Monday, August 24, 2009

"Fresh peach pie can lift a bullying reprobate into apologetic courtesy; I have watched it happen."Leif Enger (Peace Like a River)
Last Saturday Kara and I went for an early morning drive to Niagara Produce, a half closed half open air market boasting a large variety of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats as well as flowers, plants, bird feeding supplies and garden ornaments. Located in East Amherst, at the crossroads of Millersport Highway and Transit Road, it is well worth the short drive from many areas around Buffalo. Going to Niagara Produce always makes me feel more ecologically friendly for cooking with local in season produce.
Just seeing all of the colors gets me in the mood to dash home for more fun playing with food in my kitchen. Saturday our main focus was to purchase fresh peaches. Just picked from the orchards there is a plentiful supply of Red Haven Freestone Peaches so I bought a half bushel to make pies and cobbler.

The peaches were just a bit too firm not yet at peak flavor so I stored them in closed brown paper bags in the pantry overnight to ripen. A gentle Sunday afternoon rain dropped the temperature enough to justify turning on my oven.

Let's being by first washing the peaches. I like to give the sink a good scrubbing with a bleaching cleanser then rinse well before filling my kitchen sink with warm water. Add about a cup of cider vinegar to the water then allow the peaches to float and bounce around in the water for twenty minutes.

A grocery store produce aisle product - a spray bottle of "fruit and vegetable cleaner with the main ingredients being vinegar and water can be made very cheaply, for the cost of a spray bottle and a bottle of vinegar (which you probably already have in your cupboard, anyway.)To make the solution, simply mix a few tablespoons of vinegar with the water in the spray bottle (Don't worry, it doesn't leave a smell on your produce, and it works great!)

Since fiber and nutrition are a goal in my baking I prefer to leave the sanitized skins on the peach flesh. Simply cut crosswise into the peach give a sharp twist and the peach should separate into halves if you bought the freestone peaches. If the peaches are not freestone well then good luck you have a mess on your hands. Proceed to remove the peach seed stones beginning with the peaches that have a little give when you apply slight pressure best to begin with the most ripe fruits first. All peels seeds and organic scaps go into my compose.

Slice the fruit into a large bowl add some ground cinnamon, sprinkle in about 2 tablespoons of uncooked instant tapioca then add a sprinkle of raw sugar or honey to make the juices begin to flow. Continue until the bowl is filled with fresh peach mixture as you will need a mound of fresh fruits to fill the pie crust. It is nice to bake the extra fruit in a glass dish to be baked whn you place the pie in the oven.

Since I choose to cut the amount of sugar in my cooking the addition of some fresh blueberries add a nice color and natural sweetness to the pie. Experiment with your own combinations remember my goal is to help you enjoy working in your kitchen not to give step by step instructions. YOU are the chef so experiment with what you have in your kitchen and from what you have learned that works for you. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set the fresh fruit bowl aside to create it's own juices while you work on the pastry crust.

There are as many ways to make a Peach Pie as there are people who enjoy baking. Perfectly good quality pie commercial pie crust is available in your grocers freezer and dairy case. My goal is to enjoy being in my kitchen not just have a pie so I make my own pastry. For years I make my own pie crust using white flour and Crisco shortening or butter.

Over the years I have given up the flaky pie crust in favor of a more heart healthy version that is more substantial in texture. All of my pie crusts have begun in the same way for over twenty years in my Cuisinart Food processor. This food processor which my mother would describe as not owing me a penny must be over twenty years old. I know it is that old because the label on the bottom says Made in Japan.

The reason to use a food processor to make pastry crust is because the heat of our hands melts the fat of the butter/Crisco shortening there by make a tough crust. Hence a pastry blender or food processor removes the heat factor from the chilled ingredients until the baking process creates a flaky crust as the fat melts between the flour particles creating layers.

Into the food processor add about two and one half cups of flour ingredients made from a combination of; unbleached flour, whole wheat four, oat meal, wheat germ, flax get the point.

Now add about a 1/2 cup olive oil and a dash of salt. Pulse the food processor on/off cutting oil into the flour in high speed until all of the olive oil is incorporated into the flour. The mixture should looks like sand particles. Now spoon 1/2 cup cold skim milk into the spinning mixture one tablespoon at a time until the pastry pulls away from the sides and forms into a soft ball. It is fine if you need to alternate a bit more flour or a drop of oil or milk. Remember this is not brain surgery, no one is going to die if you make a mistake, the point is to enjoy working in your kitchen so have fun with this.

With your rubber spatula turn the pastry crust on to a lightly floured pastry cloth. Not a big fan of the rolling pin cover as a dusting of the unbleached flour will keep the pastry from sticking. My slightly used pastry cloth can be reused a few times between washings as the flour content and extra dough are dusted away before being folded in a plastic freezer bag and then quickly returned for for safe keeping frozen between my baking sessions.

Roll out the bottom crust into a circle larger than the pie pan, fold in half then lift into pie pan, fit into bottom then around the sides before cutting excess away from around the edges. Flute the edges of the pie crust at this point if making an open pie or roll out another crust for the top. By now the sugar should have drawn some juices out of the peaches. The addition of the instant tapioca will absorb some of the juices to help eliminate the dreaded pie spill over puddle at the bottom of your oven. For extra protection, I place the pie on a Pie Oven Guard in case the pie juice really runs over the edges.

Pies are usually baked in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes to begin browning then turn oven temperature down to 375 for 45 minutes. Experiment with the heat of your oven. Begin at a lower temp then bake for a longer time if pie seems to be browning too quickly.

My pies are more dense and less sweet than commercial pies, however, they are more filling and more nutritious so you will eat it more slowly consequently consuming less quantity.
Experiment with your own pie baking adventure then let me know what you prefer.

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