Monday, July 5, 2010

A Pie a Week - Double-crust Peach Pie

Last week I set myself a challenge. I've been experimenting with baking, but I really want to master making good pie crust. And since you can only succeed by practicing, I've decided I am going to make a pie a week.

This Saturday, taking a suggestion from Smalltownmom, I went to the Farmers Market in Calabasas, and looked for peaches. I was knocked out by these - huge yellow peaches the size of baseballs. They were soft and yielding to the touch, and smelled wonderful. I knew I had to use them right away.

This time, I used a recipe for Double Crust Peach Pie from Ken Haedrich's book "Pie: 300 Tried and True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie." It's a traditional American-style peach pie.

Saturday night I made the dough, using his Flaky Pie Dough recipe. It uses half butter and half shortening (I used Crisco butter-flavored, in sticks), with a proportion of 3 to one - that is, three cups flour to one cup fat. The recipe used a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt.

I used the food processor, cutting the fat into the flour in the workbowl with short pulses of the blade.

Then I added ice water. Last week, I felt I'd been too stinting with the ice water. The recipe here called for a half cup of water, adding 1/4 cup first into the processor, and then tipping the mixture into a bowl and adding the remaining water bit by bit, by hand.

I added the entire 1/2 cup this time, aware of my earlier trouble with the dough being too dry. Then I gathered the dough into two balls - the recipe describes it as gathering and packing a snowball.

I flattened the dough into thick discs and wrapped them in plastic and put them in the fridge. Right away I noticed they didn't hold together well, so I double-wrapped the plastic.

The next morning, I took one of the dough discs out of the fridge. I used my Silpat mat on the cutting board, dusting it with a little flour, and used a sheet of parchment paper between the dough and the rolling pin.

I like my silicone rolling pin - and it's fun that it's pink!

Right away I started to have trouble with this dough. It was so crumbly! It couldn't seem to hold together, cracking with every roll! First I thought it was still too cold from the fridge, so I let it rest a bit - and it's true that it improved as it warmed.

But I just got the feeling that there didn't seem to be enough fat to flour. The French recipes had a proportion more like 2 to one - 2 cups flour to one cup butter. Or maybe the trouble was that using the processor cut the fat to finely to allow it to bind with the flour.

As I rolled it out, I broke little bits of dough from the edges and placed them over the cracks, pressing them down, and then rolling over them again. Finally, I had a sheet of dough - crumbly and fragile, but intact.

This went into a pie pan. For this pie, I wanted the standard American-style pie pan with sloping sides, not a French tart pan. I couldn't find my old reliable Pyrex glass pan, so I ended up buying disposable tins - not recommended, due to their flimsiness, but I was in a pinch. The shell went into the fridge while I prepared the fruit.

I blanched the peaches to remove the skin - dunking them one by one into boiling water for about thirty seconds. On some the skin slipped off easily - on others I had to pare it off. Some of the peaches were so ripe the bath in hot water turned the outer flesh to mush, but it all went in the bowl. They were freestone peaches, the stone coming easily away from the flesh.

All told I used six of these large peaches. I stirred in a cup of sugar and three tablespoons of cornstarch. The recipe called for making vanilla sugar by steeping a vanilla bean in the sugar - I didn't have any beans but I did have some good vanilla extract, so I put a teaspoon in.

The peaches threw off a lot of juice, which seemed too liquid for a pie. I used a slotted spoon to get the fruit into the pie shell and hold back the liquid.

Then I rolled out the top crust. Learning from my earlier experience, I let the dough warm a bit before rolling it. It still cracked, but I patched the cracks as before. It was tricky getting the top crust onto the pie intact, but I managed. I sprinkled a bit of sugar onto the top crust, cut some vents for steam, and then put it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I put a cookie sheet on the rack below to catch the bubbling juices.

One hour later, here's my peach pie.

The crust was very crumbly, but tasted pretty good. The foil pie-pan was a pain - it flexed when I moved it and lifted it out of the oven, which made the crust crack even more than it was already inclined to do.

I'm not there yet with the crust - I think I have to keep trying. Maybe go back to doing it by hand, to avoid pulverizing the fat too small? With a less fragile, more supple crust, I think I could have used even more fruit, mounding it in the center to make a taller silhouette.

Even so..... Mmmmm!! Fresh peach pie!! We brought it to our Malibu picnic for the fireworks.


smalltownme said...

Mmmmm, good! I missed our farmer's market last week, so Frank had to use grocery store peaches in his pie...I blanched them for him...he's not up to that cooking technique, yet. He's made yet another pie, which I will blog about before too long.

There's a pie crust recipe on Pioneer Woman Cooks which uses vinegar. Ever heard of that before?

Gilly said...

Looks good - and I bet it tasted good!

Once rationing had ended after the war I was always taught half the amount of fat to the amount of flour. This was by weight, I'm not too sure how it would work in cups. I use cups a lot but not for pastry!

My mother used to make rough puff pastry for fruit pies. Rub one quarter of the total amount of fat into the flour, mix it into a dough ball with water, and then roll it out in a rough ractangle, dot one third of the remaining butter (or fat) onto the pastry, fold into three, give it a half turn (90 degrees) roll out, dab half of the remaining butter, do i all again, and finally let it rest a bit, then roll gently to fit pie dish. Halve it first ot avoid too much rolling on the bit that will be the top.

Wet the edge of the bottom pie rust, then fix top on it, and trim round the edge.

Here endeth a not very scientific recipe!!


Oh yum. Do your neighbors know how lucky they are?

Fannie said...

Of all my many baking failures my pie crust is the WORST! Yours, however, looks great!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

That pie looks delicious!
I admit, I'm letting you do the research on the perfect pie crust while I continue to use my old standard. It isn't the awesome crust I would like to have, although it is pretty forgiving. I look forward to the post when you share the perfect crust recipe!
I have always used a hand-held pastry cutter and am very happy with the results.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Awesome post, artist-formerly-known-as-g! I read somewhere (probably here, but my brain's been broiled-101 F. here) that one can pulverize vanilla wafers and put them on the bottom crust to absorb excess juice from fruit fillings.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Your pie looks so good. My husband loves peaches and would gobble down your pie. We are a bit away from peach season here but we look forward to it with great anticipation. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Whiskeymarie said...

We teach a simple 3:2:1 pie crust recipe at my school- three parts pastry flour (half cake, half all purpose), two parts fat (I use all butter, which can be tricky- you can use half butter and half shortening), one part water, plus a teaspoon of salt per pound of dough (I also sometimes add a bit of sugar, 2-3T.) We calculate how much dough we need by figuring 1oz. dough per inch of pie pan. 9" pie plate = 9oz. dough, double that for double-crusted pies.

We do it by weight, which isn't always convenient for home cooks, I guess.

I say do it by hand until you perfect it- then you'll have a better feel for it when you do it in the processor.

Nej said...

I'm not a peach pie eater...but get me some homemade ice cream and I could eat that whole thing. Looks amazing!