Thursday, August 18, 2011

peach crème fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

Friendships can start in the most esoteric of ways. Some friendships commence in early childhood; others – through mutual friends. Once, a cherry pitter led me to one of my best friends – Jennie.

I had accidentally ordered two cherry pitters, and when they arrived, I realized my mistake. Who needs two cherry pitters anyway? I tweeted about my accidental splurge, and Jennie tweeted back, with an offer to relieve me of such burden. After a few tweets, we agreed to meet for coffee. I brought the cherry pitter; she brought her award-winning tomato jam. By the end of our coffee date we both knew – our friendship was meant to be.

peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

Unlike the friendship, which continues to this day, the tomato jam didn’t last a day in my presence. I ate it with a large spoon my parents had brought over from Russia – one of those mini-shovels, as my mother likes to call them. As Jennie and I grew to know one another better, we started our weekend tradition of Saturday farmers’ market mornings, a ritual we looked forward to and protected fiercely – that was our time. We would share our accomplishments and failures, our recipe ideas. I got to know her family: her husband, Mikey, whom she lovingly referred to as “The Mr”, and her beautiful daughters. Jennie and I often joked that we were each other’s adoptive sisters.

A few months ago, I was having a grey sort of day, and Jennie invited me over to bake hand pies – I can’t even recall the filling, I think it was strawberry-rhubarb, but I remember flecks of lemon thyme in the crust. It was just the kind of therapy I needed. She made the dough while I made the filling. We laughed over coffee and warm pie while Virginia, Jennie’s younger daughter, ran around the apartment.

peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

About a week and a half ago, Jennie’s husband Mikey, unexpectedly passed away. He had a heart attack, and in a flash – he was gone. None of it makes sense to anyone; the whole thing seems absurd, unfair, infuriatingly poorly orchestrated. At his memorial service, one of Mikey’s friends observed that were his death a movie script, Mikey would have said that the ending was a cheap shot, a cop-out, a sham. According to the laws of good writing, it seems a grossly unfair that one of the best, kindest, most throughtful people was forced to make such an exit. He deserved better, I think. Much better.

peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

In the next few days, Jennie wrote a beautiful post on her blog. She asked her readers to help her healing process in making Mikey’s favorite pie – peanut butter. Hundreds, if not thousands, of posts followed and the food writing community united worldwide– in honor of Mikey. There was a special hash tag on Twitter. Danny Meyer put it on the menu at his restaurant. People who didn’t know Mikey or Jennie felt connected to it.

Jennie knows her way around the kitchen. She develops her recipes thoughtfully, deliberately, testing them many times over if need be. She has a process; she is innovative; her technique is honed. She glides effortlessly in her kitchen. The last time we cooked together, miraculously, multiple batches of dough were made in no time. She went into the garden and came back carrying something green in her hand. “Thyme?” I asked. “Lemon thyme,” she beamed, as she snipped the herb into the dough and in a single flash it was flecked with the tiny leaves – the prettiest dough I’ve seen.

peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

For people like Jennie and myself, cooking can be therapy – it allows you to feel control over a situation that might be veering out of it. Standing alone in your kitchen, mincing garlic, kneading dough, stirring jam, is a meditative, thoughtful process. Being alone with your thoughts can be daunting, downright scary, but being alone with your thoughts in the kitchen can be cathartic. There is something about repetitive motions of food preparations, about the smells the emerge from the kitchen, about the visceral satisfaction of feeding those you love with what you have prepared – that allows for one day at a time to be, indeed, one day at a time.

peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust
peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

I wanted to make a peanut butter pie in Mikey’s honor. And in the next couple of weeks, I will. But this pie here – this is for Jennie. Meeting Jennie was a lucky, beautiful fluke – something I’m grateful for each time I see her. Normally, I’m nervous to meet people I only know through their avatars. What if, in real life, they are polar opposites of what they appear online? What if the persona they project on their web is not who they are in the flesh? Believe me, it’s been known to happen.

peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

But Jennie – she is, in the flesh, exactly who she portrays herself to be: warm, caring, thoughtful, sharp, witty, and entirely intolerant of bullshit. She doesn’t cook to prove her accomplishments – she cooks to show you her love. This pie is my way to her show her mine.

***
Peaches, previously:
Peach Ice Cream with Sour Cream and Black Pepper
Peach, Apricot and Blueberry Cobbler
Peach Shortcake
Peach Pie with Honey Bourbon Caramel – ridiculously good

Peach Crème Fraiche Pie with a Thyme Butter Crust
Adapted liberally from Martha Stewart & inspired by Jennie

When I originally made this pie, inspired by Martha Stewart, in late July, I was inspired by Jennie’s lemon thyme crust. I had bought several pounds of fragrant, ripe peaches that either needed to be eaten right away or cooked. Some, I decided, were destined for pie. I pulled out my ingredients for the dough, but found that I only had regular thyme on hand. In it went – the dough chilled while I worked on the filling and the streusel.

