Right before I left for my lovely vacation in
It turns out the filling for peach pie is pretty standard: peaches, sugar, cornstarch or flour; some recipes call for nutmeg, vanilla, or some lemon juice. As long as the peaches are good, I think the filling is easy as, well, pie. It’s the crust that can be difficult. Some recipes call for butter, some for lard, some a mixture of both. Some use ice water, some have you blend with a pastry cutter and others use a food processor. But the crust really makes the pie, and in this case it’s even more crucial since we were going to be making it fancy [Note: I was not the one to suggest being fancy this time! – Turk]: weaving strips of crust over the top of the pie to form a lattice. Like the kind on the side of old-timey houses, with roses growing up them.
After doing some research, we decided to go with the Cook’s Illustrated “foolproof” recipe for pie crust. It seemed easy – you mix it in the food processor – and it involved vodka! Plus, it was recommended by the likes of Serious Eats and Smitten Kitchen. What’s not to like?
First, we mixed up the crust. You mix all the dry ingredients in the food processor, then add the cold butter and shortening and pulse until it resembles cottage cheese curds. Then you mix in the cold water and vodka (we kept ours in the freezer) by hand. Here’s where we should have had our first clue this wasn’t going to be “foolproof”: there seemed to be way too much liquid for the amount of dry ingredient; the crust was really wet. Some commenters had the same issue, but we figured we could chill it and add flour later if necessary. So we made the dough into two disks, wrapped them in plastic, and stuck them in the freezer.
While the crust was chilling, we made the filling. We blanched the peaches to make peeling them easier, sliced them, then mixed them with the corn starch, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Then we let the fruit macerate for a bit while we worked on the crust.
We took the crust out of the freezer and rolled it out – or tried to. Even after adding flour as we rolled, the crust stuck to the counter when we tried to move it into the pie dish. Back in the freezer it went. Second round, same deal. Finally, on our third try and a lot of extra flour, we finally got the crust into the pan. We blind baked it for a bit, even though the recipes didn’t call for it.
At this point, the peach filling seemed a little liquidy to me (they weren’t meant to macerate through three rounds of dough rolling) but Turk said we should just go with it [Yeah, this was totally my fault . . . sorry - Turk], so we dumped them in to the dish. Now it was time for the tough part: the lattice. I read the technique in Joy of Cooking, which recommended rolling out the dough to a 13-inch circle and cutting it into 18 strips. I had a hard time getting them equally sized, but almost managed.
This is how the lattice works in theory: first, you lay nine strips across. Then, you pull back every other strip (say #1, #3, #5 etc.), and lay one across in the other direction. You lay back the first strips and fold back the others (say #2, #4, #6) and lay another strip across – creating a woven pattern. The first time I tried it though, I laid down nine strips and folded all of them back. Bah. By that point the dough was too warm, so we stuck it back in the freezer. Tried it again, and the strips kept falling apart. Back in the freezer again, this time all sticky with peach filling.
Finally, finally, I managed to get it to work. Here’s how: really cold dough. I only cut 12 strips this time. Turns out, if I had done nine across as suggested we would have more of a summer-camp-hot-mitt weave than a lattice weave, plus working with that many just took way too long. Even working quickly, some of the strips fell apart as I worked with them, but at this point we weren’t going for perfection, just good enough. [Again, I think this is an important lesson for us to learn in cooking. You don’t always have to follow the directions exactly. If it doesn’t make sense for you to cut 18 strips, don’t cut 18 strips. If the dough is too wet add more flour. If you need a shot of vodka to finish, bottoms up, er – I mean – well, you know. – Turk]
When we pulled the pie out of the oven, it looked awesome! The filling was a little watery, but otherwise it looked great. We wrapped it up in towels and brought it up to meet Mr. Harper. After a little baby time . . .
. . . we dug in. “Mmmm,” everyone said. And then “. . . it’s not very sweet, though.” Huh. Wait, what? How could a peach pie not be sweet? Oh! It can if you forget to add the sugar. Mother #%*&@! Well, regardless, the crust was truly delicious. Flaky, buttery, pain-in-the-ass perfection. And Angela’s husband, who doesn’t like desserts, loved the pie. So there’s that.