Ode to Summer’s End…
I have just enjoyed one last unexpected taste of summer. October is normally quite late for peaches but my friends Jerry & Diane Polk of Polk’s Market in Savannah, GA always manage to wrangle up something delicious when you least expect it!
Last week I was totally surprised to still find a display of aromatic juicy peaches. The local Georgia & South Carolina peaches have been finished but these apparently made the trek from Idaho! Hoping to enjoy one last taste of summer I knew they’d make a great pie. When you have ripe fruit there’s very little that needs to be done to enhance its flavor!
One of the most often asked questions that I get here in my cooking classes in Savannah usually relates to making pie crusts. I’m not opposed to using convenience products when they can deliver suitable results to making the same thing from scratch but pre-made pie crusts do not fall into that category! The refrigerated and frozen crusts might save a little time but they do very little to mimic a great pie crust! I could and plan to devote a whole posting to the technique of a great pie crust but have opted to put that off so as not to seem totally out of season by posting a recipe for Peach Pie in November! Stay tuned for more on homemade pie crusts….in the meantime, at least give them a shot if you don’t already do so. The cost is minimal and the return on investment is priceless!
For the filling I decided to try a new technique, one that I had read about in Great Pies & Tarts by Carole Walter. The beauty of cooking is that there is always a new or alternate technique to learn that someone has discovered to answer a particular need or problem. In her recipe for Southern Peach Pie in Nutty Cornmeal Crust she explains that she overcame the issue of soggy gummy peach pies by first cooking the peaches on the stovetop to cook and thicken the juices. Now why didn’t I think of that!?
I opted for my standard pie crust rather than the cornmeal crust she recommends but followed her filling recipe. The result? A delicious intensely “peachy” peach pie that was the collaboration of my handiwork, Jerry Polk’s peaches, and Carole Walter’s unique approach to overcoming excess juiciness!
Helpful Hint: I always prefer baking pies in glass pie pans rather than metal. The clear glass allows you to see the bottom crust and better determine the doneness so you don’t end up with a gummy under-baked bottom crust.
In the recipe below, Carole Walter calls for instant tapioca which is often used as a thickener for fruit pies. I didn’t have any so used the higher amount of cornstarch and replaced the tapioca with an additional tablespoon of cornstarch and found the flavor and texture to still be enjoyable. If using this method, after cooking the peaches, pour into a bowl to cool slightly before pouring into the crust, but skip the layering with tapioca that she calls for.
Carole Walter’s Southern Peach Pie
from “Great Pies & Tarts”, c.1998 Clarkson/Potter
Yield: 1 9-inch pie
Pie crust for a double 9-inch pie (preferably homemade)
8 medium to large ripe peaches (about 3 lbs.)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 – 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon instant tapioca
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. (If using a convection oven the rack position should not be of consequence. – Darin)
Roll out one disk of pie dough large enough so that when a 9-inch pie plate is set on top, the perimeter of the dough extends beyond the outer edges of the dish by about an inch. Carefully line the pie dish with the pastry, carefully nudging the dough down into the lower corners of the pan, being careful not to stretch the dough. Trim the dough so that only about 1/4 inch is remaining as an overhang.
Wipe the peaches with damp paper towels. Cut the fruit in half and remove the pits. Peel if skins are thick. Cut peaches into 1-inch wedges.
Place the water and brown sugar in a large skillet. Heat slowly, stirring until the sugar is melted. Combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon and add to the peaches. Shake the bowl to distribute the dry ingredients through the fruit.
Empty the mixture into the skillet and stir gently to combine with the brown sugar. Cover the skillet and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until the fruit begins to exude juices. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peaches from the skillet, leaving the liquid behind. Place the peaches in a large bowl, about a third at a time, sprinkling each layer with the tapioca. Let stand 15 minutes.
Again, use a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches to the pie plate. Sprinkle the fruit with lemon juice and dot with butter.
Roll the remaining pastry into a 13-inch circle. Top the peaches with the pastry, then trim the edges, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold and flute the edges. Prick the pastry with a fork or cut slits in center of pie for venting. Brush the pastry lightly with milk, then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the pie for about 50-55 minutes. If crust edges or top are getting too brown, cover lightly with foil. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices just begin to bubble. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Let stand for at least 3 hours before serving.