Pie and I have not always been the best of friends. After my last relative success, I decided that the stress to fun ratio for pie was too high. So I faced the fact that it's my weak spot and I gave up trying. I don't regret a lot in my life, but that was indeed a poor decision.
Pie is a really interesting concept. There are a million different ways to vary the preparation: one crust or 2, the type of fat used in the crust, and the type of thickener and fruit(s) used in the filling, for example. All resulting in relatively similar final products. I've come to realize that making a good pie is about finding the right combination of all these variables in any given situation, which takes a lot of patience. I had assumed that because I made a few pies that I wasn't happy with in the past, that I wasn't good at pie, but that's not true at all. I just had to try. A lot.
I've been hearing a lot about pie this summer. Maybe I'm just more aware of it this year, but everywhere I turn-- blogs, podcasts, restaurants-- all have pie on the brain. The biggest thing I've learned from all of this is that there's no "right" way to make pie. It all comes down to personal preference and practice, practice, practice. Armed with this knowledge and surrounded by gorgeous California fruit, I was overcome with the burning desire to make a peach pie. So I summoned all my courage and did just that.
For the top crust, I used a technique I saw in a magazine once: use a circular cookie cutter to cut rounds of dough and arrange them in concentric circles around the top of the pie. This trick is key if you're a total klutz like me when it comes to handling and shaping pie dough. I used quick-cooking tapioca as the thickener, which worked great but left little tapioca pearls inside the pie which was a bit strange. Next time I'll use tapioca flour.
This was most definitely the tastiest and best-looking pie I've made so far. I'm hooked now. Can't wait to try again, and again, and again. It's almost apple time!
Double Pie Crust
Adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Williams Sonoma
Makes 2 9-inch pie crusts
Note: all divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
16 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into small pieces
6 tbsp. ice water
1 egg, beaten
1. To make the first crust, combine the half of the flour, half the sugar and half the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly to blend. Add in half of the butter pieces and mix on medium-low speed to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand and the largest butter pieces are not much bigger than peas. Mix in half of the cold water on low speed just until the dough comes together.
2. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (This dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)
3. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients (except the egg, you'll use that later) to make the 2nd crust. While the dough is chilling, make the pie filling.
Peach Pie Filling
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Makes filling for 1 9-inch pie
2 pounds of peaches (6-10 peaches, depending on size)
Juice of 1 lime
About 1/2 cup sugar (more if the peaches aren't quite ripe)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon or apple pie spice
2 tbsp instant tapioca or tapioca flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits
1. Preheat oven to 450F.
2. Peel the peaches: Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the peaches into it, a couple at a time, for 10-30 seconds, until the skin begins to loosen. Plunge into a bowl of ice water. Slip the skins off, using a paring knife to ease the process. Pit, slice, and toss with the lime juice.
3. Mix together the dry ingredients and toss the peaches with this mixture.
A Playing House original method
1. Remove one of the crusts from the refrigerator. Working quickly, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface, flouring more as needed to prevent the dough from sticking as you work.
When the dough is large enough to fit a 9-inch pie dish, transfer the crust to the dish. Use whichever method feels the most comfortable to transfer the dough: slide it, drape it over your rolling pin, pick it up and drop it. Just make sure it's intact when it arrives!
2. Shape or flute the edges of the crust if you'd like.
3. Drain any excess juice that has collected from your peaches, then pour the peach mixture on top of the pie crust. Stud the peaches evenly with the small butter bits.
4. Remove the other crust from the refrigerator and roll it out. Don't worry about making it perfectly round, we're going to butcher this one. Take a cookie cutter (the one I used was 2 inches round with fluted edges) and cut out circles of dough. Place a circle in the middle and build a spiral of circles until the whole pie is covered. You may need to gather dough scraps and re-roll the crust to get enough.
5. Lightly beat an egg with a splash of water. Using a pastry brush, paint the entire crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with granulated or turbinado sugar if desired.
6. If you have a pie crust shield, place it on your pie now. If not, go buy one! Kidding. Make a makeshift crust shield using aluminum foil and place it on the pie.
7. Bake the pie at 450F for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake until golden brown, 40-50 minutes more. Do not underbake.
8. Remove pie from oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, if desired.