24 August 2012

Fresh Peach Pie

I believe in happy accidents. Especially when they lead to fresh pie.

I do my grocery shopping online sometimes, since it saves time and keeps me from running around crowded aisles when the Lisbon heat gets unbearable. Unfortunately, when I am online using the metric system to guess how much fruit or meat I want delivered, I tend to wildly overestimate. No matter how often I use kilograms, I still have no intuition about what a kilogram looks like in its various food forms unless it is standing right in front of me.

There was a week I had to hunt down a half dozen recipes to get rid of a giant side of pork. Another week gave us a kilo of bacon in the larder. And most recently? I bought a full bushel of saturn peaches.

I love peaches as much as the next girl, but I can only eat so many a day. And Bacalhau Boy, he is no help with fresh peaches because the fuzz freaks him out. It became apparent that there was only one sensible thing to do with our bounty: fix a pie.

I was lucky to catch a cool morning, so I seized it. Pie crust. Skinning the lovely peaches. Slicing and macerating them. Boiling the juices into a thick syrup. It was a perfect morning. It made me wish we were a wee bit closer to cool autumn weekends when pie weather breezes blow every day.

Then the pie arrived on the table, and I realized that there is a virtue to the summer fruit pie: it may be hot in the kitchen, but the sweet fresh peaches were irresistible when cooked soft in their crispy crust. Between the two of us, we finished that pie in less than 24 hours. After the first dainty after-dinner serving, we just took it on with two forks right from the pie pan. It was a perfect taste of summer and relished with abandonment.

I suppose I could get a better grasp of the size of a kilogram, but why risk missing out on these happy accidents?

Peach Pie
slightly adapted from the Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
serves 6 civilized folk or 1 greedy couple

Two-crust recipe for Perfect American Pie Crust
3 pounds of peaches (about 8 regular, or 12-14 saturn peaches)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar (plus more for dusting the crust)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Make the dough long enough in advance that it has time to rest in the fridge, preferably overnight, but at least for a couple of hours.

2. Peel the peaches. I find it is easiest to bring a large pot of water to a boil, and have another large pot filled with ice water. Pop the peaches in the boiling water for 30-45 seconds, then remove them immediately to the ice water. Let them sit there for about a minute, and when you take them out you should be able to slip them right out of their peels. (If not, just repeat the process one more time, and that should definitely do it.) Once the peaches are skinned, slice them about 1/2 inch thick.

3. Place the slices peaches in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Sprinkle on the sugar and salt and gently toss again. Let this mixture sit and macerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

4. Place a colander over a saucepan and pour the peaches in, capturing the released juices in the saucepan below. Put the peaches back in their original bowl, and toss them with the cornstarch. Put the saucepan and juices on a high heat, reducing the mixture down to about 1/3 of a cup, or until syrupy and slightly caramelized. Swirl the pan, but do not stir the liquid with a spoon.

5. As this is boiling down, remove the bottom pie crust from the fridge. Allow it to soften for a minute or ten (depending on the heat in your kitchen!) and carefully roll it out and transfer to the pie plate. Take the top pie crust out of the fridge to soften a bit.

6. Take the reduced juice syrup and pour over the peaches, stirring together. Do not be alarmed if the mixture hardens or seizes-- it will soften when it bakes. Pour the peaches into the bottom crust.

7. Roll out the top pie crust, and if you like you can cut it into strips to make a lattice top. If you are not doing a lattice top, be sure to cut a few decorative holes in the top of the crust to release the steam and prevent too much leakage. Dust the top with granulated sugar. Cover the assembled pie loosely and let it rest in the fridge for an hour before baking.

8. Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Set the pie onto a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet (there is no way peach pie doesn't leak at least a little!), and bake for 40-50 minutes. After 30 minutes, it may be necessary to put foil around the outer crust to prevent it from browning too much.

9. Cool on a pie rack for 2-3 hours before serving. It can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days (but I don't know how it would last that long!).


  1. Looks yummy. I can't wait to try it. I have just found your blog and have been enjoying all the recipes. We are an American family living in Porto and I have adapted many of my favorite recipes and added some Portuguese favorites as well. One quick question, I have not found cornstarch yet, but I notice you use it in some of your recipes. Have you found it, is it called something else or have you found a good substitute?

  2. Hello, fellow expat family! We were just in Porto this summer, it is a gorgeous city!

    And that is a very good question. I am ashamed to say that I cheat, because I smuggled a can back with me from the States and I keep in in the fridge for emergencies. I have not found it in stores here either. If you can't bring it back from the US anytime soon, amazon.co.uk has a grocery area that ships to Portugal and they sell Argo cornstarch. If you want to you can get it from there. They also have other American goodies worth shipping, you should check it out!

    In the meantime, you can try subbing plain old flour. I have used flour instead of cornstarch in some of these recipes, and while it isn't as smooth, it does the thickening trick. :)

  3. Very nice explained peach pie recipe, this is what i need! Thanks you :)