Usually if someone asks me what my favourite pie is, I say that I have two favourites – peach and pumpkin. No vanilla ice cream, no whipped cream, just unadulterated peach pie and pumpkin pie. And while a good cherry pie may be inching its way into being a favourite also, I still think these two are holding strong. I love autumn a lot, and pumpkin pie seems like the most quintessential autumn thing, but still, there’s something I’ve always found to be extra special about peach pie.
It’s probably no coincidence that the only pies I remember my grandmother Marnie (the pie guru whose pie-a-week advice I am undertaking here) making and serving us were peach and pumpkin. I don’t ever remember her making an apple pie, a strawberry rhubarb, or anything else for that matter. I’m sure that when she was younger and routinely made pies for dessert at Sunday night dinner that she made a much wider variety of pies than these two. But by the time she was in her late 70s and 80s, they are the only pies I remember her serving me. So surely I love these two pies the most because of emotional attachments and nostalgia and everything, though I also think they are truly the best pies. I think peach pie has always seemed extra special to me because for the many years in between when Marnie stopped baking pies and when I started, I never got to have peach pie. It’s not that common! I’m sure that in some places – like in Georgia or in Beverly Hills – peach pie may be more common. But I never saw a straight-up peach pie anywhere during all those years of longing for one. I actually think this is the reason I decided to learn how to make pie 4 years ago – I was tired of dreaming about a peach pie, I wanted one to be in my belly.
Last year I think I made the best peach pie I’ve ever made. It’s the pie that is pictured in this blog’s header photo. Peach pie can be tricky because it gets REALLY soupy, because the peaches give off a lot of liquid, and if you’re not careful it will be peach soup with some pastry for garnish.
This pie turned into peach soup with some pastry for garnish.
I am absolutely one of those people who gets very sad and frustrated by cooking and baking that doesn’t turn out how I want it. With most things like that, the answer is usually “it’s still going to taste good!”. I cut into this pie before it had cooled completely (I don’t think it would have made that much of a difference, it was still soupy later on) and was incredibly dismayed. This time, the whole “it will still taste good!” didn’t work for me – I knew it to be true, and it was true, and I was glad for that of course. But when you’re making a pie a week for an entire year, you want them to be better than that. And when most of your pies have been turning out pretty great, and then your favourite pie ever turns out kind of disastrous? I was very sad. I used a recipe that I don’t think I’ve used before, and I don’t think it called for quite enough thickener. And I may have rolled my crusts too thinly for such a wet pie, because they almost disintegrated. I wanted a do-over.
So, I made another one. Yes, this is the story of when I made two peach pies in one week. I didn’t make another peach pie right away, though. First, I internally sulked for 3 days, and then I wrote most of this blog post and realized that I would only feel better if I tried again, and hopefully succeeded. Now, it can be alarming how much my own feelings of self-worth sometimes seem to hinge on little things like the successful baking of a pie, but this was about more than that – this was about wanting to have my favourite pie before peach season ends. This is a project inspired by Marnie, so how could I let peach season slip by with only a sad soupy pie to show for it? This was emotional, nostalgic, important to me. I wrote most of this blog post, and then immediately decided to make a pie that day. I went out, bought 7 peaches and came home and started over.
Of course, first I needed to figure out – what did I do wrong the first time? I had a sneaking suspicion that I needed to include more thickener in the pie, so I did that. I tried to roll my crusts a little less thin, and I made sure they weren’t too sticky and that they were properly chilled. I’m sure it helped that I made the second version of this pie on a much cooler day. But when I found the peach pie recipe that I used the first time I ever made peach pie on my own – the America’s Test Kitchen, allegedly foolproof recipe – I found something that I think made a world of difference. LATTICE TOP. Now, I’ve made very good, non-soupy peach pies with a full top crust at least 2 or 3 times before, so I know it can be done. But, in addition to obviously being very pretty, the lattice top allows for maximum liquid evaporation while the pie bakes in the oven. There’s just wayyy more room for steam to escape, therefore allowing the liquidy centre to reduce and thicken as it cooks. Lattice top was the way to go, because I didn’t want to have a second failure in one week.
And people, round two turned out GREAT. Really great. Paul claimed it had the perfect balance of tart and sweet. It wasn’t remotely soupy. The crust was crispy and flaky and beautifully browned. I’m eating a piece with my morning coffee as we speak, and I couldn’t be happier.
- one double crust pastry
- 6-8 medium to large peaches (enough to make 7 cups sliced)
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. instant tapioca
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- pinch of cinnamon
- few gratings of fresh nutmeg
- 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
While your pastry is chilling, peel, pit, and slice your peaches. You can keep them in a bowl with water and lemon juice to keep them from browning while you work. Roll out your bottom crust, leaving an inch of overhang crust and then chill. Drain peaches, and combine them with the lemon juice, tapioca, both sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Roll out top crust, cut into lattice strips. Put peach filling into bottom crust, and then assemble your lattice top crust. Trim lattice strip edges to the diameter of the pie, and then fold over bottom crust edge, pinching lattice strips with it. Crimp pie edge. Brush lattice top with egg wash, if using. Cover crust edge with tinfoil. Bake pie at 425 for 15-20 minutes, and then turn the temperature down to 375 for another 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting. ENJOY.