Let’s begin with a basic understanding of pie. PIE 101:
Pie is delicious. Pie makes you happy. You do not need an excuse to eat pie.
Everyone on the same page? Okay, good!
When it comes to pie, my favorite is a good seasonal fresh fruit pie. And when it’s nearing the end of summer, you have to eat peach pie. At least one slice. It’s a rule. If you want to eat a remarkable piece of fruit pie, it must have 2 things: A flaky buttery crust and fresh ripe fruit.
Sounds pretty simple, eh? Well, the results are beautiful and delicious but the preparation takes a little time and love. I’ll walk you through my method of making a perfect pie with step by step instructions and some pictures to help you along. You may need a good long nap, a stiff drink, or some therapy afterwards…but you’ll have pie, and pie makes you happy!
Okay, let’s get started…
Remember the first thing I said a good fruit pie needs? That’s right…a flaky buttery crust. For me, that means a Pâte Brisée which is just a super fancy french name for a short crust pastry. My pastry is an all-butter crust as opposed to a butter shortening/lard combination or all shortening/lard crust. My reason for this is I prefer butter to shortening or lard in just about anything except maybe homemade tortillas. I love the buttery flavor and the flaky consistency of an all-butter crust, but most of all I love the simplicity of the ingredients.
Pâte Brisée (Short Crust Pastry):
- 2 1/2 cups (350 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 slightly heaping teaspoon salt (I use Kosher salt)
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted cold butter (cut into small cubes)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60-120 ml) ice water
- Measure out the flour into a medium bowl and add the salt, sugar, and cinnamon.
- Whisk lightly to combine
- Cut the cold butter into small cubes
- Add the butter to the flour mix and toss in the flour to coat
- Using a pastry cutter, blend/cut the butter into the flour. (you can also do this in a food processor by pulsing until the the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I prefer to do this by hand using a pastry cutter because I am a control freak and I don’t want all of the crumbs the same size.)
- Stop when the mixture looks like corn meal with some larger bits of butter, no larger than the size of a pea. (Those slightly larger bits of butter will create steam during baking which results in flaky crust. I find that with a food processor the crumbs are more uniform and you miss out on this benefit.)
- Measure out your ice water but don’t worry about being too exact here because the amount of water you actually use will depend on where you live, the time of year, the amount of moisture in the air, etc. Don’t let this scare you though, you’ll be fine!
- Add a couple of tablespoons (by eye) of your very cold ice water (needs to be cold in order to not melt the butter) in a steady stream into your flour mixture. Using a fork, stir the mixture around. Repeat this process until you no longer see a lot of loose crumbs in the bowl when you stir. The idea here is to add just enough water to get the dough to begin to come together but not so much water that you have a wet soggy mess. The less water..the better!
- The mixture will still be quite crumbly but it should just hold together when pinched in your fingers. If it does, it’s ready!
- Pour the moist yet crumbly dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the wrap completely over the crumbles.
- Gently “knead” the dough a few times until it comes together inside the plastic. Doing this through the plastic wrap serves 2 purposes: First, it prevents you from having to use more flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the counter (more flour = tough pastry). Second, it prevents the butter from melting into the dough from the direct heat of your hands (we need that butter cold and separate in order to create steam)
- The dough should now be one nice solid disk and you should be able to see little smooshed bits of butter throughout the dough. Place the wrapped dough into the refrigerator for one hour (up to 1 day) so that the gluten in the flour can relax and the butter can chill.
Fresh Peach Filling:
- 3.5 lbs of “freestone” style peaches (about 7-8 medium sized peaches)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons (24 g) unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Before preparing the filling, we need to remove the skin from the peaches by blanching them. Have a big pot of boiling water ready and a big bowl of ice water standing by.
- Measure out your peaches and check that they don’t have any major bruises or blemishes on them
- Remove stems and stickers, if necessary, and if you’re not using organic peaches, give them a good rinse in water
- Slice an “X” into the blossom end of the peach just through the skin
- Dip the peaches into boiling water for 30-60 seconds depending on the ripeness of the peach
- Transfer the peaches to the ice water to stop the cooking process
- The skins should now slip off very easily, if they don’t peel off easy, leave the peaches in the ice water a little longer. Peaches will look beautiful and slippery and be ready to slice.
Now you’re ready to prepare the filling:
Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits (careful, the peaches will be slippery!). Slice the peaches and add to a large bowl.
Immediately squeeze the lemon juice over the peaches to prevent browning.
Toss the peaches with the sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter. Cover with plastic wrap for about 30 minutes so peaches can juice. When the peaches have released their juices, carefully pour just the juice into a separate small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch until combined.
Pour the juice and cornstarch mixture back into the peach filling and toss around a bit. Set aside covered with plastic wrap.
Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and cut in half. Cover one half with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator.
On a slightly floured surface begin to roll the remaining half of dough into a circular shape by rolling from the center out and turning quarter turns to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your surface. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9 inch pie plate.
Brush off any excess flour and carefully press the dough down into the pie plate. Tuck any overhanging pastry under itself and lightly crimp the edges using your fingers. Refrigerate the pastry, wrapped in plastic wrap while you roll out the other half of the dough.
Repeat the rolling process with the other half of the dough and transfer your rolled pastry to a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the pastry into the refrigerator along with the pastry in the pie plate while the oven preheats.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and place your oven rack in the lower third of the oven.
Remove the pastry in the pie plate from the refrigerator and pour the filling into the the chilled crust.
Pour a small amount of cream, half n half, or milk into a small bowl.
Brush the edges of the crust with the milk or cream and then place the top crust over the peaches.
Tuck the overhanging edges under the crimped bottom crust and gently press the dough together to seal.
Crimp the edges of the pie using your desired method. I pinch the dough with one hand and press down on the pinched dough with my finger on the other hand.
Sprinkle the top of the pie with granulated sugar to finish.
Immediately place the pie into the preheated oven and bake for 45-55 minutes or until the crust is a lovely golden brown and the filling is bubbly. If the crust browns too much, cover the edges with foil and continue to bake until done.
Allow the pie to cool for one hour before slicing so the filling can set. Serve room temperature.
Savor each bite..by yourself, with a friend or family, with coworkers. Eat a second slice while hiding in the closet, if you’re so inclined.
Feel the happiness….