Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s into September we go!
Since it’s Roald Dahl Month, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of James and the Giant Peach, something peachy is definitely in order. Dahl’s birthday is next Tuesday, September 13th, and while I may very well attempt a “revolting recipe” then, this week I’m sticking with peaches, or should I say, I’m sticky with peaches. The very first bookish recipe I shared on alphabet soup back in 2007 was for Peach Cobbler, and I remarked then that it was only fitting to begin a blog with a salute to the author who inspired me to write children’s books in the first place.
Whenever late summer rolls around, and the farmer’s market crates are overflowing with hundreds of those juicy golden orbs, I make my once-a-year peach pie. This year, because of James and the Giant Peach, I decided to step outside my comfort zone a little and try Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee, which is a fancy French name for an all butter shortcrust.
From past experience, I knew all butter would be a little trickier to handle, but as hope springs eternal with novice bakers, I felt I could manage a double crust rather than a lattice top. So I gathered all the ingredients, closed my eyes, and thought of Roald.
This was my first time making pie dough using a food processor. Usually I combine the flour and shortening with my trusty pastry cutter, and once or twice, I’ve followed Delia Smith’s advice and blended everything with my fingertips (the few British cookbooks I’ve used seems to favor this method).
All went well, until it was time to add the iced water — the recipe calls for 1/4 to 1/2 cup, poured slowly through the feeding tube. After 1/4 cup, I tested, and the dough wasn’t holding together yet, so I added a little more water. Too much, it turns out, because the dough got sticky. Aargh! I knew this would make for a tougher crust. Then I halved the dough, formed two flat discs, and refrigerated them.
I rolled them out between two sheets of waxed paper, and because I knew my dough was a little too wet, I lightly dusted the paper with a touch of flour. Success!
Meanwhile, I recruited a mustached leprechaun to peel and slice the peaches. This particular leprechaun, a civil engineer in his other life, is known far and wide for his skills with a paring knife, cutting perfect slices of even thickness. He did a bang-up job with these peaches, dunking them in boiling water, sliding off the skins, and then producing a brimming bowlful both Dahl and James Trotter would covet.
I tossed these beauties with lemon juice, almond extract, sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon and laid them to rest in their doughy “coffyn” (as the first pie crusts from Medieval times were called). Then a soft blanket of dough on top and edges crimped. Wait! I forgot to dot the peaches with butter before adding the top crust. Oh no! This is what happens when you’re concentrating so hard on placing high maintenance dough just right. That, and I should have been speaking French the whole time. Zut alors!
Despite this blunder, I did remember to add a few intangible ingredients to enhance the recipe. Along with my good intentions and love for Mr. Dahl’s stories, I added impressions of the perfect day I bought those peaches — a cloudless deep blue sky, children laughing and playing in fountain water jets, begonias and hibiscus basking in the sun.
Even if my pie wasn’t perfect, my peaches had already captured the essence of all that is warm, golden and glorious about summer.
Turns out the pie was heavenly, making us blush with pleasure. The bursting-with-sweetness fruit more than compensated for any crust imperfections. I did not miss the dots of butter I had left out because the crust was so rich and buttery. It came out of the oven bubbling with juices spilling over onto the foil-lined cookie sheet, just as I had anticipated.
(makes one 9-inch pie)
Pastry for double-crust pie
5 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches (about 10 medium-sized or 4 large peaches)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
3/4 cup sugar
3 T quick-cooking tapioca or 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon or nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
2 T water
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream (optional)
Prepare pastry and line pie plate with crust.
Combine peaches, lemon juice, and almond extract, mixing carefully. Combine sugar, tapioca or flour, cinnamon or nutmeg, and salt. Fold into peaches, turn into crust and dot with butter. Cover with top crust as directed for double crust-crusts or lattice pies.
Bake in hot oven (425 degrees F) for 45 minutes, or until crust is browned, peaches tender, and sauce is hot and bubbly. If crust browns too fast, cover edge loosely with a strip of aluminum foil cut 2 to 3 inches wide. Cool on rack.
Serve warm or cold, plain, or topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
(from THE OLD FASHIONED COOKBOOK by Jan McBride Carlton (Weathervane Books, 1975).
‘Now comes,’ the Centipede declared, ‘the burden
of my speech:
These foods are rare beyond compare — some are
right out of reach;
But there’s no doubt I’d go without
A million plates of each
For one small mite,
One tiny bite
Of this FANTASTIC PEACH!’
~ from James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (1961)
Hope you’ll make a peach pie or try my recipe for peach cobbler in time for Dahl’s birthday next week. Revoltingly delish! But do not give any to Aunt Spiker or Aunt Sponge.
♥ Roald Dahl’s Official Website is here.
♥ Cool Factoid: George Minifie, Esq., a wealthy landowner, merchant and horticulturist, cultivated the first peach trees introduced into America at his Estate at Buckland in Virginia.
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.