Friday, September 2, 2011

Lesson #2: Perfect Peach Pies

The last time I made peach pie I had amazing, in-season, juicy ripe peaches. I used my favorite recipe for pie crust, skinned and sliced the peaches, added sugar and a touch of flour and put it in the oven. About 45 minutes later, the crust was nice and brown and the pie smelled wonderful. I set it out to cool and a few hours later I sliced into it. What I found, instead of a picture perfect slice of pie, was a mess of overcooked peaches and runny (slightly raw flour-y) tasting syrup. What went wrong?

I thought maybe my method of tossing everything together (similar to what I do when I make apple pie) was not the best way to make a perfect peach pie. I knew I wanted to syrup in the pie to be thick and luscious and the peaches to maintain a little bite and their naturally juiciness. After some research, I came up with a recipe for Vanilla Scented Mini Peach Pies.

First, instead of tossing all the filling ingredients together, I let the fruit sit (or macerate) with sugar, flour, and a touch of nutmeg. Then I heated the resulting syrup in a saucepan until it was thick and mixed in the peaches at the last second. Second, I made mini pies using a mini-cupcake pan and lined the pan with liners for easy clean up. I was also able to cook the pies in a shorter time which lead to the peaches not being overcooked. Third, to give these mini pies something a little extra special, I used vanilla sugar which I always have in my pantry. I take my leftover vanilla bean pods (after I've scraped out the seeds) and stick them in an airtight container of granulated sugar. When you bake these pies, the house begins to smell like vanilla scented peaches - it's wonderful!

Recipe for Vanilla Scented Mini Peach Pies

LESSON LEARNED: Allowing the peaches to release their natural juices and cooking the syrup results in a thick pie filling. By adding the peaches after this process and shortening the baking time, keeps the peaches from being overcooked.

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