Thursday, August 20, 2009

Battle of the peach pies

Now this was the Peach Pie I wanted to make for Mom's birthday party. Isn't it beautiful? I know, I should have taken a shot of it after it was actually baked, but I couldn't find the right lighting (it's the only excuse I can think of!).

So here's the saga. I found this great recipe that ran in the Seattle P-I three years ago that I always wanted to make, and after Nicole served me some delicious peach pie last week, I knew I had to finally give it a whirl.

But unfortunately, I went to the local Asian store, HT Oaktree Market, for my supplies. Technically it's an "ethnic" store, which I should be the first to admit since I went there to buy the usual: Mexican food. Well, sometimes I get Asian food there, too! But no, usually it's Mexican food fixins.

Anyway, since Stephen doesn't have a grill, we decided tacos would be nice and easy for the 13 people (including three, count 'em, three teenage girls) that would be eating at his house. I made another P-I recipe: Mexican Pulled Pork, and he sauteed some spiced-up chicken with garlic and onions to go with all the expected fare: cole slaw (with a little chipotle), a few homemade salsas from Stephen (we'll have to ask him for the recipes), tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, refried beans, Mai Ling's Guacamole (ask nicely and maybe I'll share) that actually was devoured before the tacos were served, a billion different kinds of tortillas, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few special details. Alas we hadn't considered that maybe the Asian side of the family wasn't very familiar with tacos ... but hey, let's be honest, some of the stuff I eat at their house I'm pretty unfamiliar with, too!

Needless to say, there were some leftovers. But there wasn't any leftover pie, and talk about an ugly pie. Why, you ask?

Well, I know I should make my own pie crust, but somebody's got to keep the Pillsbury Dough Boy alive. So I sought him out at the HT Mart, but all I could find were crappy frozen crusts. Nor could I find the vanilla bean needed for Hsiao-Ching Chou's recipe. So I thawed out my frozen crusts and searched my unphotographic memory for the recipe Nicole had used when I was at her house: six peaches, 1/3 c. flour, 2/3 c. sugar and 1/4 t. cinnamon. Turned out fabulous ... but ugly. Using a frozen crust, no matter how thawed out it is, simply cannot look good on top of a pie.

Obviously, it didn't matter to the eaters, so I shouldn't care, but I just had to prove that I could make it pretty.

So later in the week, I got my standby Pillsbury refrigerated crusts and set out to make this beaut. Okay, here's the disclaimer. It was totally soupy!!! I think maybe the peaches were too ripe, if that's possible. Or maybe I didn't bake it long enough? Or maybe the beautiful crust is to blame, because unlike the first crust that expelled half the peaches' juices, this one kept 'em all in. Soupy, sure, but dang, did it taste good. Here's the P-I's recipe, from "The Baker's Dozen Cookbook":

Vanilla Peach Pie
3/4 c. packed light or dark brown sugar
3 T. all-purpose flour (I wouldn't hold it against you if you added a little more, just in case!)
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1-inch piece vanilla bean, split
7 ripe medium peaches, peeled pitted and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 T. fresh lemon juice
Butter Pie Dough or Cream Cheese Pie Dough (or Pillsbury!!!)
1 T. unsalted butter

In a medium bowl, mix the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Using the tip of a knife, scrape out the tiny seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the mixture. The pod can be saved for another purpose or discarded. Add the peaches and lemon juice and toss.

Fit the dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Fill the shell with the peach mixture and dot with butter. Trim the overhanging dough to a 1/2-inch overhang. Center the remaining dough over the filling. Fold the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and pinch together firmly to seal. Crimp the dough. Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow the steam to escape. Place the pie on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Bake the pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the peaches are tender when pierced through a slit with the tip of a knife, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Cool 1-2 hours before cutting.