Monday, July 4, 2011

Lattice-Top Peach Pie

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This is perhaps the most perfect, if not the best, peach pie I have ever tasted. There is no room for improvement here except perhaps changing around some of the steps involved to shorten the time it takes to prepare.

Rose Levy Beranbaum's is not a name that I am terribly familiar with but that changed a couple of days ago.   Her first book, The Cake Bible, was the 1989 winner of the IACP/Seagram Book of the Year and the NASFT Showcase Award for the cookbook that has contributed most to educating the consumer about specialty foods. A culinary best-seller, The Cake Bible is currently in its 47th printing. It was listed by the James Beard Foundation as one of the top 13 baking books on "the Essential Book List." She has been called the "Diva of Desserts" and "the most meticulous cook who ever lived."

It was not until I finished the pie and was ready to work on this post that I read the last line of her bio. Meticulous? that is one word I avoid like the plague, particularly when I'm cooking, although I have to admit that despite all the work, this pie was extraordinary. Not only was I pleased with the crust, but the filling had the perfect consistency.

In spite of the fact that I read the recipe through twice, I didn't realize how much down time there was. For every step there seemed to be another 45 minutes in the refrigerator and towards the end I started to grow impatient and cranky and started to cut back to about 15 minutes in the freezer. "Meticulous" meets "practical and impatient". Luckily I had the Sunday puzzle to work on and time went by like a breeze; but this is not a pie to make at the last minute.

Next time I make it, and I will make it again, here are some of the changes I suggest to speed up the process without sacrificing the end result.

- Make the dough the day before.

- When it calls for chilling in refrigerator, cut the time in half by placing it in the freezer

- Adjust the size of the disks by 2/3 for the bottom crust and 1/3 for the lattice

- Prepare the peach filling before you roll out the bottom crust

- Watch the cooking temperature closely. I adjusted down to 400 degrees for the last 20 minutes

When all is said and done, this is definitely the pie you want to make to impress your mother in law!

I macerate the peaches and boil the juices to concentrate them. This intensifies their peachiness and means you need less cornstarch thickener, thus preserving the fruit’s flavor. Rose Levy Bernbaum

Serves 8
Yields one 9-inch pie.


For the dough

6 oz. (12 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter
6-1/2 oz. (1-1/2 cups) bleached all-purpose flour
3-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) cake flour
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
4-1/2 oz. (1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs.) cold cream cheese
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1 Tbs. cider vinegar

For the filling:

2-3/4 lb. ripe but firm peaches (about 8 medium Georgia peaches)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar)
Pinch table salt
4 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract

For the glaze:

2 Tbs. milk
1 Tbs. turbinado sugar or granulated sugar


Make the dough: (I suggest you do this the day before)

Cut the butter into 3/4-inch cubes. Wrap them in plastic and freeze until hard, at least 30 minutes. Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, salt, and baking powder in a metal bowl and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Put the cold flour mixture in a food processor and process for a few seconds to combine.

Cut the cold cream cheese into three or four pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Process for 20 seconds (the mixture should resemble fine meal). Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter pieces is larger than a pea, about five 3-second pulses. (Toss with a fork to see it better.)

Add the cream and vinegar and pulse in short bursts until the dough starts to come together (which will take a minute or two); the dough will still look crumbly but if you press it between your fingers, it should become smooth. Turn it out onto a clean work surface. Gather and press the dough together to form a unified mass.

Cut the dough in half and put each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Loosely cover the dough with the plastic. Using the wrap as an aid (to avoid warming the dough with your bare hands), shape one half of the dough into a flat disk and the other into a flat rectangle.( It took more than 1/2 the dough for the bottom crust.  I suggest you do 2/3 disk for bottom and 1/3 rectangle for lattice) Wrap each tightly in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and up to 24 hours.

You can make a day ahead up to here

Roll out the bottom crust:

Remove the disk of dough from the fridge (keep the rectangle refrigerated); if it’s very firm, let it sit at room temperature until it’s pliable enough to roll, 10 to 15 minutes.

Set the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap sprinkled lightly with flour. Roll it out to a 13-inch round that’s 1/8 inch thick, occasionally loosening and reapplying the plastic wrap.

Remove one piece of plastic and flip the dough into a standard metal 9-inch pie pan (it should be 1-1/4 inches deep and hold 4 cups of liquid). Fit the dough into the pan and carefully peel off the plastic. Trim the dough so there’s a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold the overhang underneath itself to create an edge that extends about 1/4 inch beyond the rim of the pie pan. Cover the dough-lined pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Make the filling and top the pie:

For easier peeling of the peaches, drop them in boiling water for a minute.  This makes it much easier to peel.

Peel the peaches. Halve each peach, remove the pit, and slice each half into eight thin wedges; you should have 6 cups.

Put the peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle the lemon juice over them. Sprinkle on the sugar and salt and toss gently to mix. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. Transfer them to a colander suspended over a bowl to collect the juices; you should have almost 1 cup of liquid (if the peaches sat for several hours, you’ll have 1 to 1-1/2 cups liquid).

Pour the juices into a small, nonstick saucepan set over medium heat. Boil down the liquid, swirling but not stirring, until it’s syrupy, about 10 minutes; it should reduce to 1/3 to 1/2 cup, depending on how much liquid you started with. Set aside to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, transfer the peaches to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch and almond extract until all traces of cornstarch have disappeared. Pour the reduced peach juices over the peaches, tossing gently. (Don’t worry if the liquid hardens on the peaches; it will dissolve during baking.)

