Friday, August 19, 2011

Eating pie alone

The Beet

Express Staff Writer

Summer is a hard season for foodies.

In winter, everyone gratefully wolfs down chili, gingerbread, beef stew and anything else we can throw at them. Blame our animal instincts and the primitive urge to fight the cold by building a protective layer of fat. Foodies can feed friends, family and even coworkers with abandon, whipping up hot meal after hot meal.

In summer, it's usually too warm to consider turning on an oven, boiling water or eating anything slightly north of room temperature. I live in a lovely but tiny apartment, and turning on the oven immediately causes the room temperature to rise 10 degrees.

This isn't a tragedy most of the time. It is, though, when I see piles and piles of glorious peaches in the grocery store. Immediately, I am overcome with the urge to make pie, jam, anything that will take advantage of the beautiful summer produce.

This suggestion is almost always met with protestation from anyone who will be around when the actual baking takes place. 'It's so hot!" they cry. "Why would you want to make pie?"

My typical response, "Because pie is awesome," is apparently not acceptable. If I want pie in the summer, I will be eating it alone.

Not that I mind when the pie is this incredible. Nothing says summer like a generous slice of peach pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. When Steve Miller sang, "I really love your peaches," he was talking about this pie.

This is the Platonic ideal of peach pie, simple and basic but good enough to make you forget you are eating it all by your lonesome ... even good enough to tempt people to stick around.

Feel free to use whatever pie crust you like with this, even if it's frozen. I almost always use a no-roll oil crust and streusel topping, but if you are one of those people who makes perfect pie dough, don't let me stop you.

You could also use nectarines if those look better than the peaches that week at the grocery store, or throw in a plum just to add a little interest.

But whatever you do, don't let the discouragement of others keep you from taking full advantage of summer stone fruit—even if baking makes the temperature of your kitchen rise to something approximating the temperature of the sun's surface.

Happy baking!

Perfect Peach Pie

1/3 cup flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

Double pie crust (your favorite recipe, or store-bought)

8 to 10 large fresh peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Turn on a fan, full blast, pointing at your face.

In a medium bowl, use a fork or your fingers to combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and butter. Mix until crumbly.

Place one piecrust in a 9-inch pie plate. Layer about a quarter of your peach slices in the bottom and top with one quarter of the sugar crumbles. Repeat layers until you've used up both.

Top the pie with your second piecrust or crumble topping. Bake on the center rack in the oven with a cookie sheet underneath for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, or until the peaches are bubbly and browning.

Cool to room temperature for two hours, or serve warm with loads of vanilla bean ice cream. Refuse to feel guilty for eating way too much of it all by yourself.

Katherine Wutz:

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