The Platonic Ideal of Cream Peach Pie

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Three out of the first four recipes that I’ve contributed to this blog have been pie recipes, but that isn’t a problem, right? After all, it’s a universal law that everything tastes better when you put it in a pastry crust – even swiss chard. Next week, we’ll move on to Mexican zucchini lasagna, but for now, we’re still riding the Pie Train.

This week’s post is about cream peach pie. Flaky crust, warm peach slices, sweet   creamy custard. Pie perfection.

A couple of summers ago, I looked everywhere for a cream peach pie recipe, and although I found a couple of sufficient ones, I wasn’t quite satisfied. Then last spring, I bought an entire cookbook in Washington, DC just because it had a recipe for cream peach pie. And what a recipe it is! Even if I never make another thing out of that cookbook, it was worth every dollar. This recipe is the Platonic ideal, the εἶδος of cream peach pies. It’s the pie I was waiting for. You’ve been waiting for it too, haven’t you?

Cream Peach Pie
adapted from Washington, DC Chef’s Table

Crust:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter Crisco shortening
2/3 cup + 2 tbs. ice water

Filling:
3/4 cup sugar + extra to sprinkle on top
3 tbs. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup + 1 tbs. heavy whipping cream
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk (save the extra white for brushing the pie’s top)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 or 6 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
cinnamon (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 400 F. For the crust: Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl, then cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or a fork until there isn’t any loose flour remaining. Sprinkle the cold water over the mixture and stir it in until just absorbed. Be careful not to work the dough too much.* Divide it into two balls, one a bit larger than the other for the bottom crust, and return to the bowl. Place a damp, cold cloth on top of the dough. Let it sit while you make the cream filling.

2) For the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cream, whole egg, egg  yolk, and vanilla.

3) Roll out the larger ball of dough until it fits a 10-inch pie pan with about 3/4 in. extra around the rim. (I’ve said it before, but I recommend rolling out pie dough between sheets of wax paper. This keeps the dough from sticking to the counter or rolling pin, and it simplifies transferring the dough to the pie pan.) Fit the dough to the bottom of the pan. Add the peaches to the pie, then pour the cream filling around them. Dust with cinnamon, if you so desire.

4) Roll out the smaller ball of dough for a top crust. Now you have options! You can make make a solid top crust (be sure cut steam vents), or you can cut out shapes and arrange them across the top of the filling (circles are fun). If you’re feeling brave, you could also try a lattice top. (Smitten Kitchen has fantastic instructions for making a lattice top – much easier than you’d think!) Crimp the edges to make a nice rim. Don’t worry if you have leftover dough. It can be frozen for later use.

5) Whisk together the remaining egg white and 1 tbs. cream. Brush the top of the crust with the mixture, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Watch the crust toward the end: you may need to cover it if it starts to burn. The pie is best served warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers (if there are any).

*The crust recipe is different from other crusts that I’ve made. The dough is much softer and thicker, but it does bake up nice and flaky. If you have another crust recipe that you prefer, feel free to use it here.