 minutes with the pie. They make a deliciously buttery—if misshapen—little treat with tea.)
Crimp the edge in a decorative pattern. Brush the top with the remaining milk, then sprinkle the top evenly with 2 tablespoons sugar. Cut several slits around the top for ventilation.
Place the pie on a thin metal baking sheet and bake on the bottom rack of the oven 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F, move the pie to the middle rack, and bake an additional 40 to 45 minutes, until the pie is golden brown. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool.

ALL-BUTTER DOUGH © Ellen Blonder
Yield: Enough for one 2-crust 9-inch pie

Butter or shortening? Shortening, with its higher melting temperature, is slightly sturdier and bit more forgiving, but the superior flavor of butter is hard to resist. If you prefer shortening, by all means substitute it—and seek out the no-transfat kind. In either case, handle the dough gently and it will not be tough.

2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cup cake flour (see note)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter (or cold shortening), cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water

Note: Using part cake flour, which has less gluten, will make a slightly more tender crust, but you may use 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour instead.

Put the steel blade in a food processor. Measure the flours and salt into the container of the food processor and pulse two or three times to blend. Add the diced butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the water and pulse two or three times to blend. Do not overmix or the dough will be tough. It will be crumbly. Turn the dough onto a work surface and divide it in two portions, one slightly larger than the other. The larger portion will be used for the bottom pie shell. Press each portion into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and flatten it into a 6-inch disk.
Refrigerate the disks at least one hour, and up to 2 days. Let the disks come to room temperature about 20 minutes before rolling out.

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