Monday, July 15, 2013

Peach and Raspberry Pie

One of the great paradoxes of life is the desire to make fresh fruit pies in the middle of summer.  Berries and stone fruit are in season, so summer is the perfect time to make a pie. But the oppressive heat makes you want to do anything BUT turn on your oven. When faced with the choice of to pie or not to pie, I always choose pie. If only Hamlet had had this kind of clarity.

I'm not actually a huge peach pie fan. When a pie is made with just peaches, I find the flavor to be one-dimensional and sometimes cloyingly sweet. At the other end of the spectrum, raspberries pies are notoriously tart, even for a raspberry fiend like myself.  But when you marry the two together, ahhhhhh.....perfect harmony. The raspberries add some tartness and variety to the pie, and the peaches, when balanced with something else, seem delightfully sweet and summery.

Pies fillings are very straightforward things to make, so to challenge myself, I decided to make my crust from scratch. 
If you don't feel up to the challenge, I won't judge you if you use a store-bought crust.  The trick to making it seem like a homemade crust is dotting the filling with butter before you put the top on.  I made an apple pie once for a friend as a Christmas present (he asked for it, I swear) using this technique, and when he tried it he went on and on about how he could tell it was a homemade crust. HA. Little did he know I used a store-bought one. The moral of the story: butter makes everything better.

I also added a bonus recipe in this post: pie crust cookies. One of the benefits of making your own crust is you get to use the leftover scraps to make cinnamon-sugar cookies. This may not sound that exciting, but trust me, they are delicious.  You can pat yourself on the back for making two treats for the work (and price) of one.

Peach and Raspberry Pie
Pie crust:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

3 pounds peaches, approx 6-8
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 white sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons half and half
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

If it's a hot day, start by putting your butter in the freezer to chill.  Measure your flour, salt, and sugar for your crust into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Cube your butter into 1/2 inch pieces, and add half a stick at a time to the food processor. After each addition, pulse the mixture two or three times, just to get things going. Then add your shortening in two batches, by the spoonful.

(Sidenote: You can buy shortening in sticks and put that in your freezer as well to cut up with your butter. If you are going out to buy shortening for this recipe, do that. But if, like me, you just have a jar of Crisco on hand, measure out how much you need, pop it in the freezer for a little while, and then use a spoon to drop the shortening into the mixture in pieces. You just don't want to dump the whole 1/3 cup in one lump.)

Pulse the mixture til it resembles Parmesan cheese (pictured above). Then add the ice water by the tablespoon till the dough starts to come together into a ball. Once that happens, drop it out onto a well-floured surface, and roll it into a ball. DON'T KNEAD THE DOUGH. Kneading dough develops gluten proteins, which are what give bread structure, but kneading your dough would make it tough.  You want your crust to remain delicate, like a petunia.  The little morsels of butter in your dough will melt and make your crust flakey and rich at the same time.  Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for half an hour.

While your dough chills, put a pan of water on to boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer. You're probably wondering what we're going to do with that hot water.  Well, we're gonna peel the peaches! Score the bottoms of your peaches to make an x, and then one at a time, drop them (gently) into your simmering water for thirty seconds, then remove and set aside in a bowl with a kitchen towl in the bottom.  Blanching the peaches in the hot water releases the skin, so the peels should just slide right off.

Pit and slice the peaches into wedges about 3/4 inch.  In a large bowl, add your peaches, brown sugar and white sugar, tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla. Stir with a rubber scrapper spatula til the peaches are evenly coated. Then fold in the raspberries, being gentle so you don't smash them up.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Take your dough out of the fridge and divide it in half.  Roll out one half on a well-floured surface til the dough is approximately 1/4 inch thick.  Here comes the tricky part-- roll the dough backwards onto your rolling pin so that it is draped over your pin and you are holding it off the table.  Then transfer it to your pan by starting at one end and laying it down.  Trim off the excess crust and set aside on a cookie sheet.

Add your filling to the shell, and dot with pieces of butter all over the top.

Then repeat the same process as before to roll out and transfer the top shell. Again, trim off the excess dough, leaving a lip of about 1/2 an inch.

Tuck the top edge under the bottom edge, and crimp together to seal the crust.  You can use a fork butt to press down, or just use your fingers.  Brush the top of the pie with some half and half and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (if you don't have sugar in the raw, plain sugar will be fine).

Cut slits in the top, and pop that bad boy in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes.  If the crust starts to look too dark, wrap the edges in foil. You want the insides to bubble and then cook for another 15-20 minutes so it has a chance to thicken. When it's done, it should look something like this guy. But we're not done yet....

Don't forget the pie crust cookies! As soon as you get your pie in the oven, turn your attention to your crust scraps that you set aside on a cookie sheet because you are a genius. Dot with more butter, and schmear it around once it is soft enough to spread. Then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (cimmamon mixed with sugar) and put the sheet in the oven along with your pie.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes til they are golden brown, the way pie crust should look. Once you take out the cookies, I recommend putting another pan lined with foil underneath your pie to catch drips. This will save you much hassle.

Let the pie cool for at least 3 hours before cutting.  While you wait, you can revel in the glory of your masterpiece. It will be hard the resist the urge to eat immediately, I know. But when your pie doesn't run everywhere, you will be thankful you waited. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or unadorned if you are a purist. The combination of flavors in this pie should please everyone you serve-- they are balanced, bright, and exactly what you want out of a summer fruit pie.

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