Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pie are Squared

If you paid attention in geometry class, you know that's true. But it was also true in my kitchen yesterday morning. Why be round when you can be square?

Our family friend (and my daughter's beau), D, graduated from high school this week. A major accomplishment like that deserves a major dessert. And from overhearing his comments while standing in front of my open fridge, or next to the fruit bowl on our kitchen table, I knew peaches were a favorite.

We'd be joining his family and friends for a graduation party on Saturday, but since they live three hours away, I also needed something that traveled well. And that could feed a lot of people. Slab Pie came to mind.

The recipes I found online were iffy--wrong proportions of ingredients, the crust-to-fruit ratio too high. It was time to get creative. It must have worked; I didn't have to beg anyone to take the last piece.

D's Peach Mortarboard Pie

Crust--makes 1.5 batches
3 c. all purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour (could also sub in almond meal)
3/4 tsp salt
4 Tbs sugar (optional)
3 sticks cold butter, cut into 1/4-in chunks
1/2 c.+ 2 Tbs. ice water

Pull out your food processor--it really does the best job of making a flaky crust. Mine is a smaller capacity so I need to make half a batch at a time.
Place the flours, salt, and sugar in the bowl with the S-blade and pulse 3-4 times to blend. Add in the butter all at once and pulse until the butter has formed small, pea-size lumps. With the motor running, add the ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough starts to clump; it may seem a bit dry but that's OK. Shut off the motor immediately. Scoop the lumps into a ziploc bag, seal it, and with your hands press the lumps together to make a disk. Stick it in the fridge while you make the second batch of crust.

4 to 5 lbs peaches
juice of 2 lemons
6 oz candied (crystallized) ginger, minced
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 Tbs. all purpose flour
3/4 c sugar, or to taste
1 tsp ground ginger

You'll need a large bowl to hold all the ingredients. Cut each peach into eight wedges and cut each wedge into 1/2-inch thick chunks (they'll look like little triangles). You can peel the peaches if you like, but I prefer the extra color the skins provide...and they cook down. Combine with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Add in the other ingredients and adjust to taste; if the peaches are a little juicy, add a bit more flour. If the peaches are bland, kick up the lemon juice and ground ginger.

Putting it all together

I use my largest rimmed baking sheet, which is 14x18; it's a bit larger than a half-sheet cake size. Grease it well (I've been using coconut oil lately) and stick it in the fridge to chill while you roll out the pastry. Preheat your oven to 375F.

Take half of the pastry, and on a well-floured surface, roll it out to a rectangle about 2 inches bigger than your pan, as you want the crust to come up the sides. I like a thinner crust, about 1/8-inch thick. Use a ruler and a pizza wheel to get a nice even rectangle. If the dough sticks, loosen it from the surface with a pastry scraper or an offset spatula and dust some flour underneath. Dust the dough with flour (so you can fold it in half for ease of handling) and gently ease it into your prepared pan, unfolding as you go. Let the edges hang over the sides. Check for holes and patch them with the trimmings--a little water will help the patch stay in place. Stick the pan in the fridge.

Take the rest of your dough, roll it out into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick, and using that ruler and pizza wheel, cut the dough into strips about 3/4-inch wide. Yes, we're making a lattice top. You can certainly roll out all of the second pastry to make a double-crust pie, but for me, pie's all about the filling. Ease those strips onto a rimless cookie sheet and they go in the fridge too, to firm up.

Take the bottom crust out of the fridge and spoon in the filling, making an even layer of fruit. Now take those lattice strips out and lay them on top of the fruit. Weave them if you dare, but essentially it doesn't matter--it will look great either way. I placed my rather close, about 3/4-in apart. If some strips are too small, add another piece of pastry, attaching them with a bit of water. Again, no worries--they will bake together and look fine. Take additional strips of pastry to rim the edges of the pan and hold the lattice in place; it makes for a nice crust edge. Now to finish:

1 egg, beaten
1 Tbs. cream
2 Tbs.+ raw sugar

Combine the egg and cream in a small bowl, until well blended. Brush the crust with the mixture to glaze the pastry, then sprinkle with raw sugar for some sparkle.

Bake the pie for 45 to 60 minutes, until browned and bubbling. Let cool. Meanwhile, you're washing that pizza wheel. Because it makes a handy device for cutting the slab pie into squares; we did 2-inch pieces.

And if there's spare pastry? You know Windischgirl won't let a thing go to waste. Cut it into shapes, brush with egg, sprinkle with parmesan (or cheddar and a dusting of hot paprika) and bake until just brown. Appetizers. Delish with an aperitif.

Congratulations, D. We're proud of you. And I think it's only fitting that you'll be majoring in Engineering at Northeastern U come the fall. You can prove to those profs that pie really are squared.

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