Monday, July 26, 2010

Can she bake cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

I’m certainly not a young thing and long ago left my mother, but am delighted to report my very first, unassisted pie-baking success.

The backstory: I can cook reasonably well, and pie fillings turn out great, but homemade pie crust has been my Waterloo. The results have not only been unappetizing, but often inedible and sometimes un-bakeable. This has been known as Tania’s Annual Pie Attempt around here and there have, at times, been tears.

This year I sought help. The talented Jen, who demonstrated sourdough bread earlier this year, invited me over to watch/assist her with some pies while our children went forth and played. Heaven – cooking, adult conversation, and my child safely occupied elsewhere. Thanks to Jen, I went home armed with the best blueberry pie ever

...and a round of dough to try baking myself.

For my solo attempt, I went with this peach and crème fraîche pie. Last year’s try resulted in a gloriously peachy and light filling inside of a dense, hard, greasy pie shell. I scooped out the middle and threw out the crust. This year I rolled and chilled and parbaked and… ended with a decent crust that somehow went short. For some reason, I lost the edges and the thing looked more like a very rustic tart. Frustration.

Do you see a crust? I don't.

Weeks passed and we found ourselves prepping for a small dinner party. It’s still peach season and I decided to try again. Braving record-setting high temperatures, my family sweltered at the farmer’s marker for (and I wish I could type out the drawl) “sweet peaches” from West Virginia. Huge, soft, and so juicy-they-can-only-be-eaten-over-the-sink, I felt the need to put them in a pie.

Enter Cook’s Illustrated and their Foolproof Pie Dough and Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible.

CI, with my tips from Jen, gave me a workable dough. Rose is my new hero and her meticulous, multi-step process for both the crust and the filling (wow – what a filling!), yielded my very first, very good, double-crust peach pie… that disappeared immediately.

Here it is before it vanished:

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