Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Open Faced Peach Custard Pie

This recipe certainly was a bit on the extravagant side for me. Lately I've found that I am only interested in two or three ingredient combinations, and they usually contingent upon what currently lives in my fridge. But this, ah this recipe, I couldn't look wayward from my Joy of Cooking's description: "A Joy Classic".

I had all that I needed for this recipe sitting in my cluttered cupboard, and there were fragrant peaches hanging in my fruit basket, causing my mouth to water every quick moment I went in the kitchen. The anticipation of what to do with these soft and sweet Michigan peaches finally won over my fear of commitment involved in pie making. I always fear that devastating moment of the crust pulling apart as you attempt to lay it in the pan after cautiously rolling it out, or the taste not being equivalent to time. But believe me, every moment that I was away from this luxurious yellow beauty, the memory of it balked at me to return. The way this pie melts on your tongue burns your brain with it's well rounded taste. You want to reward any good or bad events throughout the day or night with a sliver of the pie. It's mildly obsessive. When the peaches are this good, you want to grasp them in any form before you lose them for the year. And the tandem custard only accents the peaches in a happy spousal manner. It's especially hard to cope with seasons changing when life makes sense because of a pie. I found the recipe in Joy of Cooking's index under "peaches" titled modestly, Open Faced Peach Custard Pie.

By definition, a custard involves milk and eggs and is thickened with heat. The thickening of this custard happens in the oven. The pie is only complicated in that there are multiple steps with the crust. The actual filling for the pie is simple. The crust however had me under gauge the total time needed. Now that I understand this, the second go around will be predictable and easier.

So here it is, in all its length, starting with the flaky crust. This recipe in particular calls for one baked flaky crust, however any bottom crust that you bake before adding the filling should work:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar or 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable shortening, or 1/2 cup shortening and 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 to 3 tablespoon ice water, divided
Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Break the shortening into large chunks; if using butter, cut it into small pieces, then add it to the flour mixture. Cut the fat into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorously with a pastry blender or by cutting in opposite directions with 2 knives, one held in each hand. As you work, periodically stir dry flour up from the bottom of the bowl and scrape clinging fat off the pastry blender or knives. When you are through, some of the fat should remain in pea-sized pieces; the rest should be reduced to the consistency of coarse crumbs or cornmeal. The mixture should seem dry and powdery and not pasty or greasy.
Drizzle 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water over the flour and fat mixture.
Using the rubber spatula, cut with the blade side until the mixture looks evenly moistened and begins to form small balls. Press down on the dough with the flat side of the spatula. If the balls of dough stick together, you have added enough water; if they do not, drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water over the top.
Cut in the water, again using the blade of the spatula, then press with your hands until the dough coheres. The dough should look rough, not smooth. Divide the dough in half, press each half into a round fiat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and preferably for several hours, or for up to 2 days before rolling. The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely before rolling.
*Note: I actually used the pastry attachment of my food processor for this recipe. It was easy and worked great.

After making the dough, proceed by rolling out the dough and fitting it into a 9-inch pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Position a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Smooth a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side down, over the bottom and sides of the crust, flaring the excess foil, like an awning, over the crust edge to keep it from overbrowning. Fill the liner with raw beans or rice or metal pie weights, banking the weights against the sides of the crust if you do not have enough to fill the crust to the brim. Bake the crust for 20 minutes with the weights in place to set the pastry. Carefully lift out the foil with the weights inside. Prick the crust thoroughly with a fork, return it to the oven, and bake until the crust is golden brown all over, 5 to 10 minutes more. Check the crust periodically; if it puffs along the bottom, prick it with a fork, then press down gently with the back of a spoon. Brush the inside with 1 large egg yolk and a pinch of salt. Return to the oven to set the glaze for 1 to 2 minutes. Fill the shell with the below filling recipe.

Here's the filling:
Keep the rack of your oven on the lower 1/3 and the temperature set at 400. Whisk together until well blended:
1 large egg
3/4 cup sugar
6 TB unsalted and melted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Arrange in a single layer, cut side down, over the bottom of the crust: 3 to 4 fresh peaches, peeled and halved.
Pour the egg mixture over the peaches. Bake the pie for 10 minutes. reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and bake until the custard is brown and crusty on top and appears firmly set in the center when the pan is shaken, about 1 hour longer. Let cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I did find that my crust browned too much originally, and that it continued to brown even with the glaze. I think next time I would probably wrap the edge of the crust with aluminum foil, and butter the sides of my pie pan to keep the pastry from sticking.

The Joy of Cooking never fails.


Chi said...

I can't wait to try this. P.S. I have had huitlacoche and I thought it was fabulous!

Sarah said...

I can't believe you've tried the huitlacoche. I'm awed. And believe me, this pie is so worth it.