This is a pie best eaten at room temperature, and, if you can allow such a thing, tastes better the following day, when the flavors meld together. It’s surprisingly reserved on sweetness – in other words, this is a grown-up pie, restrained, but not restricted. It lets the peaches be themselves. The crème fraiche turns into a sort of a custard that gently hugs the peaches all around. And that little herbal hint of thyme lingers on your tongue after the buttery sweetness of the crust is gone, like a faint perfume when someone leaves the room. Oh, that that lovely pie dish – remember how I recommended Simon Pearce pie dish in my gift guide? Yeah, well, they thanked me by sending me one. Something I thought was totally unnecessary, but a lovely, generous gesture, which is just the kind of people they are!

For The Pie Dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed

For The Streusel:
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup cold (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For The Filling:
1 1/2 pounds ripe (4 to 5 medium) yellow peaches, pitted and quartered
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons crème fraiche

Preparation:

1. To make the crust, whisk together flour, thyme, sugar, and salt in a bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Add the butter, pulsing until the dough starts to come together, but is messy, with lima-bean sized chunks. Drizzle in the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together. Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together into a ball, then press it into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3. To make the streusel, sift together sugar, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a roughly 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Trim edge to 1 inch; fold under, and crimp as desired. Pierce bottom of dough all over with a fork, and transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400o F (204.4o C). Cover edge of crust with foil. Line crust with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake, covered, 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment (keep foil on edge). Bake until pale golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; remove foil; reduce oven temperature to 375o F (190.5o C).

6. To make the filling, place peaches into a medium bowl, and sprinkle with sugar and salt; gently toss to coat, and allow to stand 15 minutes. Spread 2 tablespoons crème fraiche onto bottom of crust; sprinkle with one-third of the streusel. Arrange peaches on top; spread or dot with remaining 4 tablespoons crème fraiche. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.

7. Bake pie until crème fraiche is bubbling and streusel is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 pie.

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36 Comments

  • 1

    What a lovely, loving post. As a kid, I used to scream during my temper tantrums that, “It’s not fair!” I still want to scream about life being unfair all the time even though I’ve learned that no amount of screaming will change the facts. Luckily there are friends to help us through the crappy parts and to enjoy with us during the wonderful parts. You and Jennie are lucky to have each other.

    August 18, 2011 7:44 am
  • 2
    Kathryn said:

    A beautiful pie and a beautiful post – a fitting tribute.

    August 18, 2011 7:51 am
  • 3

    This is a beautiful post. Heartfelt (no melodrama!) and real. I have yet to meet Jennie in person but from everything I read about her, I know that I will love her the minute I do. Thank you for this lovely recipe and your words. I know they must be comforting to Jennie. You are, as Jackie says, lucky to have each other.

    August 18, 2011 7:53 am
  • 4

    A beautiful peach pie. I haven’t made one of these this summer! I should get to it before all of the peaches are gone.

    August 18, 2011 7:58 am
  • 5

    Olga, you are a gem. I love this post. I’m certain I’d love this pie. You and Jennie are so lucky to have each other.

    ps – Would have been nice if you’d had this pie when I was in town. :)

    August 18, 2011 8:02 am
  • 6

    Oh, now i went back and read your post. This is such a lovely tribute to your good friend and the loss of her husband. I am sorry that you have to watch Jenny suffer. She will read this, however, and I imagine it will feel like warm arms wrapping around her in a beautiful sincere hug.

    August 18, 2011 8:03 am
  • 7
    Kelly said:

    Well said and the pie is lovely! Those peaches are picture perfect. What a wonderful way to make a friend.

    August 18, 2011 8:03 am
  • 8
    Radish said:

    MJ – Ha, nice to call me out! I will try to preserve peaches now for when you are in town in the fall.

    August 18, 2011 8:26 am
  • 9

    What a fabulous recipe, you got there a beautiful peach pie!! this sounds like a great variation. thanks for sharing! :)

    August 18, 2011 8:32 am
  • 10

    Beautifully written, you remind me that so much of life is just a ‘cheap shot’, but we have to deal with it and move on. The best we can do is be good friends to one another. You illustrate that so perfectly in this post. it’s a wonderful pie, and comes to me at the right time…I’m about to go peach picking with my daughter.

    August 18, 2011 8:45 am
  • 11

    What a wonderful tribute. I totally agree with your sentiments about cooking–it can be therapeutic and give you a sense of control and ground you when it feels like your life is spinning out from under you.

    August 18, 2011 9:09 am
  • 12
    Winnie said:

    Love this post so much Olga. Love the tale of how you and Jennie became friends, the description of the bond you share over cooking, the insight into the therapy of food preparation, and the beautiful, beautiful pie.

    August 18, 2011 9:11 am
  • 13

    Your recipe really amaze me! I find myself wanting to try out this pie!

    August 18, 2011 9:11 am
  • 14
    kate said:

    This is such a beautifully written post. Your stories about food and friendship are very touching. What a wonderful tribute.

