It’s September, and some of the best varieties of peaches are ripe and delicious! Steve and I usually travel over the mountains to Cashmere, Washington, and get a big box of them. One year we did this in early September and stayed over an extra night–leaving the peaches in the back of the car. It was still hot weather there, and in the morning, the car was full of fruit flies….
When you have a lot of great peaches, you can think about using five or six of them in a lovely peach pie. Weaving the strips of pie dough on the top is a little time consuming, but I think it’s worth it for your pie, at least once or twice in fruit season.
This year we had to buy our peaches locally. Since this isn’t peach country, that meant finding a fruit stand or store with a good supplier. Fortunately, they’re around, and worth looking for. There’s no substitute for perfectly ripe peaches.
And if you haven’t read it yet, go out and get Russ Parsons’ great book, “How to Pick a Peach,” which explains about ripeness and maturity and tells you how to choose, store and prepare all kinds of fruits and vegetables. It’s very informative and well written and even has recipes for a terrific simple dish you can make for each type of produce.
Of course, if you have perfect peaches, just eating them au naturel (preferably outside with the juice dripping down your chin) is the ultimate pleasure. And if you decide to make dessert, there are simpler and less caloric alternatives to pie, such as peach cobbler or crisp.
But for those of us who just must have a peach pie, there’s the top-crust only alternative. You basically just eliminate the bottom crust, so you’re making and eating only half of that buttery pie crust. Another nice aspect of the top-only pie is that you don’t have to worry about a soggy bottom crust–because there isn’t one at all!
Mark Bittman has an even better twist on this idea. Back in July he wrote about baking fruit with a patchwork pie-crust topping. Instead of weaving the pie strips together, he cut the strips into pieces and set them atop the fruit in a more rustic patchwork kind of lattice. This method makes it easier than ever to have a great peach pie.
By the way, you really do NOT need a food processor to make pie dough. I don’t have one and no one has ever complained about my pie crusts. Just use your fingers to cut the butter quickly into the flour till it’s the texture of cornmeal; then add a little ice water till the dough just comes together. That’s it. Simple, and you just wash your hands rather than all those food processor parts.
Here’s Bittman’s recipe. He used peaches and cherries in a rectangular pan. I cut the pie dough recipe in half (so it had 1/4 cup of butter, total), used some frozen raspberries instead of cherries, reduced sugar to 1/4 cup, and baked it at 400 degrees for 35 minutes in a 9-inch pie pan. Yum.