Classic Peach Pie

Summer has come and gone, and Fall is settling in. The back to school rush is in full force and we’re starting to crave heartier foods for those chilly rainy days. Pretty soon we’ll have an abundance of winter squash and roasted root vegetables – but right up until the end of September, some summer fruit is still in season.

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Ripe, soft peaches are still available in Ontario at the grocery store and farmers markets. Juicy stone fruit spiked with cinnamon and encased in a flaky, buttery crust; classic peach pie is perfect just the way it is. A small amount of sugar and spices keeps the peaches the star of the show and using a mixture of both white and brown sugar keep the filling a beautiful golden colour.

Look for peaches with clear, firm skin. They should smell fragrant and sweet. Store fully ripe peaches in a singe layer in the fridge to prevent further ripening.

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This crust is quick to pull together – the key thing to be mindful of is to keep your butter and water very, very cold. This helps create little steam pockets of air in the crust when the butter heats up as it’s baking, which is what gives crust it’s flaky characteristic.

Ingredients
Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surfaces
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup water, very cold

Filling
About 3 1/2 pounds peaches (approximately 6 large, 7 medium or 8 small)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from about half a regular lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions
Crust
1. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large, wide bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas.
2. Gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a rough mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball.
3. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days.

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Filling
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Prepare an ice bath. Make a small x at the bottom of each peach. Once water is boiling, lower peaches, as many as you can fit at once, into saucepan and poach for two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to ice bath for one minute to cool. Transfer peaches to cutting board and peel the skins. In most cases this blanching method will loosen the skins and they’ll slip right off. For stubborn peaches, you can peel gently using a paring knife.
2. Halve and pit the peaches, then into about 1/3-inch thick slices. You should yield approximately 6 cups. Add to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, stir together sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch until evenly mixed. Add to peaches and toss to evenly coat.

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Assembly
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees
2. Flour your counter generously and unwrap your first dough putting it in the middle of the counter. Flour the top of the dough as well as your rolling pin. Start rolling your dough by pressing down lightly with the pin and moving it from the center out. Roll it a few times in one direction, lift it up and rotate it a quarter-turn. Do this over and over until your dough is about 12-13 inch circle. Be patient and be generous with flouring your surface and pin. Should the dough become warm and start to stick or tear, toss it back in the fridge for a couple of minutes to firm it up.
3. Transfer pie dough to a standard pie dish by folding it gently into quarters (making no creases), arranging the folded corner into one quadrant of the bottom of your tin and gently unfolding it to fit over the base. Trim the overhang to one inch.

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4. Scoop filling into bottom pie dough, including any accumulated juices (they contain the thickener too, also delicious syrupy sweetener). Roll out your top pie dough using the same procedure, until it is 12 to 13 inches in diameter. Place it over top of the filling and crimp the edges. Slice a few slits in the top to let the steam escape.

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5. Brush with milk or egg wash (one egg mixed with a few drops of water).
6. Bake for about 20 minutes in the pre-heated oven, until crust is set. Reduce heat to 375 and cook for another 35-40 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust is deep golden brown.
7. Try and let the pie cool almost completely (about 3 hours – though I know that’s impossible), to let the filling set before serving. Serve slightly warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Make this pie as a nostalgic farewell to summer – savour each bite remembering warm sun, green grass and peach juice running down your elbow. Once the last bite is done, welcome pumpkin spice lattes with open arms.

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