    August 18, 2011 9:13 am
  • 15
    Lena said:

    This was a really lovely post. I am so sorry for Jennie’s loss, I hope that she is healing and I am quite certain that she is very grateful to have a friend like you in her life.

    August 18, 2011 9:14 am
  • 16
    Sara said:

    A beautiful post and tribute. I had not heard of Jennie’s blog but am so saddened for her. I want to make this pie, thanks for sharing the recipe and your thoughts.

    August 18, 2011 9:58 am
  • 17
    SPYMOM555 said:

    A wonderful way to pay a tribute to a friend. Will definitely try out this pie recipe, I think there is some lemon thyme in my garden…

    August 18, 2011 11:06 am
  • 18

    This is a most beautiful pie and an even more lovely friendship. Also? Must add thyme to all pie doughs from now on.

    August 18, 2011 11:36 am
  • 19

    This pie looks beautiful. What a lovely tribute to friendship. <3

    August 18, 2011 12:36 pm
  • 20

    What a beautiful post. I didn’t know it was possible for words to outshine luscious pictures of food, but they do. Cooking IS therapy, and it helped me through many hard times in the last few years. But you know what’s even better therapy? Friendship, love, and support. You can’t substitute those things when you need them most. You’re a good friend.

    August 18, 2011 4:12 pm
  • 21

    What a loving tribute…not to someone you’ve read from afar or might have worked with, no, to a real friend. A real friend who will certainly be needed while Jennie navigates the mine field of this tragedy. Here’s hoping more trips to the market and more pies made with a friend can be healing therapy.

    I just love lemon thyme and have it growing in my garden. I’ve managed to incorporate it into a lot of things but admit…never considered a pie crust. No more…it will be done. Thanks!

    August 18, 2011 4:46 pm
  • 22
    Becky said:

    I love this.

    August 18, 2011 5:51 pm
  • 23
    Stacie D said:

    It’s been inspiring to see a whole community come together… it’s hard to imagine such a devastating turn of events and my heart goes out to Jennie and her family. Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe and such a wonderful tribute to friendship. I will invite a friend over and make this. Cheers.

    August 18, 2011 6:34 pm
  • 24

    Beautiful post (and pie) for what is clearly a beautiful friendship. Thanks for sharing. – Stacie xo

    August 18, 2011 6:47 pm
  • 25

    gorgeous – the pie, the post, your friendship, and the way people have come together over such a horrible horrible event.

    August 18, 2011 10:29 pm
  • 26
    Katie said:

    This post was just lovely. Jennie must feel so fortunate to have friends like you.

    August 18, 2011 10:46 pm
  • 27

    Cooking is my form of therapy too. What a lovely tribute.
    I adore that you made a peach pie… I made one too for my tribute, after peach picking in south Georgia with my kids!
    (http://www.ztastylife.com/2011/08/life%e2%80%99s-a-peach.html)

    August 18, 2011 11:00 pm
  • 28

    This pie looks wonderful! So rich and full of summer flavors. I have a love for creme fraiche in anything and everything, so this is perfect!

    August 21, 2011 10:29 am
  • 29
    kickpleat said:

    What a beautiful post and a loving tribute to a wonderful friend. And the pie looks stunning, absolutely.

    August 21, 2011 9:58 pm
  • 30
    Ms. T said:

    What a touching post, and a beautiful pie (literally and symbolically). Thank you for sharing it.
    BTW, the Food52 contest theme this week is peach pie. You should enter.

    August 23, 2011 12:18 am
  • 31
    Radish said:

    Ms. T – it’s a heavily adapted post, I’m not sure I’ve a place to enter it. :) But maybe. If I Have time – on vacation, after all.

    August 23, 2011 11:41 am
  • 32
    Beth said:

    Just wanted to say that I made this pie for friends this weekend and it was a hit. The true star though, was that crust. I am still thinking and dreaming about that crust!

    August 23, 2011 11:52 am
  • 33
    Radish said:

    Beth – thank you, I’m tickled pink!! :)

    August 23, 2011 12:44 pm
  • 34
    Jessi said:

    I’ve got 3 of these pies in the oven now. This was a beautiful, and very sad post. I was praying for peace, comfort and provision for this family while preparing this wonderful pie. Your post has also prompted some very tender conversations between my husband and I. Thank you. ~Jessi from Florida

    September 1, 2011 4:05 pm
  • 35

    [...] few weeks ago, I wrote about the pie I made for Jennie when I mentioned our improbable connection and get-together. At our initial [...]

    September 13, 2011 3:21 pm
  • 36

    [...] can reasonably use, it’s been popping up in a lot of recipes around my kitchen. Have you seen Olga’s peach creme fraiche pie with thyme crust (and moving post)? Yeah, Jennifer Perillo knows what she’s doing, adding thyme to a fruit-filled crust is [...]

    December 1, 2011 6:07 pm

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