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Hang on to Summer with Peaches and Cream Pie

There’s still time to savor summer with peaches at their prime baked into a wonderful pie that has the ice cream baked right in.

One of my most liberating culinary discoveries was that it’s not absolutely necessary to peel a peach – whether it’s for pie or muffins or scones – much of the nutrients and fiber are in the skin, so not only are you adding work, you’re losing some of the health benefits of the fruit. And since you eat the skin too when you devour a whole fresh peach, why not? Cooking softens it, so you won’t even notice it’s there.

Pie is easy, really. Just don’t sweat it – pastry smells fear. All you need to remember is to keep the pastry ingredients really, really cold (you could even go so far as to freeze your butter solid, then grate it into the dry ingredients using the coarse side of a box grater), don’t blend the fat in completely (leave lumps no bigger than a pea) and once the water is added don’t handle it too much, or stretch it to fit the pan. I really dislike a stodgy pie, but on the other hand have a bit of a pie soup phobia, as I suppose most cooks do; a result of a particularly huge disaster when I was a kid. Tonight, the pie could not have sliced more beautifully and the crust wasn’t soggy in the least. Phew.

I chose a peaches and cream pie, meaning a cup of cream was added to the peaches and sugar before pouring the lot into the pastry shell and lidding it – the result wasn’t so much custardy as creamy – the juices oozed out like melted ice cream when you cut a slice. Do let it cool completely, which will give it a chance to set up before you cut into it. This recipe has apparently won many a gold ribbon at the annual Harrow Fair – an annual agricultural fair in Harrow, Ontario that has been a tradition since 1854. This is what I love about cooking – some things just don’t change with technology.

I typically use my Grandma’s pastry recipe, but I tried a formula from from The Harrow Fair Cookbook that called for an egg and some vinegar (it won’t add flavour, but will relax the gluten), and it was pretty fantastic. The recipe is below.

Peaches & Cream Pie

from The Harrow Fair Cookbook, by Moira Sanders and Lori Elstone with Beth Goslin Maloney – reprinted with permission from Whitecap Books

Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. quick-cooking tapioca (I used cornstarch)
pinch fine sea salt
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla
4 cups pitted, sliced fresh peaches (the recipe specifies peeling but I didn’t bother, and used a little more than 4 cups)

1 recipe favourite pie crust (below)
extra cream, for brushing on top (optional)
sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, tapioca and salt. Whisk in the cream and vanilla. Toss the peaches in the cream mixture and set aside for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Roll out one disk of pie dough to fit a 9-inch pie plate, trimming pastry to 1/2-inch past the edge of the plate. Spoon the filling into the shell.

Roll the remaining crust out to a 9-inch circle and lay atop the filling (cutting slits or holes for steam to escape) or cut into 1-inch wide strips and make a lattice crust. Trim the edges of the top pastry to match the bottom, and crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork. If you like, brush the top of the pie with cream, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden and bubbling (if you like, place the pie on a baking sheet to catch drips). Cool to room temperature before slicing. Makes 1 pie.

Favourite Pie Crust

from The Harrow Fair Cookbook, by Moira Sanders and Lori Elstone with Beth Goslin Maloney – reprinted with permission from Whitecap Books

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 cup lard, chilled and cubed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 large egg
2 tsp. vinegar
ice cold water

In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the lard and butter and blend with a pastry cutter or food processor until it’s blended with some pieces of fat the size of small peas.

In a small dish or measuring cup, stir the egg and vinegar together with a fork, then add cold water to make 1/2 cup. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together.

Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Makes enough for one double-crust or two single-crust pies.

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