Friday, August 27, 2010

"This One's For You, Grandpa" Peach Pie

Grandpa W's Memorial Dinner

Food, for many of us, is a celebration.  For those who cook and those who eat, there is a little triumph in a tasty spread.  In our home, as in many others, there are specific foods we can tie to special people/events.  My mom still makes this green jello salad during the holidays every year.  Its got cottage cheese and avocado, pineapple bits and green jello.  And I think its nasty, (probably because I think anything that gelatinous is evil).  But its important to her, because this food has been passed down through her people, and was present at many celebrations in her past.  So whether anyone else is going to eat it, she makes it every year.  We can all respect that, and appreciate that the jello salad, as wiggly as it might be, allows her to spend time with those memories that she holds dear.

In this vein, in my family, when someone passes away we create a special meal in remembrance of them.  Not just any meal, but their very favorite meal, or a meal that has specific meaning for that person.  We all sit down, and enjoy this (usually) very rich meal, and share and reflect on the light and special presence that person brought to our lives.  Anytime we want to feel extra close to them, we can cook up their special meal, and its brings them right back to the table. For Grandpa B, its pot roast.  I cannot drink a chocolate milkshake without thinking of my Grandma B.  For my dad, it was very hard to choose, because dag gum it, he just liked food.  And a long, long time from now, when we have to pick out a meal for my mom, I'm sure we will have to include the aforementioned "nasty jello salad".  For my Grandpa W, who passed away this week, I've chosen grilled pork spareribs, with a baked potato and corn, a nice cold beer, and peach pie a la mode for dessert.  He and I know why, and that's the important part of the memorial meal.

The peach pie is what brings me to you tonight, my friends.  I've never made any fruit pie other than apple in my life, so I was a little hesitant, and I considered purchasing one from our very delicious, local bakery for $14.  But peaches are in season, and in an attempt to stay true to my goal to eat more local foods (and save money), I bought some tree-ripened *freestone* peaches at a local farmers market (along with the potatoes and corn for the dinner!  Go me!).  I even, *gasp*, made my own crust (which was a tasty disaster).  But in the end, the labor of love was worth it, not just because it was so light and melt-in-your-mouthy, but because I spent the entire cooking process full of love and memories.  Curses at the uncooperative pie crust aside, what a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

Pain-in-the-Hiney Pie Crust (for the Food Processor)
This makes enough crust for one double crust pie or two single crust pies, and despite its name, is VERY much worth the effort. (If you're only going to need a single crust, make the whole recipe, and freeze one dough disc, well wrapped, it will keep for up to 6 months.)

Everything I've read about pie crusts suggest that the colder (as in having spent a little time in the freezer) the fats and liquids are, the flakier and more delicious your pie crust will be.  So feel free, chop up/dish out the fats (butter and vegetable shortening) and set them on a baking sheet in the freezer while you mix up the dry ingredients.  Go ahead, put a mug of water into the freezer too (but don't leave it there forever!) Its ok-- tell them the Wholesome Duchess said you could.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 8 Tablespoons vegetable shortening, in tablespoon sized dollops, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • up to 6 Tablespoons ice water 

  1. Measure the flour, sugar, and salt into the processor with the regular blade attached.  Pulse 4 times until mixed.  Add the unsalted butter, cut into cubes, and pulse 4 times.  The butter should still be in pea sized pieces. Add the shortening, and pulse three times until gently mixed.
  2. With the motor off, add the vinegar.  Pulse once or twice to mix in.  Do the same, one tablespoon at a time with the ice water. Don't wait until it forms a large ball, it will be tough.  Instead, check after the 2nd or 3rd tablespoon of water.  The dough is ready when you pinch it, and it sticks together.  If you pinch it and its still crumbly, it needs a little more water.
  3. Stop the machine, dump the crumbly dough into a bowl, and gather the dough into a ball with your hand. you can squeeze it a bit to make it stick together. If it just won't form a ball, add a tiny bit more water. (Note that if you are making crust in the food processor, you will use less water than most recipes call for.)
  4. Divide dough in two equal pieces.  Flatten it to a thick disc, then wrap your dough ball in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill it about 30 minutes in the refrigerator (or even better in the freezer!). If its too tough to roll out when you need it, let it warm a little bit on the counter, but try to keep it as cool as possible.
  5. Roll it out on a cool surface if you can.  Using the rolling pin from the center, gently push the dough out.  If it cracks, gently re-form it then keep going, trying to touch it with your hands as little as possible. You know its the right size when its about 2 inches larger than the pie plate turned upside down.  Then follow your pie recipe for baking.

"This One's for you, Grandpa" Peach Pie
If you're using fresh peaches  *Freestone* is important, as the pits come out easily.  If you get clingstone peaches by accident, they'll "cling" to the pit, and be much less cooperative in general.)
  • 2.5 pounds (about 6 medium) freestone peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 1 tsp lemon or lime juice, whatever you've got laying around
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice or cinnamon, whatever you like
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk, used for eggwash
  • 1 Tablespoon milk/cream/water for eggwash
  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
First, we must prepare the peaches by removing the skins, pitting and slicing them.  If you already know how to the super amazing trick we call blanching we use to remove the skins, then pit them, you can skip down to step one.  Otherwise, please read my extra special paragraph on "Peach Blanching 101" below:
  • Get a large pot, fill it with water and boil it.  While you're waiting for that, get a bowl of water, and put a bunch of ice in it.  Once the water is boiling, gently place your peaches in it, using a slotted spoon or fry spoon.  Leave them in the boiling water for 45 sec-1min.  Then using the spoon, remove them from the boiling water, place them in the ice water, and let sit for about the same amount of time.  Once they're cool enough to handle, take a paring knife and make a criss-cross at the bottom of the peach.  The skins should slip right off (or at least come off easily enough that you won't want to hurt someone with that paring knife while trying to remove them).  Cut in half, remove pits, slice peach halves, and place into a large bowl.
  1. Coat peaches with lemon/lime juice.  It keeps them from turning brown, and adds that special something.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, cornstarch and butter and allspice into crumb stage. Mix with the peaches.
  3. Line a 9" pie plate with one of your pie crusts.  Paint a little eggwash on the bottom, between the crust and fruit, to help keep it from getting too soggy with all of the juices.
  4. Put fruit mixture into pie plate.
  5. Top with lattice strips of pie crust.  If you need help (like I did) check out the video.  Then eggwash the top crust.
  6. Bake at 450 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 15 minutes, then 350 for another 30 min. If you can, just turn the oven off, and let pie sit in the cooling oven.  It will allow a little more of the juices from the pie to boil off, making sure it sets up nicely, and isn't too watery.  Allow pie to cool (mostly) before slicing. Best when eaten fresh, but you can store covered in the fridge for up to three days.

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