Yesterday was National Peach Pie day! I could not let this momentous occasion go by without a fitting tribute. I’ve been making pies (mostly with my grandmother) all my life. Even today (as she approaches 80 years old) she whips up a pie when one of her great-grand-children comes to visit. Rhubarb is my favorite. I grew up loving all things fruit. My grandpa was and still is a major fruit lover. Most of my childhood memories with him involve eating fruit. He would take the short paring knife and (cutting towards himself which was a no-no) he would hand me a piece, then eat a piece, and so on. I, who would rather eat fruit and cheese for dessert, feel like a love of fruit pies is a logical extension of my desire for not-so-sweet desserts and fruit in general.
Although my grandma prefers to work with ready-made pie dough (who doesn’t?!), I like to make my own using the food processor (thanks be to the gods who came up with this kitchen appliance). When she does make her own crusts, however, she employs her secret weapon – the weapon that makes ALL her baked goods better than everyone else’s and that is shortening. The ideal situation is to use a combination of shortening and butter. I wouldn’t say I’m a crust expert by now, but I can pull together two decent looking crusts that both hold the pie together well and taste buttery/feel flaky, so I call that a win!
For the filling I adapted a recipe from allrecipes for “Old-Fashioned” Peach Pie. Essentially you cut up and skin 5 peaches, squeeze some lemon juice over them, add flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt to them, mix together until the baking ingredients are incorporated and the flour is no longer white. Pour into the pie crust, top with the second crust, and bake at 425 for 10 min, 350 for 30 (the recipe says 450, but I decided to do 425 instead and it turned out wonderfully).
Except, I also added *my* secret weapon: Fontina cheese! Whereas many pie recipes call for you to dot the filling with butter, I elect to add cheese to my pies. This might make some of you start – a slice of cheddar next to an apple pie is one thing, but cheese inside the pie? Yes. I didn’t know that such things were possible until a long-time friend of mine introduced me to the show Pushing Daisies when we were roommates. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the central character is a pie maker and his love interest incorporates cheese into their recipes. My friend ate so much pie while we were watching that show! Since then I’ve used Gruyere with apple pie (recipe forthcoming now that I’m back on the pie-making wagon) and now Fontina and peach pie. In the apple pie, I put the cheese into the crust and sprinkle some over the filling. For the peach, since I had limited cheese (only the little packets from our grocery store, which, as I’ve said, is going through a renovation), I diced it finely and sprinkled it over the filling so it would melt into the pie itself. It is like having a whole cheese platter at a fancy restaurant in one bite! The sweet/tartness of the fruit plays pleasantly with the creamy, slightly salty cheese and together they dance with the buttery, flaky crust. It is definitely a party in your mouth.
Adapted Old-Fashioned Peach Pie Recipe
2 Pie Crusts
5-6 Peaches, skinned and cut into wedges
2 T lemon juice (you might want to add a little more if you like your pies more tart)
1/2 C Flour
1 C Sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 oz Fontina cheese, diced or shredded (I would have added more if I had it)
1 egg beaten w/ a few drops of water
1-2 teaspoons sugar
Set oven to 425 (his recipe says 450, but I set mine lower). Mix filling ingredients except cheese, pour into bottom pie crust. Dot top with cheese. Add second crust and crimp edges with fork tines. Brush top crust with egg wash and sprinkle sugar. Cut four inch-long vents in the pie crust to let steam escape. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, lower heat to 350 and bake for 30 more minutes or until crust is golden and pie filling is bubbling.
Have you ever used cheese to make pie? I’d LOVE to hear your ideas because this is only the beginning – stay tuned for more cheesy, fruity deliciousness to come.