I remember my first time.

I was ten, yes, a young ten. It was 1955 and I was walking through the famed Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles. It was my first return to California since we left in 1948. I smelled something, something wonderful. A whole sheet of freshly baked peach pies. And one of them had been sliced open. There before me was a golden peach pie, oozing peaches sliding out, the aroma of hot crust and peaches filling the pie stall. I’ve never forgotten it.

I don’t remember if I actually ate pie that day, but I do eat peach pie anytime I can now. I think peach pie is the best, simply the best. I know, “as American as apple pie.” Well, apples can be stored. Peaches can’t. So, if peaches are available, grab them – gently of course – and bake away.

Yesterday I posted Basic Flakey Pie Pastry from Pie by Ken Haedrich. Here is his signature peach pie. It’s All-Peach with just one careful addition. Vanilla bean is used to make vanilla sugar, which is applied to peach filling, dusted over the top of the baking pie, and to flavor whipped cream to top the pie slices as they are served.

We do two out of three: flavor the peaches and sprinkle on top. Whipped cream on top of peach pie? They make do that in South Carolina where Ken is, but in Southern California we do not decorate our peach pies.

Yes, the picture shows a bit of a runny pie. That’s the nature of peach pie. If you put in enough cornstarch to prevent that spread, you’ll be eating a cornstarch pie. Just get a spoon and share the spreading peach glory with all your guests. Or yourself if you are one of those people who can eat an entire peach pie by themselves.

There are no witnesses to my having every done that. Not one.

Oh, Ken says to let the pie cool for two hours. That’s if you do want to top with whipped cream or ice cream. Otherwise, let it sit for a few minutes and enjoy the intensity of hot, steamy, running peach pie.


Basic Flaky Pie Pastry

Yield: one double crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe for double crust pie [see the post for Basic Flaky Pie Pastry]
  • 1 plump vanilla bean
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 cups peeled, pitted, and thickly sliced ripe peaches
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preparation:

If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.

On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the larger portion of the pastry into a 12-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9-inch standard pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it and let the overhang drape over the edge. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise. With the blade of a paring knife, scrape the seed out of the bean and into a food processor. Add the sugar and process for about 1 minute (If the machine sends up a cloud of sugar dust through the feed tube, just cover the tub with your hand.) Transfer the vanilla sugar to a small bowl. Mix ½ cup of the vanilla sugar with the cornstarch in another bowl and keep it nearby.

Combine the peaches, sugar-cornstarch mixture, and lemon juice in a large bowl Mix well and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On another sheet of floured waxed paper, roll the other half of the pastry into 10-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell, smoothing the top with your hands or a spoon. Dot the top of the fruit with the butter. Lightly moisten the rim of the pie shell. Invert the top pastry over the filling, center, and peel off the paper. Press the top and bottom pastries together along the dampened edge. Using the back of a butter knife or pastry knife, trim the pastry flush with the edge of the pan. Poke several steam vents in the top of the pie with a fork or paring knife. Put a couple of the vents near the edge of the crust so you can check the juices there later.

Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375°F and rotate the pie 180 degrees, so that the part that faced the of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking onto the rack below to catch any spills. Continue to bake until the top is a deep brown and the juices visible at the side vents bubble thickly, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and immediately sprinkle half the vanilla sugar (about W cup) over the top. Set aside on the wire rack to cool for at least hours.


Source: Pie by Ken Haedrich [Harvard Common Press, 2004]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for 1/30th second at ISO‑200