Make. This. Pie. Now. Honestly, I don’t know much else to say about it except just tell you to drop whatever you are doing and just make it this weekend. For the 4th of July weekend. You know, an American pie for an American holiday. I know (yawn) how Patriotic and assimilated of me! But honestly, no one loves a holiday centered around picnics, barbecues and cookouts more than me. I swear, I live for these things!
I know that the saying goes “as American as apple pie”, but in the summertime, no one wants to bake with apples when there’s so much other in-season fruit around. Cherry pie, blueberry pie both seem to come to mind more readily than apple pie does, especially this time of year. Berries shine in summer pies – while apples are better suited for fall baking.
If berries aren’t your bag, or if, like me, you’re always conflicted as to whether you want to eat the berries as they are, or cook with them, consider peaches. I can’t think of a scent more evocative of summer than that of ripe peaches filling the room. Beautiful, ripe, fragrant, full of sun and hot, sticky summer air, peaches often deliver their finest arias after being cooked. rather than on their own. Though, never underestimate that first bite into a ripe peach, its juice running down your arm. Baking peaches gives them a lovely, sunny, caramel sweetness.
When I made this pie, I followed most of the instructions, but of course, couldn’t resist adding a little bourbon to the caramel. I was going about my business, making the pie, when I heard the bourbon in my cupboard call out to me, whispering sweet, seductive nothings into my ear. And when there’s an opportunity to add bourbon (hee-hee, ha-ha!), I am unable to resist. I file this behind the I-know-a-good-thing-when-I-see-it tab. And bourbon, like Martha would say, is a good thing, indeed.
I bet many of you have holiday plans this weekend and are going to picnics, barbecues, cookouts. I bet you might even have to bring a dish with you. Why not this one? True, you have to make pie dough ahead of time. But really, the whole thing comes together rather quickly especially if you skip the blanching process, which I did, because I was ridiculously short on time and pulled the pie together in under an hour (that’s with crust being made the day ahead – which, by the way, took like 15 minutes!)
It’s funny how with some dishes, I’ll have a story for you and with this one I am so excited about this pie, that’s pretty much all that’s coming to mind. I think you should make this and I know you will love it. Except that I know how many of you feel about making your own crust. I get more questions about crusts and anxiety about making them, than perhaps any other cooking insecurity. And I am far from being an expert.
Believe me, I know where you are coming from. Until this very pie, I was in the same boat, afraid of making my own crust, nervous about how it’ll turn out. I finally figured it out and I’ll share what I’ve learned with you. But my very first pie crust was a serious fail. A historic, memorable, go-down-in-history-to-scar-you fail. It gave me crust anxiety for years to come. Of course, it doesn’t help that I chose to make my first crust on the hottest, most humid day of the summer. And you know – pie crusts and humidity are mortal enemies. Crusts like to be cold and summers like to be hot and muggy. And with all this abundant, ripe, beautiful fruit in the summer, we have a conundrum. We want a beautiful, flaky, buttery crust – and it absolutely refuses to cooperate? Happen to anyone lately?
My very first pie crust, was an abomination. It tore, refused to roll out and just about melted in my hands. It didn’t help that I was a nervous wreck around it and didn’t work quickly enough. Crusts are like dogs – they smell fear and my crust, sensing I was petrified, showed me who’s boss. The whole thing still is traumatic enough to make me shudder. But please just trust me when I say this – a beautiful, delicious, flaky, homemade pie crust is well within your reach. If you want to give it a go – you can absolutely do it! Here are a few pointers that I hope should help to guide you along.
I also think that Deb over at Smitten Kitchen has an indispensable primer on pie crusts – definitely check it out!
So here are my few thoughts on what can make your pie-crust-making life a lot less painful. Hope this helps.
First of all, this might sound silly, but as soon as you cube your butter, please shove it back in the freezer and give it a few minutes’ sitting time. While you dump all the other ingredients into the food processor (does the job that much faster – hence keeping it all colder!) – your butter gets a little colder after you touched with your warm hands.
Not overworking dough
Until I saw the picture of what the dough should look like, I had no idea what coarse meal really meant. I’ve included a few pictures for you, including how it looks before and after being pinched – so you can do your own ready-test.
Chill whatever equipment you can
I chilled my rolling pin in the freezer. Every little bit helps, you see.
Rolling Dough Out – keep it quick
Finally, I figure out how to roll out the dough. Short, purposeful movements from the center to mid-point of your disk (never to the end) as you flatten the dough. Continue to dust with flour to prevent sticking.
I hope this helps and I hope you all have amazing holiday weekends full of delicious food, fabulous parties and lots and lots of sun! Happy 4th of July!
Honey Caramel Peach Pie
Adapted from Gourmet, July 2009
Any kind of mild honey will work beautifully here. It will cook into a rich caramel, which coats the peaches and deepens their sweetness.
Pie Filling Ingredients:
3 lb ripe peaches
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
Honey Bourbon Caramel Ingredients:
1/4 cup mild honey
2 tbsp bourbon
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
All-butter pastry dough (recipe below)
1 tablespoon whole milk
1. Cut an X in bottom of each peach, then blanch peaches in batches in boiling water 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges. [My note: I skipped this step, I was really short on time, and I just sliced the peaches, skin and all - the result, heavenly. I don't think the book club ladies minded at all!]
2. Toss peaches well with cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Put a foil-lined large baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
4. Bring 1/2 cup sugar, honey, and bourbon and water to a boil in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber, about 5 minutes.
5.Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until butter is melted. Pour over fruit and toss (caramel may harden slightly but will melt in oven).
6. Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out remaining dough.
7. Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.
8. Transfer filling to pie shell, mounding it. Cover pie with pastry round. Trim with kitchen shears, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Brush top all over with some of milk, then sprinkle with remaining Tbsp sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a paring knife.
9. Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue to bake until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes more. Cool pie to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours.
All-Butter Pastry Dough
Makes enough for a double-crust 9-inch pie
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup plus 1 to 4 Tbsp ice water
1. Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.
2. Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.
3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball. Divide in half and form into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.