Sunday, August 5, 2012

Middle Crust Anyone?

Another weekend is almost gone ~ why is it they just fly by?  We were gone most of the day yesterday and when we got home I realized that the gorgeous large peaches I paid a mint for were rapidly getting too ripe.  I sprung into action and turned them into a peach pie.  I'm not sure what I did this time, but it tastes just like Grammy Rose's pie.  Every time I pass through the kitchen I have to sneak a spoonful.

Here is my recipe for peach pie and a pie crust secret that has passed from cook to cook in our family for several generations.  First the simplest of pie recipes:

Pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie (use your favorite homemade or buy a box of the refrigerated crust)
1 egg, beaten
5 or 6 cups fresh peaches,  peeled and sliced
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (if your peaches are extra juicy, add a little extra flour)
1 cup granulated sugar (a little less if your peaches are really sweet)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (scant) nutmeg
2 Tablespoons cold butter

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C)

Line a 9-inch deep pie pan with crust and lightly brush the crust with a little of the beaten egg to prevent it from getting soggy later.

Place sliced peaches in a large bowl and toss gently with the lemon juice.  In a separate bowl combine the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Pour over peaches and mix gently.  Pour peaches into crust and put small dots of butter over the top.  Top with the other crust and flute edges.  Brush the top crust with cream or half & half and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut a few slits in the top to let steam escape.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees (175 degrees C) degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes longer .  The crust should be golden and juice should bubble through the slits you cut.  If the edges are browning too fast, cover them with strips of foil.  Obviously it is really important to remember to turn the oven temperature down after 10 minutes ~~~ask me how I know!   Note:  I thicken fruit pies with flour rather than cornstarch  because that's how Grandma taught me. 

Let the pie cool to warm before serving  to allow the juices to thicken.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.....Yum.   I'm sorry but our pie didn't last long enough for me to take pictures of it for the blog.
HERE IS MY SECRET FOR MAKING FLAKY CRUST:  Fat mixed with flour is what makes crust flaky.  Not overworking your crust is important also. My favorite fat for crust is cold lard (I can hear my arteries cringing).  You can make really good crust with lard, butter or shortening.  Where it all goes south is when you add the liquid (usually water)...this is what makes your crust less than flaky and if you add to much, soggy.  For generations the women in my family have substituted moonshine, vodka or whiskey for half of the water you would normally use.  As the crust bakes the alcohol evaporates and you are left with a flaky, delicious crust with no taste of your secret ingredientl!  I have heard stories of Grandpa sneaking through the woods to buy moonshine during Prohibition so Grandma could make her pies! 

Speaking of Grandma, she made the best pies I've ever eaten.  She was famous for her peach cobbler, which she made in the largest roasting pan she could find.  In our family cobbler is serious business and it is not that sissy stuff with dumplings floating atop cooked fruit.  Grandma's cobblers were huge deep-dish pies with crust on the top, in the middle and on the bottom.  In our family we all love the crust best and have been known to have heated arguments if someone takes more than their fair share.  Grandma found a clever solution to this problem so peace could reign in her home.  The solution is known as the Middle Crust. 

Grandma would prepare a huge amount of pie crust and divided it into three portions.  She rolled one crust out in the shape of the bottom her cobbler pan and slid it onto a cookie sheet and sprinkled it lightly with cinnamon sugar.  This was baked until golden brown while Grandma rolled out her bottom crust and fit it into her pan and mixed her peaches.  Half of the peach mixture was placed on top of the bottom crust and dotted with butter.  The middle crust was placed on top of the first layer of peaches and then the remaining peaches, more butter dots, and the top crust was added.  The top of the cobbler was brushed with cream, sprinkled with sugar and baked.

Occasionally I will make a Mddle Crust Cobbler for a special occasion when lots of guests will be on hand.  Middle crust cobblers don't keep well due to being surrounded top and bottom by pie juice.  Keeping anything middle crust has never been a problem around our place.  We love it best in peach, apple or blackberry.  

Pies are serious business in our area and they are the first items to be auctioned off at benefits.  My husband beams with pride when one of Miss Barb's middle crust cobblers has grown men acting like fools to bid on it. 

Wishing you a day filled with Peace & Plenty and a big bowl of middle crust!

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