today should be about waffles perhaps, but I bought peaches at the farmers’ market. I see peaches- I think pie. So visions of pie not waffles bloomed from the two quart containers of soft green cardboard piled with white and yellow peaches.
as the good professor Brillat-Savarin’s noted on truffles, so said America’s homemaker Ida Bailey Allen:
this pie was of the “old-fashioned kind” invoked in one of those “pies,” the latter, I think. Not dainty; no meringue or fuss. Typically, I approach pie with a well-researched, agonized plan but this was extemporaneous. Whimsy pie…that must be lifted with two hands and intention.
crust is coming easier after the rhubarb pie triumph using the Baking Illustrated pastry recipe (the methodical chef-writers of “Cook’s Illustrated” reprise the book’s recipe in the magazine’s fall issue, October 2010). Using half butter and half shortening for fat delivers flavor and flake. Using half icy water half alcohol for liquid limits moisture absorption that develops tough gluten yet allows steam to form layers of flakiness. Our cabinet held half a bottle of Southern Comfort to accompany these peaches.
start a pot of water to boil for peeling the peaches then assemble the crust. Cut a cold stick of butter into pieces and scoop out ½ cup of veggie shortening. I store shortening in the freezer since its sole use is pastry. In your biggest bowl, sift a cup of all-purpose flour over the fat and rub well together. If the kitchen is warm, stash it in the fridge for a few minutes to keep your dough cold. Sift an additional cup of flour along with a pinch of salt into the bowl and rub in until just combined. Stir in a ¼ cup each of icy water and Southern Comfort until it all just comes together. Form the dough into two circles, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
drop the peaches into boiling water, cover, return to a boil then turn off the heat and let stand for 3 minutes or so. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs to a colander; the peachy-water makes excellent brew water for ice tea, so don’t toss it! When the peaches have cooled enough to handle, slide off their skins. A gentle drag downward of each skin should do it; some may want a paring knife, though no need for peeling zealotry. Halve the peaches, removing the pit, and slice.
in a big bowl, combine the peach slices with a few handfuls of turbinado sugar, teeny pinch of salt, and dusting of flour. The flour, what I had on hand, can cook up gluey so use a light hand. Auntie Ida would add quick cooking tapioca to thicken up the filling, and cornstarch also works. Maybe I should add that I have small hands—the peaches did not want much sugar. Try adding the minced needles of a sprig of rosemary.
preheat your oven to 450°.
clean off a generous work surface, and roll out your pie dough. The kitchen witches all say the trick to fine crust is deft handling of the dough, so work quickly and add just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the counter or rolling pin. Turn and flip the circle between passes of the pin, working from its center toward the rim. Roll to a thin (1/4 inch) round large enough to drape into your pan up its sides with overhang. I used a cast iron skillet.
carefully lay one round into the bottom of the pan and gently press it into place. Dump the filling in. To cover, roll the second round of dough onto the pin then unroll over the pie. A pie with fillings as juicy as peaches need ventilation—hence the traditional lattice top I am too lazy to make—so cut slits in the top or use a cookie cutter to make art in your top crust. Like this dove. Working around the rim, roll the top and bottom edges together between your fingers to seal. Leave it free form or crimp with a fork or ruffle using your thumb & forefinger as a mold, pressing into it to form a sort of “U.” Paint the top with a bit of cream. For those without brushes, fingertips work fine.
bake for quarter of an hour, until the crust begins to brown, then lower the heat to 350° and bake about 25 minutes or until the crust is crispy golden and filling bubbling, oozing up through your art.
let stand for an hour or so. Serve generous slices to beloved guests with vanilla ice cream (or ginger, raspberry, butter pecan…), whipped cream perhaps gussied up with a bit of sea salt or booze.