Romance peach pie and my new favorite pie crust

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:46 pm

I have been on a hunt for a perfect pie crust for years.  My old stand-by, the Cooks Illustrated recipe, makes a delicious-tasting crust, but the dough is so delicate that I always end up swearing a lot when I make it.  Miles is getting old enough now that he shouldn’t hear sh*t like that.  What’s more, the CI recipe results in an extremely tender crust that can’t really hold up to juicy fruit fillings.  Getting a slice out of the pie pan usually results in a glob of fruit on the plate with pie crust sprinkled over it.

It’s tasty, yes, but not perfect.  It’s also kind of a pain, because it involves shortening and butter separately diced and chilled, then it’s done in the food processor, which seems easy at the time but loses its appeal when it comes time to clean all those parts.  And forget making a double batch.

Next I tried a supposedly fool-proof all-butter crust from Smitten Kitchen.  That author eschews the food processor and recommends a pastry blender.  To be fair, I was using a butter I hadn’t used very much (Lurpak), which I thought was going to be great because it was expensive and European.  But something went wrong, and although the dough was one hundred times easier to work with than the CI recipe, it resulted in a tough, really unpleasant crust.  To this day I’m embarrassed that I served it to my Grammy.

I didn’t make any pies for a while.

Then I found this recipe from the awesome Chez Pim.  She claims it’s perfect, suitable for sweet or savory fillings, one- or two-crust pies, tarts, even Pop-Tarts.

Her technique was one I’d never tried before.  Not only does she not recommend a food processor, she doesn’t even employ a pastry blender.  Wha?  I never realized there was alternative (except maybe two knives, but does anyone really do that?).  What she suggests is a method in which you plop unfussily-cut butter directly onto a pile of flour, then mash it with your palm.  You keep tossing flour into the mashed-butter, smashing and mooshing all the way, until it’s incorporated.  Then you throw some water on there and chill it.  That’s first step.

Next, you use a puff-pastry technique of multiple flips and folds that’s a lot easier than it sounds.  Pim’s site has a complete step-by-step with photos, and you’ll find it’s really quite simple.  It’s counter to all I’d read about pie crust prep, but having done it once now, I’m a true believer.

My crust came out crisp yet delicate, extremely flaky, and with the great flavor that can only come from good old salted butter.

I’m blogging a simplified version here, though I recommend you reference Pim’s original for your first time.  She admits to cribbing the idea from the Zuni Cafe, and they make a helluva chicken, so why not?

Fantastic Pie Crust that Makes Me Hopeful for Humanity

250 grams (~2.25 cups) AP flour
8 oz (2 sticks) salted butter
60 ml (.25 cup) cold water

Cut butter into slabs and work it into the flour with the heel of your left hand (or your right hand if you’re left-handed).  Use your other hand to scoop the loose flour into the mix with a pastry scraper.

When it’s a nice mix of big flakes of flour-coated butter and some smaller crumbs, make a well and pour in the water.  Quickly gather it all together with your fingers until it makes a cohesive ball.

Chill the ball for 30 minutes.

On a well-floured pastry board, roll the chilled dough ball into a rectangle, then fold it over into thirds (like folding a letter to put in an envelope).  Before you overlap any dough, brush off excess flour with a pastry brush (this is important, according to Pim.  I’m not going to doubt her on this.).  Rotate 90 degrees and repeat the rolling/brushing/folding.  Repeat, making a total of 3 or so operations.  The dough will become more elastic as you work.  This is what will save you from scarring your kid’s brain with profanities.

Divide into 2 balls, then chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll one ball into a ~11-12 inch  round, then transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  I did it on the first try, no horror at all!  Fill it with your favorite filling, then put egg wash around the outer edge.  Roll out the second ball and put it on top.  Pinch the edges decoratively.  Do an egg wash on top, and if it’s a sweet pie, sprinkle coarse sugar on top.

Romance Peach Pie filling

6-7 peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used white wine vinegar + Meyer lemon extract because I didn’t have a lemon around)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cinnamon
dash cloves
dash nutmeg

Combine the above.  Be sure you’re using a glass pie pan.  Pour the filling into the lower crust and place the upper crust.  Cut vents in the upper crust.  Preheat oven to 500F with a rimmed metal baking pan in it.  When oven is ready, place pie pan directly on metal baking pan and lower heat to 425F.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375F and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the juices bubble.  You may need to put a pie guard or aluminum foil around the edge to prevent over-browning.

Why is it Romance Peach Pie, you ask?  Well…Denny and I shared a peach on our first date, and we had peaches on our wedding cake, and peaches are always coming into season right around our anniversary.  So there you go.


She’s human

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:18 pm

Miles first relayed this composition to Beanie, but he’s been singing it frequently for days now.  He originally came up with it while pounding on the piano with a rubber ball in each hand.

M: Mary had two little balls
Little balls
Little balls.

Mary had two little balls…

And she pooped.


Ever vigilant

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:49 pm

Miles was just finishing up a packet of fruit snacks, which are glorified gummy bears.  I don’t like him to eat too many of them, because even though we buy the hippie organic kind with no HFCS and whatnot, they’re still somewhat junky.  Also, they’re expensive.

