Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hook 'Em Horns

There’s something to be said for the Fredericksburg peaches that are sold in stands on the side of the highway. You don’t need to sort through for the ripe ones, making sure that they’ll turn out juicy, but rather find the ones that haven’t reached their prime yet and aren’t oozing too much peachy aroma. When I was in Austin in May and the beginning of June, I didn’t see any stands on 360 that I was immune to when I lived there, which was sad, but it meant that I got to purchase some Hill Country peaches at my first visit to the Austin Farmer’s Market.

The Austin Farmer’s Market was quite tiny compared to European markets that I’m used to, and it only had certain products available, but that convinced me that it was only the freshest, most seasonal produce. There were a couple peach stands, some tomato booths here and there, a few places with squash, onions, arugula, a fresh herbs and potted plants stand, and a goat cheese stall.

I bought the first basket I picked up at the first peach stand I went to. All nine peaches were extremely ripe, soft, smelling sweet, and ready to go. I admit, all along I knew I would not eat these peaches raw; before I went home I was planning on making peach pie. It’s so simple but so good and it makes me feel at home because it’s not something you hear about everywhere. People talk about comfort food, things they like to eat that brings back a little memory with one bite, and provides some warmth. For me, peach pie is a comfort food to make, not just to eat.

So I went home, successful with my peach purchase and ready to make pie crust. I also love making pie when I’m at home because my mom seems to love it—I always receive lots of praise from her about my pie crust in the form of “oh my god. It’s the best crust ever. So flaky. And perfect.” I can’t take all the credit, I use a recipe from Cook ‘Em Horns, one of my parents’ cookbooks with a compilation of recipes from Texas graduates and fans. It’s a crust that uses Crisco, and although some people think crust should include butter and not Crisco (Dan being one of them), my mom tells me not to change a thing, so I don’t. It’s a great cookbook, with good dessert recipes (I’m especially fond of the pie ones) and you can’t beat the title.

Pie Crust

3 cups flour
1 ½ cups Crisco
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar (I usually use apple cider vinegar)
1 egg
5 tbsp cold water

Combine flour, Crisco, and salt until mixture is in fine crumbs, using a fork or pastry cutter, whatever you have available. Pour vinegar, egg, and water over and mix in quickly until the dough forms (at the end it might help to bring everything together with a couple kneads from your hands). If it’s too warm to roll immediately, chill. I usually half it and put half in the fridge for later and roll the other half out, and put it into a pie pan. Depending on the recipe, you may need a raw or baked crust. Peach pie calls for raw, so after I roll it, I poke it with a fork all over and pinch the edges between my fingers, then stick it in the fridge covered with saran wrap. It makes enough for two 9-inch pies, one of them with a top crust.

Fresh Peach Pie

5 cups fresh peaches peeled and sliced (for me 9 peaches was more than enough)
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
¼ tsp nutmeg
¾ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon rind
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 unbaked 9-inch double crust pie shell

Peel and slice peaches (mine were definitely ready to be used…don’t worry if you have really ripe peaches, they end up great in the pie). Mix sugars, flour, and spices. Combine peaches with lemon juice, then rind, and then mix with sugar mixture. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Dribble melted butter across peaches. After this, I roll out my top crust. Then put over the peaches, seal the edges, and bake 40-45 minutes at 400 F until the crust starts to brown. Serve warm with some Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean.
I’m not really one of those who likes to do the usual lattice-weave top crust. I love to try new shapes or cut things out with a knife, and I sometimes get my cookies cutters out. This time, in an ode to Texas, longhorns, Cook ‘Em Horns, and the orangey goodness of peaches, I decided to cut a longhorn for my top crust. Hook ‘em.


oliver said...

I love peaches, but have never enjoyed peach pie! This has to change...

The problem I face is choosing the fruit itself. The Bouqeuria market has its fair share of peaches, but often like feel like small, hard throwing weapons as opposed to the ingredients in a culinary comfort session. Is rock hard ok? Or should I buy and leave them for a few days?

Pastry fear is another potential sticking point. Sticking point because making pastry work is not one of my strong points. Have you any fail safe pastry success suggestions? Bear in mind that you are talking to a kitchen luddite here...

In the meantime, I'm closing my eyes and imagining the taste of peach pie.


d anything said...

hey oliver, i'm sure courtney will be back with some detailed texan piemaking knowledge, but as the peaches are getting cooked, they don't absolutely have to be as ripe as you might otherwise wish. and of course peaches are bought with the nose. you must be ble to find them with your eyes shut...

oliver said...

Buying with your eyes shut in the bouqueria can be hazardous, but I know what you mean. I'm going to lock horns with this recipe one day, but I think I'll play it safe and practice a bit first. I'm a rank amateur!