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Anatomy of a Pie

Peaches and a Pie

I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m not great at baking (I remember the terrible croissant catastrophe of ’99 like it was yesterday). I am trying improve though. I think the main problem is that I just don’t bake very often, nor did I grow up in a household where there was a lot of baking going on — more often than not, there was cheese being melted on something.

In the past, I have been known to try my hand at scones or muffins, but cakes and pies are very elusive. But…jwa wanted a pie for his birthday and I was feeling somewhat optimistic, if not downright inspired. You see, last week, I read this post on Gotham Gal’s blog. Wow, her recipe looked completely scrumptious. Pie, peaches, caramel, brown sugary crumble? How could you go wrong with that? As I learned, aside form a couple of minor missteps — brought on by my own baking limitations, I’m sure — you really can’t.

For the one pie I had baked previously (pumpkin, for last Thanksgiving), I used a pie crust recipe that turned out very well. I decided not to monkey with my crust mojo and used that crust recipe for this peach pie. The recipe is from Gale Gand and is listed below.

Pie Crust
4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
12 ounces (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup ice water (strain out the ice just before using)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), mix the flour, salt, and sugar for 1 minute. Add the butter and mix just until you have a crumbly, sandy mixture. You should still be able to see the pieces of butter. In a small bowl, stir the water and vinegar together. With the mixer running at medium speed, drizzle in the water-vinegar mixture and mix just until a dough forms. You should still see small bits of butter. Turn out onto a work surface, divide the dough in half, and shape into round, flat disks. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using. (Or, refrigerate up to 48 hours or freeze up to 1 month before using. If frozen, let thaw in the refrigerator overnight before rolling out.)

After rolling one of the dough discs out, I put in a glass pie plate, crimped the edges, and pre-baked for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Before going in the oven though, I pricked the bottom of the crust with a fork, lined with aluminum and covered with pie beads. I’ve heard dried beans work well too, I just happen to have beads, as already mentioned, due to the fact that the packaging was cute.

One thing I always forget though, is the crust shrinkage. It always comes out a bit smaller and shorter than when I put it in the oven. I need to remember that for next time and make the crust a tad taller!

Millions of Peaches…
Continuing on, here come the peaches. I followed Gotham Gal’s instructions, although I did wind up with way more peaches than I needed. She calls for 15. I think I had a smaller pie plate (mine was an 8-inch one) and I probably only needed about eight or so peaches — so, adjust for your pie plate as needed. Also, can I say peeling peaches is a huge pain? Okay, peeling peaches is a huge pain. I did that trick where you submerge them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, but still, it was time-consuming. Of course, it was worth it and all — I’m just complaining.

The Caramel
This, I messed up just a little bit. I added the butter and cream to the sugar-water syrup and some of the caramel hardened up on me. I think in retrospect, the cool cream was the culprit. Next time I will stir in the butter (which seemed to not effect the caramel adversely), let it cool a bit, then mix in the not super cool cream. As it was, I had enough caramel mixture (after removing the hardened caramel bits) to add to the peaches, but next time I will test the above hypothesis. Where is Alton Brown when you need him?

Bring on the Crumbly Topping
Mmm! Here, I was not generous enough. Next time, I will add more. My advice, don’t be shy with the crumbly topping. You probably don’t need all of it (as she mentions) but maybe use more than you think you need. Finally, I baked the pie for about 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

The Verdict
We managed to wait a couple of hours before having some of the pie. I was very pleased. It was especially good warmed up a bit, with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I had a couple of minor issues with this pie experience, but now I want to try again. Isn’t practice the best way to improve? Why, yes, I think it is! Speaking of which, the caramel and crumbly topping would certainly work as well with apples as it did the peaches! Hmmmm….

Mm!

ps: happy birthday…

4 comments to Anatomy of a Pie

  • christy

    I fear I may need to take a break from your most amazing blog as for the past 9 days I have started a new diet that has me eating no sugar, no fat, and practically no calories. I myself, in my love of cooking, have been trying to come up with creative dishes involving 6 oz. of chicken breast and and 1/2 C of veggies for dinner.

    Every day I read your blog and yearn for the day I can make this pie. Especially since the farmers market here will have peaches in a couple of weeks. :( My stomach is growling.

  • mlb

    Oh, man. That’s harsh. Of course, I’m certainly not eating pie everyday! This was a special ocassion pie…much like tonight’s chocolate mousse! Er. where was I? Oh, yeah.

    Hmmm…chicken would be good in a grill pan (just use pam for non-stickness instead of olive oil) with some broccoli. There’s a really good broccoli recipe where you make a quick sauce of soy sauce, garlic and just a bit of sesame oil and toss with steamed broccoli. (I think I made that once in Muncie :)

    But, uh, yeah, that’s hard. But I commend you! Eating healthy is very admirable. I try, but every so often, it’s nice to have pie. Can’t you splurge every so often? ;-)

  • jwa

    nothing says home like being able to wander down to the fridge at 11pm and pull out healthy a slice of peach pie. mm! this rocks. i am so spoiled.

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