The other day I told Dad to consider me the OPEC of baked goods, as he pestered me for yet another batch of "S" cookies, despite the fact that I just made him a batch in June for Father's Day. I still owe him a birthday treat, more then a month after the fact, and I'd promised him his favorite lemon cake, but he's been angling for "S" cookies relentlessly. As you may have noticed, however, I don't like to repeat myself very often in terms of my cookie output, and I figure the more often I make "S" cookies, the less special they will be. Better to keep supply low and demand high, in my opinion.
Another thing he's been persistently requesting lately is a peach pie/cobbler. Ever since my salted caramel apple pie debuted in July, he seemingly hasn't been able to get the idea of a peach counterpart out of his mind. Initially, I was resistant to the idea, as I more or less hate peach pie. I just can't stand baked peaches; it's mostly a textural thing. Yuck.
However, as I scoured the blogosphere in search of baking inspiration, I happened to come across a couple different peach pies that were so pretty that they captured my attention and I filed them away in case I changed my mind regarding Dad's request. One, from Bon Appétit, featured plums, and I recently discovered that I like pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid fruit) at a dinner with Justin earlier this month. The other, found on a random blog, featured cinnamon and a irresistibly gorgeous photo, and I can't say no to either.
Just as I was mulling over a mash-up of the two, I came across an article on CNN's food blog Eatocracy about popular food blogger Jennifer Perillo, who recently lost her husband at a young age to a sudden heart attack. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from her followers who wanted to know what they could do to help her in her time of grief, she asked them all to make a pie. Specifically, a peanut butter cream pie. It was her husband's favorite, and he would request it from her frequently, but in the shuffle of her food writing career and the need to supply new content to her readers, she kept putting it off, promising she'd get to it the next day. Now she'll never be able to make that pie for him again. So she requested that her friends, both real and virtual, make the pie and share it with someone they loved.
I wasn't inspired by her peanut butter pie recipe, but her message of cherishing our loved ones while we can and doing something to show them how much we care resonated with me. When I went home that day and found a coupon for money off a produce purchase at Jewel, making the peach pie seemed meant to be.
I ended up baking the pie earlier than I had anticipated, though the fruit was definitely ready to go by the time I got around to it. You see, I accidentally sliced my thumb open while preparing for last night's dinner party, so I needed Justin to peel, pit, and slice all my stone fruit for me. I just didn't think there was any way I could get through more than four pounds of fruit with a bandage and a rubber glove -- those juicy peaches and pluots are slippery buggers! Because he's awesome, Justin did all the chopping for me even though he wouldn't be around to get a slice of the pie when it was done baking. Is he a keeper or what?
I wanted to experiment with the Cook's Illustrated pie crust recipe, which I've read lots of good things about, but I didn't read the recipe carefully and omitted half of the shortening that they called for, inadvertently recreating the Alton Brown recipe, but with an additional tablespoon of sugar and the 50/50 ratio of vodka to water in the crust that I was mulling over after my banana cream pie experience. Despite the flub, it was by far my best crust to date, as it browned beautifully (no doubt due to the extra sugar content), and it was incomparably flaky. I'm still going to give the Cook's Illustrated recipe a go next time just to see how it turns out, but this crust will remain a very strong contender going forward in my search for perfection.
Also, since both of my inspiration pies had lattice tops, I decided to experiment with making one for the first time. I probably could have gotten my strips a bit narrower and squeezed more of them onto the surface of the pie (I really like my crust, and lattice pies always seem like a waste in that regard to me), but all things considered, it wasn't difficult to accomplish, and I feel like this turned out to be my most attractive pie to date. I mean, just look at it up there! Gorgeous golden brown crust with hints of purple and orange fruit peeking through? Almost too pretty to eat.
Despite being beautiful and having lots of cinnamon, I just couldn't get past my hatred of peach pie. It was plenty juicy (but not watery, since the juices were extracted first and the excess discarded), and perfectly spiced, but I still hate cooked peaches. Thankfully, it's intended audience didn't feel the same, and the pie was otherwise deemed a success. My pie may not have been "S" cookies, but I think Dad enjoyed it nonetheless, and I'm going to consider us square now on his belated birthday treat.
Stone Fruit Lattice Pie
adapted from Bon Appétit
1 recipe pie crust (see below)
1 lb. pluots (or plums)
1.5 lbs. white peaches or nectarines
1.5 lbs. yellow peaches or nectarines
1/2 c. sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Roll out both rounds of dough to 14 inches. Place one into a 9 inch pie plate, allowing for 1 inch of overhang all the way around. Dock the dough with a fork, then cover, and refrigerate until needed. Transfer the other round to a cookie sheet, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
Peel, halve, pit, and slice the fruit into 1/2 inch slices. Place all fruit into a large bowl and mix with 1/2 cup of sugar, coating everything evenly. Pour the fruit into a sieve and place over the bowl to drain at room temperature, for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Reserve 1/4 cup of fruit liquid, and whisk with cornstarch. In a bowl, combine the fruit, cornstarch mixture, and cinnamon, tossing gently to coat.
Pour fruit mixture into the prepared pie dish. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the remaining dough into 3/4 inch wide strips. Weave strips over the filling, creating a lattice. Trim the strips so there is no overhang, then fold the bottom crust over the strips and crimp decoratively.
Brush beaten egg over the edges of the crust and lattice. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Set the pie on a parchment-covered jelly roll pan, and bake for 40 minutes. Turn down the temperature of the oven to 350 and bake for 40 minutes more until the crust is brown and the juices bubbly. Let cool on a wire rack before serving.
12.5 oz. all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold
1/4 c. shortening
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 c. ice water
1/4 c. very cold vodka
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the butter and shortening over the flour and use a pastry blender to cut the fats into the flour until pea-sized pieces remain. Sprinkle the liquid over the flour mixture and use a spatula to fold them together, pressing down on the dough, until the dough forms a cohesive mass. Divide in half, place onto plastic wrap, and form into two 4 inch disks, wrapping tightly. Refrigerate at least an hour, or overnight.