Sweet as Pie
By Pamela Berger
It’s hard not to like a sweet peach. You feel lucky when you find one as it immediately satiates and delights. So when I was trying to find the best peach pie for this month’s cover shoot, master baker, Maggie Sweeney of Cake Hag (cakehag.com) was the only one to call.
Upon my request, Maggie upped the ante with a Brandied Peach Pie recipe that is incredibly scrumptious and perfectly Southern. The crust is distinctly homemade with depth and a wonderful flaky texture. A touch of brandy added to the sweet peaches surprises and soothes.
Maggie suggests using Freestone peaches which are easily found at your local grocery store. Firmer and less juicy, these peaches are excellent for baking. She recommends keeping the dough cold (great tip is to cool your hands in ice before kneading) and not overworking the dough. Less is always more. Maggie also warns against using aluminum pie pans as the heat transfers too quickly and can compromise the overall taste. As Maggie says, “A good glass or ceramic pie pan isn’t expensive. Use one.”
Cake Hag is a whiz with pies, but as the name implies, Maggie also makes incredible cakes, such as Carolina Carrot, Red Wine Velvet and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey Pudding Cake. Everything is delicious.
2 1/2 – 3 pounds ripe peach meat (off the pit, skin removed – amount needed depends on depth of pie plate – deep dish needs requires more peach) in medium thin slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon good quality ground cinnamon
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of small lemon
1/3 cup brandy
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 1/2 cups all natural, unbleached all-purpose flour + flour for rolling
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter in small cubes
4 oz cream cheese in small cubes
2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice
3 – 6 tablespoons of milk, as needed
9” Glass pie plate
Pastry cutter or food processor
- Chill cubed butter and cream cheese in freezer until butter is hard.
- Sift all dry crust ingredients together in medium bowl.
- Sift granulated white sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon together (filling ingredients) and set aside.
- Begin cutting chilled butter and cream cheese into the dry crust ingredients until the mixture consists of crumbled small, pea-sized crumbs. Alternately, pulse ingredients in a food processor until the same consistency is achieved.
- Add vinegar, followed by milk, in tablespoon increments until mixture just begins to come together.
- Separate crust mixture into halves – quickly form a rough disk of each halve, working the dough as as little as possible, wrap each disk in plastic wrap and put in freezer to chill.
- In a large pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add peaches, brown sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and cook until peaches just begin to soften.
- Using a whisk, add the sugar/cornstarch/cinnamon mixture and continue cooking until the liquid begins to come together and bubbles.
- Add brandy before removing mixture from heat. Thoroughly mix brandy into peach mixture, remove from heat and set aside or place in fridge to cool.
- Using a smoothly floured surface and a lightly floured rolling pin, begin rolling out the larger disk of chilled dough until it reaches an even thickness throughout and about 12” in diameter – at that point fold crust in half and transfer to pie plate, making sure the crust overlaps the plate edges once the crust has been evenly placed.
- Roll out the second disk the same way. At this point you can cut strips to lay a lattice top, roll out a full top crust cutting vent holes, or roll out a full top and use a stylized cutter – in all cases making sure to seal the edges of the crusts together and pinch-flute the crust circumference around the pie pan.
- Combine 1 egg white with 2 tablespoons of whole milk and lightly brush crust with this mixture using a pastry brush. Then sprinkle crust with granulated or sanding sugar.
- Place pie on a sheet pan in the center of the middle rack of the heated oven. The pie will take from 35-45 minutes to bake but begin watching the pie at 20 minutes, in 5 minute increments, to make certain the crust isn’t browning too fast before the pie cooks completely. If the crust is browning too quickly lay a sheet of foil gently over crust until the pie has finished baking.
- The crust does best when it is kept cool and worked the least – use the freezer as needed to chill or re-chill the crust or crust ingredients.
- Freestone peaches will be easier to remove flesh from the pit, and yield more meat-per-peach.
- Remove the skins before slicing peaches by blanching the peaches in boiling water for 15-30 seconds and quickly placing them in ice water. Skin comes off beautifully and on a freestone peach, the flesh separates quickly from the pit.
- Smell each peach butt before buying it. If they don’t smell like peach heaven, even if they feel ripe, they won’t have great flavor.
- Use the best ingredients you can, from butter to flour to peaches to produce a fantastic peach pie.
- Freezing your own skinned, sliced peaches, just covered in peach juice, will equal a delicious peach pie in the off-season.
- Pie crust can be fragile and it does sometimes tear. If that happens just quickly patch it without over working the dough. It’s way more important to have a delicious crust then a pretty crust.
To read more about Cake Hag and to see more photos, check out our June print or digital edition.