Peach Pie with Crème Fraîche

July 20, 2010


Crumbles, Dough & Desserts, Local Eating, Pie, Recipes, Seasons, Summer

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Peaches remind me of a fancy cocktail made with whipped egg whites and served in a paper-thin antique glass with a long, skinny stem and flecks of fast melting ice. The kind of drink I suck back in seconds, afraid it will change irreversibly in my grip. For me, peaches are just as fleeting, perhaps more so. They are the Blanche Dubois of summer, always slightly over-ripe, always begging for attention, and always on the verge of collapse. (Though perhaps not so desperate.)  I gobble them up greedily, over the sink, often in private. As if I don’t want people to know what I’m getting away with—the rapid, hedonistic annihilation of such a beautiful thing.


Can you blame me? Have you never found a peach too fleeting? I’m not talking about the little immigrant rocks flown in from some warm place and placed on a grocer’s cold heap, September through June. I’m talking about the peaches that come to you, bursting or bruised, off a nearby tree at the height of summer. Those are the kinds of peaches that terrify and fascinate me. I just cannot resist them.  I recognize that none of this really explains why I am so timid around peaches and pate sucrée. Maybe it’s as simple as this (though I’m really not a math person):

peaches = fleeting = summer

by contrast:

pie = time

By extension, I’m not sure I want to spend an entire day of my summer inside, potentially ruining 6 perfect peaches in an amateur pie job. Time flies, and for that matter, so do the good peaches. Imagine pulsing the elements of your crust, turning around, and finding no fruit left on the counter. It might be improbable with any other fruit, or in any other season. But with peaches in July, it is highly likely. Also likely: a too-hot kitchen; a fallen crust; battered fruit and a broken heart.


But I talked myself up to the task, and set aside the better part of a gorgeous afternoon to finally commit to the ultimate summer dessert. Still, I wanted nothing to do with the cloak of a double crust. Fortunately, the problem had been solved by Martha Stewart, whose recipe called for a luxurious coating of crème fraîche , streusel topping and a single crust…it reminded me of last summer’s clafoutis, where the peaches rose to the top of the custard so that their colors and curves were very much a part of the dessert.


I can happily report that this pie was worth the wait: none of the peaches were eaten en route to the oven, by me or anybody else. I also want to say that I got some help from the witty Deb, of Smitten Kitchen, whose advice on baking a pie crust is spot-on. This pie was equally edible a day (and two) later, when stored in the fridge. In the end, I felt like a magician, extending the lives of these ephemeral fruits–if only for two days.

Peach Pie with Crème Fraîche

Make the crust:  (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 ¼ cups flour
1  tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 sticks (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cubed

Set aside a cup of ice water.

In a food processor (or a large bowl) blend together flour, sugar and salt.
Add butter and pulse (or blend with a pastry blender) until pea-sized pieces emerge.
Don’t over-blend, even if dough seems uneven—the little bits of butter make the crust flaky.
Place the dough on a work surface (unless it is already in a bowl) and bring it together by adding ¼ c of ice water.
Gather dough with a spatula. If it seems dry, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
When dough is moist enough to cling together, knead it into a ball.
Wrap ball in plastic and press it into a disc. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8” thick.
Press into a regular-sized pie plate (9-10”).
Trim edges and create whatever decorative edge inspires you.
Poke bottom of crust with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes.
Just before removing crust from freezer, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Par-bake by pressing aluminum foil against frozen pie crust.
Bake for 10 minutes, then gently remove foil and press raised spots with the back of a spoon.
Return crust to oven until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.

Make the Streusel

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
¼ cup cold (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Stir sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a small bowl.
Add butter and blend into the flour mixture with the tines of a fork, until coarse crumbs form.
Set aside.

Make the Filling

1 ¾ pounds ripe (6 medium) yellow peaches, pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons crème fraîche

Put peaches into a medium bowl, and sprinkle with sugar and salt; gently toss to coat and let stand 15 minutes.
Spread 2 tablespoons crème fraîche onto bottom of crust and sprinkle with 1/3 of the streusel.
Layer peaches on top and dot with remaining crème fraîche .
Sprinkle with remaining streusel.

Bake until crème fraîche bubbles and streusel is golden brown, about 50 minutes.
Cover edge of crust with foil if it begins to brown prematurely.
Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature and store in the refrigerator.

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