Where do you think the expression “easy as pie” originated? Many cooks are scared of making pie – they don’t think it’s easy! Every one loves pie, but making it can be intimidating. Even perfectly useful kitchen folk are rendered helpless when pie is mentioned. Pie is a dish most often composed of delicious flavorful goodness encased in buttery pastry goodness. And, the peach pie I’m featuring in this post has a double dose of goodness, a butter and lard crust. That, in my opinion, should be enough incentive to overcome any kind of fear.
I grew up in Macon County, Georgia. Central and South Georgia are well known for their peach crops in the summer. Summer means peach pie, peach cobbler, and peach ice cream. Macon County is adjacent to Peach County, home to “The Big Peach”, a 75′ tall peach mounted on a 100′ tall pole. Peaches are serious business in Georgia.
The June issue of Southern Living contains my first story as a contributing editor. It’s all about peaches and I couldn’t think of any subject more appropriate. I am thrilled with the recipes and the photography and styling is absolutely beautiful, created by the talented Jennifer Davick and Marian Cooper Cairns.
Each summer my family would make “put up peaches”. We’d can peaches, freeze peaches, and make peach jelly. You have never been hot until you have been picking peaches in July in Georgia. The air is hot, thick, and wet like a sauna, but it’s about as far away from a spa as you can get. Satan himself would agree that hell is actually cooler. Gnats buzz around your eyes, mouth, and ears as mosquitoes nibble away at your ankles. Peach fuzz covers all exposed skin, and considering the extreme heat, there’s a lot of skin surface. The combination of sweat, bug spray, and itchy peach fuzz is a potent cocktail of misery. But, one bite of a perfectly ripe sweet, fragrant, flavorful peach is worth it.
Based for the next few months in New England, I am a long ways away from hotter-than-Georgia-asphalt summer. I took a couple days to drive up. I picked up strawberries in Maryland and peaches in South Carolina (shh, don’t tell Georgia.) I am thankful my life and work allows this kind of freedom and flexibility. I’m blessedly busy and as long as I have wi-fi and a kitchen I can work anywhere in the world. And, this summer I am exactly where and with whom I want to be. We put in the garden last weekend, have lots of plans, and lots of non-plans. If this past weekend is going to be any indication, I am certain this summer is going to be absolutely wonderful and quite delicious.
For Memorial Day we attended a Oaxacan goat roast co-hosted by Sally Ekus. (The event was fantastic and will be featured on Food52 at a later date. I’ll be sure to share the link so stay-tuned.) Her sister, Amelia, arrived for the party from New York. She wanted to make pies for the feast — but her arrival time and party start time made that task pretty challenging. So, she asked her mom and I to make the fillings. Lisa made Strawberry Rhubarb and I made the White Peach and Ginger I am featuring today.
Amelia whisked in with several disks of dough she’d made the night before and kept cold on the train. Out whipped a rolling pin and the pies were in the oven within minutes. It was awesome. It was all about mutual trust and working together to get the job done. Collaboration Pies. They were beautiful and tasted incredible. The multi-family member exercise in putting food on the table made me smile from the inside out.
When something feeds the head, heart, and belly that’s about as good as you can get.
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
I’ve tried hard to make a very user-friendly recipe complete with hand-holding, but if you are still intimidated about making pie, here’s a bit homework to settle your nerves:
- Please see my previous blog post about rolling out pie crust.
- Read “Heaven in a Pie Pan” by Melissa Clark in the NY Times.
- Check out Dorie Greenspan’s pie rolling confessions: “Terrified No More.”
WHITE PEACH AND GINGER PIE
One important cooking note – Amelia suggests to make this crust and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. There is sound science behind these instructions: the dough will be evenly moist and the gluten will be very relaxed, resulting in a tender, flaky pie crust. And, it splits up the work so actually assembling the pie is, well, easy as pie.
6-8 ripe peaches (about the size of a baseball)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Double Recipe Butter-Lard Crust, preferably made the day before, see below
The proper way to peel a peach: Fill a large bowl with ice and water to make an ice bath. Set aside. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, using a paring knife, score the bottom (not the stem end) of the peaches with an “X”. Using a slotted spoon, dip the peaches in the boiling water for just a moment, literally, 30 seconds or so. Transfer immediately to the ice bath. Using the paring knife, remove the skin from the peach.
The not proper way to peel a peach, but it will work if the peach is properly ripe: Simply peel it with a paring knife, by pulling, not cutting the skin off. When peach is just ripe, the skin will easily slip away.
However your method of peeling, slice this first peeled peach into eighths and place in a medium bowl. Add the vanilla, ginger, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until well-combined. This will practically liquify this first peach if the peaches are very ripe, making it easier to evenly toss the remaining peaches. Peel and slice remaining peaches. Add and toss to coat.
Heat the oven to 425°F. Prepare the pie shell (see below) and pour the filling into the bottom crust. Top with lattice. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until golden brown, about 45 additional minutes.Transfer to a rack to cool slightly before slicing and serving.
Double Recipe Butter-Lard
Makes 1 double crust pie
3 cups all purpose flour, more for rolling out the dough
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
9 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons lard
1/2 cup cold water
To prepare the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the butter and lard. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds. With the processor on pulse, add the ice water a tablespoon at a time. Pulse until the mixture holds together as a soft, but not crumbly or sticky, dough. Shape the dough into 2 equal disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm and evenly moist, at least 30 minutes and preferably overnight.
Lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin. Place one dough disk in the center of the floured surface.(Keep the other one cold while working with the first.) Roll out the dough, starting in the center and rolling up to, but not over, the top edge of the dough. Return to the center, and roll down to, but not over, the bottom edge. Give the dough a quarter turn, and continue rolling, repeating the quarter turns until you have a disk about 1/8 inch thick.
Transfer the dough round to a 9-inch pie plate. With a sharp paring knife, trim the dough flush with the rim of the plate. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
To make a lattice, Roll out the remaining disk of the pie crust on a lightly floured surface. Using a pastry wheel, cut the square into 11 1-inch-wide strips. Lay strips, spaced 1/2-inch apart, across the filling. Fold back every other strip almost to the edge; then, at the folds, place a new strip perpendicular to the first ones. Return the folded strips so they overlap the new strip. Fold back the the other set of strips, stopping about 1 inch away from the first perpendicular strip; arrange another perpendicular strip at the folds. Continue until the lattice has been formed. Trim the overhanging strips so they are flush with the pie plate’s edge. Using a fork, seal the strips to the edge. Chill in the refrigerator until the crust is firm, about 15 minutes.
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