M:  Want more fruit snacks.

A:  Let’s change your diaper, and after that you can have another snack.

M:  Fruit snacks.

A:  Oh, you need fruit snacks?

M:  Mommy said it wrong.


California videos

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:48 pm

For those who haven’t seen them elsewhere (each video is about 1:30)…

Miles has fun with various California-based relatives, notably Cousin Lisa (puppet show auteur):

Flickr Video

Adventures in San Francisco, including a mildly offensive hat for Miles and a whap in the face for Mubby:

Flickr Video

Our trip to Monterey:

Flickr Video

Denny and Aprille and lots of whales:

Flickr Video


Monthly Miles Memo #30

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:31 am

Hey, Miles—guess what I love?

Your brain.

We were reading one of your favorite books, Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester.  It’s about a penguin who is kind of weird, but valuable in his own way.  Unlike his tidy friends, Tacky doesn’t march 1-2-3-4; he marches 1-2-3, 4-6, 3-6-0, 2 1/2, 0 (or something—pardon my slight inaccuracies).  One recent time when we read that story, we got to the 2 1/2 part, and you said, “Just like Miles!”

Yes, my little heart, you are two and a half.  I read somewhere that the terrible twos peak right around this point, but you have been a joy lately.  You handled our vacation like a little trooper, despite air travel, car travel, jet lag, weird nap schedules, new people, and lots of busy and loud places.  You had a few trouble spots, of course, but mostly you handled things great.

In fact, you even invented a new strategy for ensuring your precious personal space.  You employed it with great aplomb with your Auntie Lily, who is a deeply loving person and your very special buddy, but she can sometimes be a little enthusiastic for your tastes.  When she got up in your face requesting kisses and you weren’t into it, you turned back to your watercolors and said, very matter-of-factly, “Busy painting right now!”

I’m so proud of what a good job you’re doing as you learn and experience new things.  You had a blast playing with your cousin Lisa in California, especially swimming in Uncle Larry’s pool.  With your water wings on, you quickly got over any trepidation and tooled around the pool like a big guy.

We had so much fun on our vacation.  You ate lots of noodles and Chinese food, and you loved the fish and penguins (you did the ASL sign for “I love you” to them through the glass) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.   You thought the shops full of brightly colored plastic junk items in Chinatown were fantastic.  You danced and sang and watched fireworks, and you and Skittergramps did inventory of your little guys and little girls every morning.

On our trip to the beach in Monterey, you enjoyed the sand more than the ocean, but that’s an improvement over last time.  You liked finding rocks and instructing your dad to throw them into the water, and you really liked the seashells Mubby collected for you.  They’re in your penguin backpack right now, ready to play with once the newness of your home toys wears off.

Today is the first day back to our normal routine, and I think it’s good for everybody.  You were excited to see Beanie when she arrived this morning, and you gave her a nice round of applause and a big hug.  You reminded us that Mommy would be home at lunch time and Daddy would be home at dinner time, and you let us leave with nary an issue.

You’re making sentences and forming observations about your world.  You’re telling jokes, mostly focusing on the absurd (e.g., telling me that Daddy is actually Mommy and that we eat not with our mouths and tummies but with our eyeballs).  We’ve been telling bedtime stories, and you can recite Goldilocks and the Three Bears almost start-to-finish, and you’re able to fill in the blanks of Jack and the Beanstalk pretty thoroughly too.  When I was a little girl, Skittergramps would tell me bedtime stories, and sometimes he’d fall asleep and I’d have to finish them for him.  I think you’re not to far from that level.

You definitely like things your way.  This morning I was tidying up a little before Beanie arrived, and you got mad at me for moving your penguin backpack into the play room.  When I brought it back to the living room, you weren’t happy about me standing it in corner, either.  No, it had to be lying flat, exactly as I’d found it.  I guess that makes for easier access to your seashells.

Your dad is happy about the fact that you guys can play Legos together.  We just got back from Chicago, where I was attending a conference and you got some good Daddy time.  Your dad spotted the Lego store, and the items you purchased there occupied you for the rest of our time in Chicago, and they were among the first things we unpacked when we got home.  You are especially fond of the clear blocks.  Your dad is pretty psyched about them too.  Sometimes he remembers to share.

You’re doing all kinds of smart and cool stuff lately, and I love watching you make mental connections.  You were watching me edit video of our trip, and the iMovie icon for a cross-fade transition shows the silhouettes of three people riding bicycles.  You pointed to them and said, “Mommy, Daddy, Miles.”  You said the same thing last night when you found three columns in your block set.  We’re a good team, the three of us.

Thanks for letting us be your co-captains.

(This may be optimistic.)



He hearts accuracy

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:46 am

After a long period of travels, we got home yesterday afternoon, and we were all happy about it.  Having no groceries, we went out to Panera in the evening to get some dinner.  Miles was being cheerful and snuggly while we waited in line to order.

Denny:  You’re happy to be home, aren’t you?

Miles:  We not home.  We at Pan-eh-wa.


Coming soon, I promise.

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:39 pm

Sorry, sorry—there will be a Monthly Miles Memo soon, we’ve just been traveling for what seems like eight years. As soon as things quiet down and we’re back home I’ll be all over that.

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