Tuesday, July 11, 2006

two summer pies

When we first moved to Pasadena around this time last year, we were blown away by the intensity of the dry heat. During the first few weeks of getting climatized we mostly stayed indoors, out of the scorching sun. I did a lot of reading then and that's when I first discovered the writings of MFK Fischer.

One lovely essay titled "A Thing Shared" recounted a drive from the hills back to LA with her father and sister, and stopping on the way for a picnic meal that terminates with a peach pie. Description of the pie -- still warm from the oven and the ride over the desert, bursting with ripe peaches picked on the ranch that noon, served with thick cream in a bluish Mexican jug that had lain in a cold stream all morning -- gripped me with force and I could not rest until I tasted also the succulent peach with fresh cream in flaky crust.

This year I tried my hand at summer pie using dark red American cherries:

To prepare the dough:

2 cups flour
2 sticks of unsalted butter*
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/3 cups of chilled water

1. Freeze the butter and cut into little cubes.
2. Sift the flour with sugar and salt and add the butter.
3. Pinch until the dough is crumbly. Add the water and mix using a fork, just until the dough comes together into a ball.
4. Divide into two, flatten into disks and chill for one hour.
*You can substitute one stick of butter for 1/2 cup of shortening. This might be difficult to find outside of the US but it makes for a flakier crust.

To make cherry pie:

1. Prepare about 5 cups of stemmed and pitted cherries.
2. Add 3 tablespoons of quick tapicoca, 1/2 cup of sugar (or less, depending on the sweetness of cherries) and let stand for 30 minutes to release the juices.
3. Pour the fruit into a pie dish lined with half the dough. With the other half make a lattice covering, to let the fruit syrup thicken while baking.
4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes.
5. Delicious when hot served with cold vanilla icecream.

For peach pie:

1. Peel and cut white peaches, about 6 cups.
2. Add 3 tablespoons of quick tapioca, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/3 cup of sugar and let stand for 30 minutes.
3. Pour the mixture into a pie dish lined with half the dough. With the other half cover the fruit and cut a sporal pattern in the middle, to let the steam out.
4. Bake at 400 degrees F for one hour.
5. Serve with cream. This pie is best when chilled.

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