Remove the rectangle of dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature until it’s pliable enough to roll, 10 to 15 minutes. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to an 11x14-inch or larger rectangle (if it becomes an oval, that’s fine); it should be no more than 1/8 inch thick.

Cut ten 3/4-inch-wide strips lengthwise down the rectangle, using a ruler to measure and mark 3/4-inch intervals and to cut a straight edge. If you want a crimped edge on the strips, use a fluted pastry wheel.

Stir the peach filling a few times and scrape it into the pie shell. Arrange five strips of dough evenly over the filling, starting with a long strip for the center. Gently fold back every other strip (the second and the fourth) to a little past the center. Choose another long strip of dough, hold it perpendicular to the other strips, and set it across the center of the pie.

Unfold the two folded strips so they lie flat on top of the perpendicular strip. Now fold back the strips that weren't folded back last time (the first, third, and fifth ones).

 Lay a second perpendicular strip of dough about 3/4-inch away from the last one. Unfold the three folded strips. Fold back the orginal two strips, set a a third perpendicular strip of dough 3/4 inch from the last one, and unfold the two strips.

Repeat on the other side with the two remaining strips: fold back alternating strips, lay a strip of dough on top, and unfold. Remember to alternate the strips that are folded back to create a woven effect. Trim the strips to a 1/2-inch overhang. Moisten the underside of each one and tuck it under the bottom crust, pressing to make it adhere. Crimp or flute the edges if you like.

Bake and let the pie cool:

Lightly cover the assembled pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (I placed it in the freezer for 30 minutes while oven was warming up) After 30 minutes of chilling, set an oven rack on the lowest rung and put a foil-lined baking stone or baking sheet on it. Heat the oven to 425°F.

Notice how meticulous I was cutting the strips

When the pie has chilled for 1 hour, brush the lattice with the milk and sprinkle on the sugar.

Set the pie directly on the baking stone or sheet. Bake until the juices are bubbling all over (the bubbles should be thick and slow near the pan edges), 40 to 50 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, cover the rim with foil or a pie shield. If the lattice starts to darken too much in the last 10 minutes of baking, cover it loosely with a piece of foil that has a vent hole poked in the center.

Let the pie cool on a rack until the juices have thickened, 3 hours.

Notice how in the didn't matter!

by Rose Levy Beranbau
From Fine Cooking 65, pp. 68-71
July 1, 2004

Recipe via Fine Cooking
Photos #1, 3-6 Fine Cooking, #2,7-9 Lindaraxa


  1. That looks yummy! By the way, my onion tart was divine, I meant to take a picture and send it to you but it was eaten before I could get out the camera!

  2. Very interesting.
    Years ago I went through Rose Levy Bernbaum's Cake
    Bible and after several recipes felt as though the process had turned into a Science Experiment! The
    instructions were torturous, so I can well appreciate
    the mixture of admiration and crankiness that you
    experienced while making the peach pie. One serious
    reservation: what is the point of refrigerating the fully assembled pie, unless to guaranty a soggy bottom crust? Have I missed something here?

  3. Paul,

    That tart was a cinch to make compared to this pie! so glad you enjoyed it. The photo part happens to me all the time and then I have to resort to a stock photo or a half empty plate!


    I gather the whole process of putting the dough in the fridge after each step is to keep those pieces of butter in the dough intact so they burst while baking and guarantee a flaky crust. Just saying....remember I am more of a cook than a baker but working on the latter. I cheated, and placed it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. The crust was not soggy in the least. On the contrary, firm and flaky.

    For me this whole recipe was a mini course in baking a pie. I might just switch pastry recipes next time and see if there is a difference. I will tell you, though, the filling was perfect...this I will definitely not change!

  4. Far be it from me to criticize a meticulous recipe,
    nor was I advocating any sort of slapdash approach!
    The business of placing a rolled out crust in the 'fridge is always adhered to in my kitchen, so with that part I have no problem. But I did raise an eyebrow at the slightly questionable notion of filling a pie with wettish fruit and having it chill for an hour. Nevertheless,the best part of the recipe was the maceration of the peaches ahead of time, allowing them to extrude some of their juices, which nearly always wreck a peach pie.
    For my part, I never make peach pies, only shallow peach tarts, so the issue of excessive juices is never all that vexing.

  5. My maternal grandmother always had a pie, cake or some sort of dessert made for even an everyday meal. For more special occasions, she often made a lattice pie such as this, from peaches or apples growing just outside her kitchen. All were fabulous, but I particularly enjoyed these lattice pies, favoring them over more sophisticated tartes and such, and associate them with special treats today.

  6. Classicist,

    My mother in law used to make a pie at the drop of a hat and they were the best I've ever had. Her cherry pie was legendary. The kids would pull out the pie tin and place a note on it that said FILL ME, PLEASE!!!

  7. I LOVE Rose Levy Berenbaum! Her book, The Cake Bible taught me to bake. She makes it very clear that baking is a science. Unlike cooking where one can be quite cavalier with ingredients and experiment, baking is more precise. All of her recipes are faultless.
    I can taste that peach pie!! My favorite.


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