At the risk of sounding like one of those old goats who talks about walking 5 miles to school through 10-foot snowdrifts, I have to say: peaches just aren’t what they used to be.
My mom lives in Florida. I ask her if she can get good peaches down there. I figure, heck, she’s right next to Georgia; maybe the Peach State shares nicely with its neighbor to the south.
Mom says no, they can get peaches year-round. But they’re rock-hard and bland, until suddenly they turn mealy and soft and bland. No good peaches in Florida.
My brother lives in Georgia. I say to him, “So, Mike, you must have some really good peaches there, huh?”
“No, not really. I think they take ’em someplace else because they can get a better price for ’em out of state,” says Mike. No good peaches in Georgia.
Assuming that at this time of year the really good East Coast peaches are coming from Georgia—where do they go?
When I was growing up, we lived for the few short weeks of the year when we could buy our local Hale peaches at the farm stand. These giant peaches, big as a navel orange, sported light-gold, incredibly juicy flesh inside their rosy pink skin. In my small hands, a Hale peach felt heavy as a bowling ball. It was impossible to eat without juice running through my fingers, down my arms, dripping on the ground… which is why we had to eat them outside, sitting on the grass. Then run through the sprinkler afterwards.
Now, though, a good peach is increasingly hard to find. So let’s get back to those Georgia peaches. Where DO they go?
Surprisingly—up here to New Hampshire. Our local supermarket was carrying Georgia peaches last week, on sale for $1.99/pound. And didn’t I snatch them up! They were nearly ripe when I bought them; a couple of days in a bowl on the table, and oh, my… Perfect peach flavor. Juicy. Ideal soft texture, with just that hint of firm bite. Quick, find the peach pie recipe!
The following pie features one large crust that forms a satchel for the juicy filling. I figured, why roll out two crusts when I can roll out just one? Plus, the single, seamless crust keeps the filling contained; no messy boil-overs. And it’s attractive, too, in a rustic sort of way.
So if you have access to good peaches this summer—from California, Georgia, or your own backyard—try our Summertime Peach Pie.
Let's start with my favorite piecrust ingredients: flour, salt, and butter. There are those who swear by lard; and shortening will give you a nominally flakier crust; but I love the rich taste of butter.
Work the butter into the flour. You can use your fingers, a pastry fork, a pastry blender... I'm lazy, so I just use my stand mixer. You want some of the butter to remain in pea-sized or even larger lumps; that's what helps give piecrust its flaky texture.
Add 1 beaten egg. The protein in the egg will help hold the crust together, making it easier to roll out and move around. Once the egg is incorporated, drizzle in 1 tablespoon or so milk, just enough for the dough to hold together without feeling crumbly or dry.
It should look like this—malleable. No dry spots; but not sticky, either.
Gather the dough into a disk, and roll its edges along a floured surface, like you were rolling a wheel. This smoothes the edges, meaning you're less likely to get those big old raggedy cracks around the perimeter of your crust as you roll.
Have you ever seen a hockey puck? This dough looks like an oversized hockey puck.
Next come the peaches. Is there any fruit as gorgeous as a perfectly ripe peach?
We want to slip their skins off without taking a lot of flesh. So, into a pot of simmering water they go, for 30 seconds.
From the simmering water, they go into a bowl of ice water; this keeps them from cooking and softening. Grab a peach, make a little nick in the skin, and peel it off; it'll come off easily.
Now HERE'S how to peel peaches without losing a single bit of the flesh.
Slice the peaches into a large bowl. Then combine them with the thickener, sugar, and remaining ingredients.
Now we're going on a side trip. Call it a test kitchen adventure. I thought, how about making a freeform peach pie? Just take that crust and fold it right up over the filling. The whole thing should settle into a nice round as it bakes.
Here it is, ready for a sprinkle of coarse sugar before going into the oven.
Awwww...... Disaster. The whole thing flattened into a puddle and sprung enough leaks to sink the Netherlands. Thank goodness for the parchment lining the baking sheet. This is exactly why parchment is my best friend in the kitchen.
OK, take two. I make another crust, and roll it wide enough to settle it into a 9” pie pan, and bring it up to cover much of the filling. Why not just roll two crusts? Because 1) This is faster and easier than rolling two crusts, and 2) the filling is enclosed in a packet of dough; no leaking and boiling over the edges.
This is a BIG round of dough. So fold it in half...
...then in half again, and place the square edge of the dough in the center of the pie pan.
Unfold it; you'll have a huge dough overhang. That's OK.
Spoon the filling into the crust.
Drape the crust over the filling, and brush with milk, then sprinkle with coarse white sugar, for sparkle and flavor. That's another of my best friends in the kitchen: coarse white sugar, lender of sparkle to everything from muffins and pie to scones and cookies.
Now, that's more like it. The pie pan holds the crust in place.
Ta-da! Peach pie in a single crust. I found that it's best to wait at least overnight, preferably 24 hours, before slicing this; it takes a LONG time for the filling to completely set. To serve warm, simply reheat individual slices briefly, in the microwave. Ice cream is always welcome.
Read our complete recipe for Summertime Peach Pie.
Buy vs. Bake
I couldn't find fresh peach pie at the supermarket bakeshop, so I chose their apple pie, which is sort of equivalent, although peaches are more expensive than apples. Even so, the homemade peach pie is less expensive, ounce per ounce, than the supermarket apple pie.
Buy: Supermarket bakery apple pie, 20¢/ounce.
Bake at home: Fresh peach pie, 13¢/ounce.