It never would have occurred to the Editor’s grandmother to cook fruit before baking it in a pie. Such a thing simply was not done in rural New England, and those pies were the best that anyone ever tasted. We are nothing if not open minded and flexible here at britishfoodinamerica, however, so when we found a recipe from English Food by Mrs. Grigson that does cook the filling we decided to try it. English Food does not include a recipe for peach pie but does have one using apricots, so we adapted it. The results, predictably, were excellent. Mrs. Grigson does not let you down.
For the pastry: Our favorite method of making a standard pie crust at the moment originates, of all sources, with Martha Stewart. Her recipe appears verbatim in several of her cookbooks: She has taken her lead from Darina Allen and repackaged the same content to excessive extent. Nonetheless the recipe is good. Its sole innovation from traditional British models is the use of a food processor, which not only prevents the cramped fingers that often result from cutting cold butter into flour but also creates a consistently flaky crust because you do not overknead it. More than enough pastry for a double crusted nine inch pie.
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ lb cold unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes
- ¼ - ½ cup iced water
- Put everything but the water in a food processor and bash for no more than 10 seconds, or until the mixture takes the texture of corn meal.
- Dribble a little of the water into the processor while it is running until the pastry adheres. Do not let the dough get sticky: Do not run the food processor for more than 30 seconds.
- Lay the pastry onto a sheet of plastic wrap, shape it into a disc, wrap it in the plastic and then refrigerate it for at least half an hour before making your pie.
For the filling:
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup Demerara or Turbinado sugar
- about 1 ½ lb peeled peaches cut into 6 – 8 wedges: consistency of shape is more important than size.
1. Melt the butter in a big heavy skillet over medium/low heat, then melt the sugar in the butter.
2. Turn the peaches gently in the glaze until coated: Do not let them cook or bleed any juice.
To assemble the pie: You will want a beaten egg as well.
Preheat the oven to 450°.
- Roll half of the pastry into a disc big enough to cover your pie plate with some overhang.
- Pile the peaches into the dish in a mound.
- Roll out enough pastry to form the top crust, brush the rim of the bottom crust with some of the egg and cover the pie.
- Crimp the edges with a fork at right angles to the rim, trim away excess pastry and cut a hole in the center of the pie.
- Brush the top crust with egg.
- Bake the pie for 15 minutes or until it turns gold, lower the heat to 350° and bake until golden brown, usually about 15 minutes more.
- If you add too much water to the pastry it will turn soggy instead of crisp; overprocessing will cause problems too.
- The teaspoon of sugar in the pastry is optional but it does help the crust to crisp. Throughout the centuries some bakers have added it and others have not.
- Sometimes the Editor adds a little allspice and cinnamon to the glaze, maybe more times than not.
-If you have a pie bird this is a good place to use it.
- If you have a glut of peaches they make an excellent nontraditional fool. Simmer chunks of peeled peach with a drip of port (ripe ones will not require sugar) and let them cool before folding them into glasses with cream that you have barely whipped.
- You should have enough pastry left (recycle your scraps) for some four-inch tarts, two of them if covered, four if open. It will keep, refrigerated, for a good week.
- According to Mrs. Grigson, the legendary Carême was much taken with this traditional English pie, otherwise unknown to the French. Carême included this and other recipes he found in London in Le Cuisinier Parisien, published during 1828. “He describes a brown-glazed English pie dish most carefully for his French readers, like a soup plate, with its wide rim but twice as deep.” (English Food, London 1974, 269)
- Carême recommends the glaze for fruit pies other than apricot too; cherries, damsons, gooseberries, greengages, pears, plums and redcurrants. Oddly enough he neglects the peach. As Mrs. Grigson notes, “the preliminary coating of the fruit in butter and sugar produces a most delicious flavor.” (English Food 269)