Life of Pie

Out of any interest or passion, cooking and eating is the only one I can think of that’s essential to life. This is actually pretty convenient in a lot of ways–if I have to eat anyways, why not make it as enjoyable and taste as good as possible? And I consider pie pretty essential to life, especially in summer, which has finally, blissfully made an appearance in Chicago.

Golden brown and delicious

I’m talking about peach pie, to be exact. And while I’m at it, maybe throw some blackberries in there too because, well, summer.

Peach season
Peaches and sugar
Peach syrup

America’s Test Kitchen’s weekly emails are one of my favorite cooking inspirations, especially since their recipes are so reliable (plus the taste tests and gadget reviews make my research-loving heart happy). At least one recipe usually gets bookmarked (and occasionally I actually get around to making it). Earlier this month, the email included peach pie. I don’t remember the last time I had homemade peach pie, which seemed a perfectly valid reason to buy armloads of peaches and give my pie crust another run.

Rumpled crust
Blackberries, why not?

If I get nothing else out of writing this blog, I’m happy to finally have and be able to share a reliable pie crust recipe and method. I still have a few tweaks to make–my crimps are hit-or-miss (I think the trick is refrigerating the pie after crimping so the crimps don’t disappear once the pie hits the oven) and I’m still trying to figure out how to brown the bottom crust more quickly in fruit pies (it usually works to put my pie plate on a preheated baking stone, but that didn’t work this time–did the tinfoil underneath make a difference?). And, happy day, I just discovered a pie shop in Chicago will sell, by request, the rendered lard they use in their own crust. As much as it’s a fun point of pride to say I can do it myself, it takes a bit of planning, which is not always my strong suit.

Peach pie with lattice crust

I’m always amused to look at my Recipes page to see what it says about how I cook, or at least what I cook to share here. Lots and lots of fruits and vegetables, which is pretty true-to-life, and of course out of all the desserts or sweet treats I’ve shared, pies win. Not a bad trend, if I say so myself

Peach Pie with Blackberries
This recipe, from America’s Test Kitchen, involves a few more steps than you might be used to, but it’s worth it. Straining the peach juice and turning it into a quick plus mashing a few of the peaches mean less liquid to make the crust soggy, and the lattice top crust means more liquid is evaporated during baking. As for the blackberries? They turned out to add some nice tartness to balance the sweet peaches–the gorgeous color was just a bonus. I imagine raspberries or blueberries would be excellent too.

1 double-crust pie dough

3 pounds peaches, peeled, quartered, and pitted, each quarter cut into thirds
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for crust
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons low- or no-sugar-needed fruit pectin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 big handful of blackberries

2 tablespoons cream
1 egg

Prepare pie dough and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 2 hours in advance.

Toss peaches, ½ cup sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Combine pectin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 2 tablespoons sugar in small bowl and set aside.

Remove one disk of chilled dough from refrigerator. Flour a pastry board and rolling pin and lightly dust dough with flour. Whack it a few times with the rolling pin, rotating as necessary to keep it circular, until about 1/2-inch thick. Roll out to a 12- to 13-inch circle.

Butter and flour a pie pan. Carefully move dough to pan and gently press it into the corners of the pie plate, leaving about 1 inch of dough overhang the edge. Refrigerate.

Roll the second disk of dough into another 12-inch circle. Transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheet. With pizza wheel, fluted pastry wheel, or paring knife, cut it into 9 wide strips. Refrigerate.

Adjust the oven rack to its lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Scoop 1 cup of the peach mixture into a small bowl and mash with a fork; set aside.

Drain remaining peach mixture through a strainer set in a large bowl. Measure out 1/2 cup of peach juice (save any remaining for mixing with seltzer or iced tea, yum). Return peach pieces to bowl and toss with cornstarch.

Transfer peach juice to a skillet, add pectin mixture, and whisk until combined. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and pectin is dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, pour over peach pieces, add mashed peaches, and gently stir together.

Whisk cream and egg together to make an egg wash.

Transfer peach mixture to prepared pie pan and top with blackberries. Lightly brush the dough edge with cream/egg mixture. Lay 3-4 pie crust strips across the filling, leaving a slight overhang, then lay remaining strips perpendicular. Trim crust and lattice to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pie plate. Press the edges of the bottom crust and lattice strips together, fold under, and crimp with your fingers or a fork. Brush crust lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake until crust is set and begins to brown, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown and filling is bubbly at center, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack for 3 hours before serving.


3 thoughts on “Life of Pie

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