I finally paid off a debt that had been owing for almost 27 years. I know how terrible that sounds. But let me explain. You see, I owed my husband a peach pie, well 4 peach pies if we’re going to be accurate. In the summer of 1984, I accidentally left the door of our freezer slightly ajar. It was not until several days later that I discovered what I had done. Aside from having to throw out several hundred dollars worth of kosher meat and some mushy peas, it was not really that big a deal, in the overall scheme of life’s big tragedies. Until I realized, that at the bottom of that freezer chest were the last peach pies my late mother-in-law had baked for my husband. In the summer of 1983, she had baked him 12 peach pies, to be frozen and enjoyed over the long winter. Unfortunately, she became ill and passed away in March of 1984. At that time we still had 4 peach pies left in the freezer. My husband could not bring himself to eat those last pies. They were to live in our freezer in perpetuity, sort of a frozen tribute to his mom.
I felt terrible and baked some peach pies right away to make up for the horrible mistake I made. He ate the pies but not with great joy. He smiled, said they were good, but I could tell that they just didn’t measure up to hims mom’s pies. Eventually I gave up because her damn pies grew more incredible with each passing year and I knew I could never bake anything to that would live up to that sainted memory.
I baked crisps, crumbles, grunts, cookies,biscotti, brownies, blondies, cakes, tarts, galettes, scones, hamentashen, rugelach, macarons and 43 kinds of bread, but never another peach pie… until this week, that is. I guess at some deep subconscious level, I still felt guilty about it. Plus, I wanted to show him how much I appreciate him. I mean, how many husbands take the time and care to roll towels for the bathroom like this? Plus, he has the fine motor skills of a surgeon and untangles my necklaces in 2 seconds flat. He always reads the instruction manuals and just last week he figured out how to get the new tamper proof cap off my toothpaste. How could I not bake this awesome guy a peach pie?
Peaches were at their early fall glory this week at our market.
I decided not to use his mom’s recipe but made a spelt crust instead, from Kim Boyce’s “Good to the Grain”. This dough uses a combination of all-purpose and spelt flours. The spelt flour adds a creamy colour and a nutty flavour to the dough. Kim uses a method known as fraisage to ensure a flaky crust. Kim explains how it works, “…you smear pea-sized pieces of fat into the flour to create alternating layers of dough and fat. During baking, the fat melts, creating steam that lifts up the layers of dough, creating a very flaky pastry.”
The peaches do need to be peeled, which adds an extra step, but is not difficult. An “X” is cut into the bottom of each peach and then they are slipped into boiling water for about 30 seconds. The skin slips off very easily after this.
The peaches are macerated with sugar for about half an hour and then the juices are strained off. I mixed in about 1/4 cup of Minute Tapioca for thickening, a tip I learned about from Cook’s Illustrated. Minute Tapioca is virtually flavorless, readily dissolves into the fruit’s exuded juices, and has a neutral texture, exhibiting none of the pastiness of flour or cornstarch. It can be found in the baking section of the supermarket.
After the top crust goes on, Kim recommends a 45 minute rest in the freezer (for the pie, not you!) to chill the dough and prevent shrinkage. Then the pie gets egg washed and sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar.
After an hour in the oven, this emerges.
The pie was met with much joy! The gesture was greatly appreciated and if he compared it to his mom’s pie, I certainly didn’t hear it, as his mouth was too full of pie. Flaky crust, just a bit nutty from the addition of spelt flour and juicy filling, dripping down your chin, just like when you eat a really ripe peach. Really all you could ask for in a peach pie. I think my debt has been finally paid off. What will I feel guilty about now?
Click here to print the recipe for Peach Pie.