Best of the Season Week: Peach Pie
I really don’t think of myself as a baker. I’m not one of those Moms who’s always got a jar of homemade cookies on the counter. Luckily for me, our babysitter Stacey is a great baker and she and Esme regularly whip up some treats. In fact, a post of their famous banana chocolate chip mini muffins is coming soon. But I’ve been spending a lot of time with Kim Boyce’s fabulous book, Good to the Grain which looks at baking with barley, oat, rye, quinoa and teff flours, among others, and getting inspired to branch out. Many of our readers would rather dial back the amount of white flour they cook with, so Laura and I have been having fun experimenting with alternatives. Which means my cupboards are a disaster waiting to happen – all those bags of exotic flours precariously wedged in there. These are things I do for you, lovely readers!
Okay, back to my point: I’m not really a baker. Until I made this pie. I mean, look at it! I won’t lie to you, it was more work than I’m typically prepared to put into a dessert. But you know how sometimes you pour all of your angst into something arbitrary? That. Julian is starting daycare and I find any change to our childcare wildly stressful. Every time we have any kind of change in that arena I’m sure it’s all going to hell and I had better just give up trying to work at all. And then it all works out and everyone is fine. At today’s drop off, the first day I was really leaving and not just hanging out there with him, he barely looked up from the train he was clutching and gave me a cheery, ” Bye-bye Mama!” He was crying on the inside, right? You’d think four and half years into this whole parenting deal I’d have learned to skip the stress. But no. While it may seem like a ridiculous leap in logic, this lattice topped pie became a bit of a fixation for me. I had to get it right. I was sure it wasn’t going to work. It worked! Are you noting a pattern here?
This recipe is a mash up of two Kim Boyce recipes – one from her cookbook and one from a pie feature she produced in the latest issue of Bon Appetit. The results were great. It’s one of the best looking things I’ve ever made but it was delicious, too. I love the nutty flavour you get from spelt flour and if you make this while peaches are in season – right now! hurry! – it’s pretty much heaven.
photos by Maya Visnyei
Spelt Pie Dough
1 1/3 cups spelt flour
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, cold
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
1/2 cup ice water
4 lbs peaches (about 12 peaches)
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp nutmeg
To make the pie dough, sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut the cold butter into small 1/4 inch pieces and toss them into the flour mixture. Add the shortening to the flour as well. Using your fingers, rub and pinch the butter and shortening, breaking them into pea size pieces. Keep tossing the flour around as you do it so each piece of butter and shortening gets coated. Work quickly so that the butter and shortening don’t get too warm and soft.
Add the 1/4 cup of ice water to the flour and butter combo. Use your hands to bring the dough together. If it’s too dry to come together, add more ice water, 1 Tbsp at a time.
Sprinkle your work surface with a bit of flour. Pinch off about 2 Tbsp’s of dough at a time, put that piece on your floured work surface and push the heel of your hand on and it push it away from yourself. This fancy technique is called fraisage and you’re flattening and smearing the butter pieces within the dough creating a flaky crumb for your eventual crust. Keep working until you’ve fraisaged every bit of the dough. Put it all back together into two equal balls. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 3 days.
To make the filling you can start by blanching the peaches. I know, I know, it’s feeling like a lot of steps here, right? Strictly speaking, this pie would be the bomb if you didn’t add this extra step but it’s really not that hard and does take it to another level. With a small knife, make an X a the end (not the stem end) of each peach. Put a big pot of water on to boil. Pop 3 or 4 peaches in the boiling water at a time. They only need to be in there for about 15 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and put them in a colander in the sink. Keep blanching until you’ve done all of your peaches. The skins will be very easy to slip off because of the X but you can use a small knife to pull away any skin that doesn’t come away with a gentle tug.
Take the pie out of the fridge and place it on the counter so it has a chance to warm up and become pliable.
Now pit and slice your peaches into 1/2 inch pieces. Place all of your peach pieces into a generous bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar over the fruit and stir it together gently. Let that sit on the counter for an hour, giving it a little stir every once in awhile. Strain the fruit with a sieve over another bowl. Reserve a cup of that liquid in a small bowl. Put your peaches back into the bigger bowl. Whisk cornstarch, nutmeg and the fruit liquid in the small bowl. Stir that liquid into the fruit.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out one of your balls of dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13 to 14 inch round. Roll over your rolling pin and and gently transfer to your baking pan. Don’t worry if the edges are torn or uneven – you’re going to be crimping the edges at the end. Gently press the dough into the pan, making sure its snug into the edges. Leave about an inch of over hang.
Roll out your second ball of dough into a 14 inch round. Cut the dough into 3/4 inch wide strips. You want at least ten of them.
Pour the fruit mixture into the unbaked pie crust. Okay, here’s the tricky part. It would have been really smart to take pictures of this, right? But Maya and I were so engrossed with creating the lattice we forgot – sorry! Place half of your strips, arrange parallel rows across the pie, spacing evenly. Fold every other strip back on itself to just beyond the midway point of the pie. Lay one long strip of dough over the middle of the pie perpendicular (the other direction!) to the rest. Lift your folded ends up and unfold them back into position. Keep those lines straight! Are you with me? Now take the strips that are under the perpendicular/cross strip and fold them back on themselves. Now place another strip parallel to your first perpendicular strip and lay it across the pie, leaving a little space between them. Unfold the folded back strips. Fold back the first strips again and place a third perpendicular strip across the pie. Unfold those strips. Now turn the pie around and work back in the same way on the other side. Phew. Trim excess and pinch together the lattice edges with the over hang of the bottom crust. Don’t worry to much about making a beautiful crimp.
Beat an egg and brush the egg over the pie. Now sprinkle that 1 Tbsp of sugar over the top. Place the pie on a baking sheet and pop it in the hot oven. Bake for 40 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for about another 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Allow to cool really well before slicing in!
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