I have this thing that happens to me every once in awhile. I’ll be going along, living life, doing my thing…and then, this wave will wash over me, stop me in my tracks…and I must bake. I absolutely must. I enjoy baking, but I don’t often have the time or the occasion to do so, but then this thing happens and I don’t need no reason, no rhyme. I just have to bake something or I won’t be satisfied.
Today was one of those days. My eyes snapped open at 6:30 AM this morning and all I could think about was peach pie. Which is super weird. But having known myself for 33 years now, I knew the only solution was to fulfill my baking needs. Plus, it’s the height of summer, the peaches are glorious this time of year, and who doesn’t want pie, you know, just laying around? Hands up emoji.
When it comes to pie, and peach pie specifically, I’ve been refining my skills for years now, so this recipe (which started from three different recipes) is something I’ve played with and tweaked and edited over the years, to where I’ve gotten it just right. Until I change something again. I’m a mystery. Stay with me.
If I’m being completely honest with you, dear reader, this pie is not an easy task. It’s both time and labor intensive, and I wouldn’t say that it’s a good place to start for a novice baker. However, I’ve always said that baking is more science than art, so if you follow the steps exactly, you should produce a pretty great result. But know what you’re getting into because this is an afternoon spent working hard in the kitchen.
OK, you ready? Let’s do this.
Homemade Peach Crumble Pie
You will need:
For the crust:
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (¾ stick), cut into small pieces
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening, like Crisco
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup ice water
For the filling:
3 ½ pounds peaches (about 6-8)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minute tapioca, ground to a powder using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle (or 3 tablespoons corn starch)
For the crumble:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (¾ stick), cut into small pieces
Kitchen gadgets/materials/tools: pie dish, rolling pin, pastry cutter (you can use two forks as a substitute), mixing bowls — LOTS of mixing bowls
First things first, put on clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and an apron (or my personal baking accessory of choice, a kitchen towel stuck through the belt loop of my jeans). Baking is messy, y’all. Martha Stewart I am not.
Next, we turn our attention to the crust. Listen, you could totally punk out at this point and buy a pre-made crust and it would be fine and life would go on. But. If you’ve ever experienced the glorious deliciousness of a homemade pie crust, you know why this extra effort is worth it. And it is.
So, as you dive into prepping your crust, you should have one mantra in mind at all times — ‘keep ‘em cold’. If there is any secret to a perfect, flaky homemade crust, it is that all the ingredients save the flour, sugar, and salt should be ICE cold. Butter, shortening, water. Keep ‘em cold. All of them should be as cold as possible without being frozen (though I do keep my shortening in the freezer). Doing this will ensure a perfectly flaky crust, which is the only reason why we’re doing all of this, am I right?
First, take out your butter, cut it into small pieces, place it on a plate and put it back in the refrigerator while you prep your dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine your flour, sugar and salt. Working quickly, add the butter and shortening, and with either a pastry cutter or two forks (don’t use your hands as it will warm the butter/shortening too much), mash the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles course sand. You should still have pea-sized pieces of butter — that’s OK — this is where the magic happens. Finally, add the ice water and quickly mix the ingredients together to form the dough, bringing it together in ball. Do not knead the dough, the point is to mix it enough that it stays together, but nothing more — again, you don’t want anything warming the dough too much. Wrap in plastic wrap or a ziploc bag and flatten into a disc. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
While your dough is chilling in the fridge, it’s time to prep the filling. If you’re going to skin your peaches (which I do, I find that it leads to a better quality filling), put a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. In a separate large bowl, prepare an ice bath for the peaches (basically a bunch of cold water and a bunch of ice). Cut a small X on the bottom point of each peach (opposite from the stem). When the water on the stove reaches a rolling boil, add as many peaches as can fit in the pot and poach for two minutes. When ready, move the poached peaches from the boiling water directly to the ice bath and let them sit for about one minute. Do this until all the peaches have been poached/bathed. Pull one peach at a time from the ice bath and starting at the X you cut earlier, pull the skins off the peaches. They should be very easy to remove at this point, for any pieces that don’t want to budge, you can always slice them off with a small knife. Once you’ve skinned all of your peaches, cut each in half, remove the pit, and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices and add to a large bowl. Add the lemon juice to the peaches and toss to coat.
In a small bowl (you’re basically going to use every bowl in your kitchen for this little ditty, sorry), combine the white and brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and tapioca, stirring with a fork until just blended. Pour the sugar mixture over the peaches and toss to coat. Set aside until ready to build the pie.
Some people may be two-crust pie purists, but me, I’m a crumble believer. It adds such a different spin to a pie, and you get the best of both worlds — a buttery, flaky crust on the bottom, and a crunchy, sugary, salty, oat-y crumble on top. For me, there’s no better combination. YUM.
NOTE: If you’d rather a two-crust pie, find another blog. I kid, I kid. You’ll need to double the crust recipe above; follow the same directions below for a solid crust or take a look at this for a lattice crust.
To make the crumble, combine the flour, sugar, oats and salt in a medium bowl (again with the bowls) and set aside. Cut your butter into small pieces, then using your hands this time, work the butter cubes into the flour mixture to form the crumble. It should be mostly incorporated with some small pieces of butter still intact. Wash your hands, then cover crumble with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Putting it all together:
We’re nearing the finish line, kids. Now it’s about combining all of that magic you’ve just made in the kitchen into one delicious, magnificent pie.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Grab some flour and liberally coat your rolling pin and your counter top, cutting board or pastry stone (if you’re Mr. Fancy McFancy Pants). Take your dough from the fridge, unwrap, and place in the center of your floured board. Then, taking your floured rolling pin, press and roll your dough carefully a few times in one direction away from you. Turn your dough one quarter turn and repeat. Do this again and again until the dough is rolled into roughly a 12 inch circle. Add more flour as necessary to both the rolling pin and the dough to discourage sticking or tearing. Be patient with it and don’t rough up the dough. Remember, the idea is to work the dough as little as possible so the butter stays intact and the dough doesn’t get rubbery. Once you have your circle, fold the dough in half then in half again and carefully transfer to your pie dish. Unfold the dough and situate appropriately so it covers the whole thing; you’ll likely have dough hanging off the edges, that’s OK. Remove the excess dough with a sharp knife, fold over the edges, and pinch between two fingers to ‘crimp’ the dough. Do this all the way around the pie to create a pretty pattern.
Next, take your filling and spoon into the center of the dish, including any juices from the bottom of the bowl. Spread evenly, ensuring there’s no areas with too many peaches or too much juice.
Grab your crumble from the fridge and sprinkle evenly over the top almost all the way to the crust. I like to leave a little ring of crumble-free area between the crust and the crumble for the peaches to bubble through as they cook in the oven.
Place the pie in the center rack of your oven with a baking sheet placed on the rack directly below it (just in case, to catch any overflow). Cook for 20 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and cook for an additional 35-40 minutes. The pie is done when the crust and crumble are golden brown and the peach filling is bubbling.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for at least two hours. I know. That seems like an impossible task. BUT. This time will allow the pie to set and for the tapioca to work its magic, so when you go to slice the pie, it won’t fall apart immediately. Trust the process, people. You can do it, I promise.
When you’re ready to serve, I like to reheat each piece for 20-30 seconds in the microwave, then top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (I do not understand people who do not like their pie à la mode, I just don’t).
Swoon. Yell. Dance around your kitchen. Fall on the floor overwhelmed with emotion. It’s that good. It is summer all bundled up in one delicious package for you to savor in the late evening light. Eat up, kids.