This is how it goes every summer: the first juicy peach I see, I eat, the second one goes into a pie; this peach pie–
a custardy pie with very few ingredients and no spices; just peaches, eggs, flour, sugar, and sour cream.
The first peach pie I made was in 1983 after reading Nora Ephron’s debut novel, Heartburn. In the book, Ephron described perfecting a peach pie recipe with a friend while on vacation. I got that. I spent our last family vacation at the beach perfecting no-knead artisan bread. Half the joy was having ten people at the ready to test samples with smiles on their faces and spoonfuls of homemade Roasted Rosemary and Strawberry Jam dripping off their buttered toast. Ephron’s recipe was good, but her directions were sparse. They were more like the directions of a seasoned cook, as she was — quickly scrawled notes on bits of scrap paper.
To get consistently good results, I needed to better determine when the custard would be set and learn an effective technique for preparing partially baked crusts. For pie crust help, I turned to First Prize Pies, by Allison Kave. I love her book. Thanks to her instructions, I went from making crusts with shrunken, collapsed sides to beautiful partially baked pie shells that still crested the rim of the pie plate.
My old way of filling a crust with a few ceramic beads, as seen in the photo on the left, didn’t cut it. I switched to Allison Kave’s way of lining the dough with foil that is gently pushed into the corners of the bottom layer of dough, filling the foil with two pounds of dried beans right up to the crimped edges, and covering the edges with foil to keep them from browning.
Her technique provided the side-structure needed for a good-looking crust. Baking a single-crust pie shell no longer intimidates me.
Neither does knowing when a custard filling is set. With fruit pie, you add flour, tapioca or cornstarch to the filling to thicken it. Once cooked, though, it takes longer than you would imagine, about three hours, for the filling to cool and set. When baking a custard filling with fruit, it can be even iffier because the center of the pie, although crusted over, will still be slightly wobbly when it is time to be pulled from the oven. That goes against one’s cooking instincts for determining when a dessert is sufficiently baked. You can’t depend on the time-honored knife test with this recipe. I did some research and learned you could use a digital thermometer to help determine doneness. As long as the center temperature is at least 190, the pie should finish cooking with its residual heat and set within a few hours as it cools. It takes 50” to cook this pie in my oven.
Another thing about pie crusts, although I know how to make them, I still buy Trader Joe’s uncooked, rolled crust from their freezer section for convenience. The trick to unfurling their prepared crust without it falling apart is to let the dough defrost completely on the counter for ninety minutes. If you want to learn how to make a beautiful pie crust from scratch, go to King Arthur Flour’s website. They have excellent instructional videos.
A single 9-inch pie crust that is partially baked
3 cups (6-9 peaches) ripe, peeled peaches, at room temp
5 large egg yolks
1 to 1¼ cups granulated sugar (less if peaches are super-ripe, more if not so sweet)
3 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour (more if your peaches are very juicy)
½ cup sour cream
Mise en Place:
Partially bake the pie crust:
Preheat oven to 425º.
Grease the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.
Lay the single crust inside the pie plate. Crimp the edges. Poke fork holes in the bottom to help decrease shrinkage.
Place a layer of aluminum foil over the crust, gently pushing it into the bottom edges and around the upper crimped edges. Fill with two pounds of dried beans as shown in the photos above. The beans need to fill the shell completely to keep the sides from collapsing.
Place the pie plate on the middle rack of a preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn crust 180º and bake for another five minutes. I recommend setting a timer. Remove crust and place on a wire rack to cool for 1-2 minutes before gently removing foil and beans.
Prep the filling while the crust cooks:
Peel the peaches and slice. You do not want to use hard peaches — they lack flavor. If they don’t taste good enough to eat, they won’t taste good in a pie. If you use drippy-ripe peaches, let them drain a little in a colander while you make the custard. If you use frozen or canned peaches, drain them.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk. Add sugar and flour and stir. Add sour cream and whisk until batter appears smooth.
Put it all together:
Decrease oven temperature to 350º.
Lay the peaches in the bottom of the crust.
Pour filling over it. Cover the crimped edges with an edge protector, or foil, to keep them from browning any further.
Bake the pie for 50-60” on the middle rack of 350º oven. When done, the filling should be golden on top, the outer 4 inches of the pie should be firmly set, and the center should be almost firm. Read notes above on testing for doneness.
Now, let’s just say you have a tableful of hungry guests who have finished dinner, have been smelling the pie cooking, and are waiting for dessert. In that case, I would cook the pie 15″ longer to firm it up more quickly and serve it warm.
Other Pie Recipes on the Blog:
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Mom’s Apple Pie (with a cheddar streusel topping)
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
Very Berry Clafoutis
Quiche Lorraine with Bacon and Kale
Stocking Stuffers: Tools for the Cooking Life
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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright