In Season: Peaches, Peaches, Peaches!

    IMG_5631I bought a case of peaches over the weekend and they are all ripe today. It is going to be peaches, peaches, peaches this week!

     I generally go to a fruit market to buy produce in bulk because they tend to treat their product with the care and respect it deserves. There is nothing more annoying and discouraging than having fruit rot before it ripens because of rough handling at the store.IMG_5642

     These peaches are destined to be eaten out of hand–but over the sink because they are so juicy–as well as in cereal for breakfast and as cobbler and fresh peach pie. I’d have to say peach pie is my favorite way to eat peaches in August!

    The recipe for peach pie filling I use comes from the ever-dependable Betty Crocker Cookbook, but the crust is always my grandmother’s.  I thought I’d share my grandmother’s recipe for crust and my mother’s technique for working with pastry.

     Crust recipes are generally pretty simple. Flour, water, salt, and some kind of fat.

 Manga’s Pie Crust Recipe

  • 2 ¼ cup flour
  • ¾ cup shortening, plus 2 tablespoons set aside
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup ice water

     I use vegetable shortening. More health conscious people sometimes use oil or butter. This recipe works well with butter but not oil.

     The techinique you use when working the dough makes the difference between a flakey, tender crust or a hard, leathery crust. I learned from my mother, who learned from her mother, and I have taught my daughter this way of working with pastry as well. (It also works when you want tender, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits!)

  1. Cut together flour and ¾ cup shortening with a pastry cutter (If you don’t have one, don’t mess around–go out and buy one!) until it has a pebbly texture. If you are using butter for the fat portion of this recipe, be sure that it is cold and solid.
  2. Cut in the last 2 tablespoons of fat until it is in about pea-sized pieces. The idea is to have some bigger hunks of fat in there that will cause the pastry to be even flakier. (The dough will have a marbled appearance when you roll it out. That fat melts into the flour of the dough in multiple layers as each ball of fat, big and small, is flattened by the rolling pin.)
  3. Add water by dribbling it evenly over the entire area of the crumb mixture. The water must be ice cold. You don’t want your fat melting or softening before you roll it out.
  4. Mix with a fork. Lift and toss the mixture together while turning the bowl and working each section of the circular bottom of the bowl. (Add a teaspoon or two more water if the mixture is too dry at this point and not clumping together at all. Flour is drier in the winter or in air conditioned conditions and may need more moisture.) Then stir it all together to roughly form a big lump and empty onto a lightly floured surface. (At this stage, it is important to do as little stirring as possible. You want to keep the fat in as large globs as possible for flakey crust later.)
  5. Gather all the clumpy dough with your hands and press together to form a solid ball that doesn’t fall apart. Press it together a couple of times until it holds together when you take your hands away. (Once again, you don’t want to overwork the dough or you will have tough crust.)
  6. Divide the ball of dough in half with a metal spatula. One half will be the bottom crust and the other half will be the top crust. (If you are only going to use one crust, you can flatten the other half into a disk between a couple of pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper, wrap in tin foil, and freeze in a zip-top plastic bag for later use. When ready to use, allow the crust to thaw in it’s wrapping before rolling out.)
  7. Roll out the dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. If the dough sticks to the floured rolling pin, you can lightly flour the surface of the dough you are working, but the less flour on the pin and dough being rolled out the better.
  8. Then the dough is the right size for your baking pan or pie dish, run a metal spatula under the dough, slightly tipped sideways so that it carries some flour with it to make it slide under more easily. Be patient so you don’t gouge or tear the crust as you free it.
  9. Fold the crust in half and move your pie plate right next to the crust so you don’t have to move it more than a few inches to get it in the pan. (Don’t forget to cut the vent openings in the top curst while it is folded.)

    Your first attempts at crust will not be perfect. The more pies and crusts that you make, the better you will become. I had to go back to my mother a couple of times for a refresher after not having made a pie for a while. This crust will turn out tender every time if you treat it kindly. You can’t be ham-fisted with pastry and get good results. My mother had the master’s touch, she made crust so wonderful that my Dad (who was thoroughly spoiled) would complain bitterly that it fell apart before he could get it to his mouth. (I would have picked up a frying pan at this point. . . .but my mom was a saint and ignored his gracelessness.)

     Go out and buy some peaches for pie, and let me know how your crust turned out! Begonia

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