Apple pie is commonly considered the symbol of American wholesomeness and hardiness. (Which is ironic since apples are not native to America whereas blueberries are.) Smooth, flaky pastry enveloping tender, spiced apples swimming in a gooey, sweet pool of syrup just feels so familiar and good! It’s often either topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream or, in some circles, a thick slice of Cheddar cheese. Personally, I’m in the vanilla ice cream camp, but apple pie is just as delicious on it’s own. Hot or cold.
This Independence Day however, I chose to do something a little different. Someone in my inner circle even claimed it was sacrilege. I chose to try my hand at a different pie. A few years ago I made Better Homes & Gardens’ Apple Pie for Thanksgiving. It was more time-consuming than store bought or frozen of course, but incredibly rewarding. It turned out to be the best apple pie I’d ever had in my whole life! It was everything I ever wanted in an apple pie. This time I tested my skills for peach pie. Just as good, but a little less popular in American tastes.
It’s that time of year when peaches are ripe and plentiful. One of my favorite fruits growing up was peaches. Who else can remember biting into a cool, just-ripe peach in the thick humidity of Summer and all the sticky-saccharine juice coursing down your chin? Such happy memories… I also had (and still do have) a special fondness for Quaker Oats Peaches-and-Cream Oatmeal. I like all the fruit-and-cream varieties really, but the peaches-and-cream was always my favorite. To this day, I carry packets of it in my purse for quick breakfasts on long Sunday mornings between service and serving.
So, when I saw a recipe for Peach Cream Pie from Laura Bush, I jumped at the opportunity to go off the beaten path a bit. This peaches-and-cream pie was right up my alley… even if no one else’s! I haven’t been baking as much lately. If I bake, it’s really hard for my sweet tooth to resist over-indulging. Nowadays, if I do plan on baking, I make sure to wrap it up once it’s made (after enjoying a generous serving) and bring it with me to church to spring on my unsuspecting fellow nursery workers. I’ve even gifted a few serving/baking dishes with goodies included! Calories don’t count on Sundays, y’all. That’s the Lord’s day.
Unlike your average peach pie with a translucent, syrupy base to support the Summertime gold; this recipe was more of a custard-like filling surrounding each tender bite of fresh-from-the-pit stone fruit. Oh you didn’t think I used frozen did you? Frozen is fine sometimes. I like it for smoothies and late night snacks, but if you have fruit that’s fresh and ripe… You ought to use it! When I made the apple pie, I took the time to lovingly peel, core, and thinly slice each apple to fill the pie. This time was no different.
At the store, I conscientiously chose peaches that maybe were a little oversoft or even bruised for my pies. It reminds me of that film Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon. In the film, Reese’s character Melanie is with her mama in the kitchen. Her mama is sleeves-rolled-up deep in juicy plums making jam and giving Melanie a life lesson at the same time. She says, “Spoiled’s in the eye of the beholder… like these plums here. Some people might call them ‘spoiled,’ but I think these almost-ruined ones make the sweetest jam.” This line has stuck with me all these years and I really quite agree! The bruised, softer, or overripe ones aren’t past their usefulness. They’re just right for cooking or baking.
In the end, our forks glided right through the filling like a knife deftly spreads softened butter on fresh bread. The mild and creamy custard wasn’t too stiffly set and it balanced well with the lush, floral notes of the hand-sliced yellow peaches. Pie is usually topped with generous dollops of whipped cream; but with the cream baked right into the filling, I didn’t miss it at all! I still haven’t mastered the perfect pie crust (I’m still working on that…), so I opted for the classic standby of refrigerated Pillsbury. They’re every bit as soft and flaky as one would expect even if they don’t taste 100% homemade.
It was difficult to judge how many peaches to buy to come out with 5-6c. Next time, I would make sure to buy more peaches (maybe even over-buy to be safe) and add a generous tsp of real vanilla to the batter. I suppose this is where someone might have used frozen to make this step easier; but I feel like, as a culture, we’ve become too far removed from the earth. I ached to feel more connected to all the authentically sticky, messy reality of the whole ingredient. A knife slip and cut to the thumb towards the end definitely brought me back to reality, but failed to dull my enthusiasm. It was every bit worth the minor inconvenience.
Blueberry pie is still my long-standing favorite, and my sweet grandmother makes the only one The Mr will eat, but this pie was a fun change from the ordinary. What is your favorite pie and who makes it for you?
Currently Reading: Passionate Nutrition: A Guide to Using Food as Medicine by Jennifer Adler