Thursday, October 22, 2009

peach pie and fruit theft

It amazes me, the entitlement people feel toward other people's fruit trees. People who would never dream of stealing so much as a pen think nothing of snatching the tempting fruits of their neighbors' trees. About a year ago, I was reading a popular food blog. The author had posted about fruit was falling to the ground from a neighbor's tree in copious amounts and was apparently going to be wasted. The author confessed to going climbing into the neighbor's yard and taking the fruit. This elicited a barrage of comments from like-minded readers, patting themselves on the back for preventing precious fruit from going to waste. One even had the audacity to strip a neighbor's tree without permission and then present the neighbor with a jar of jam, as though that made up for the theft. (Apparently the neighbors were, in fact, forgiving.)

I was angry when I read the post and the comments, joking about and justifying such theft. But I refrained from commenting because I hadn't commented on the blog reguarly, and I don't like my only comments to be critical. If the negative things on a blog compell me to post more than the positive ones, I just stop reading.

But now I wish I had. Last summer we were delighted to discover that our new home has a peach tree. And the peaches on this tree are the best we've ever tasted. So good that even I, mistrustful of peaches after a childhood of eating far too many canned ones, have looked forward to our peach harvest since January. When the peaches were finally ripe, I put off picking them because I was dismayed by the strange spots they all had. I didn't want to face the possibility that they could be bad. And because we just had a baby, and it has been no small adjustment. Finding even the little time needed to pick the fruit felt overwhelming.

So, the peaches were starting to fall. My husband wanted to eat them, spots notwithstanding. And I, remembering that blogger's post, decided the day had come to pick the fruit regardless of
whether we were actually going to use it. If it was good, we would celebrate with pies and cobblers. If it wasn't, I would prevent any passersby from feeling entitled to take our fruit next year on the mistaken idea that we had wasted it this year. I had a busy day running errands (everything takes so much longer when there's a baby involved), and at night, remembered my
peaches. When I went outside, I discovered that someone had stolen our peaches. Every last one.
I was devastated. We hung a sign on the tree, begging for the return of our fruit. But to no avail. So, I'll say to the internets what I wish I could say to the peach thief: Just because the fruit hasn't been picked yet doesn't mean it won't be. And even if it isn't, even if the fruit rots on the ground, that doesn't justify you in trespassing or stealing from your neighbors. Most of you wouldn't sneak into someone's house to take leftovers out of their fridge to prevent food from wasting, and it's no more your business if they choose to waste their fruit. Either get permission to pick or pony up the dough and go buy your own fruit. Chances are, if your neighbor has a tree, there's a fruit stand selling the same thing. And chances are, if your neighbor isn't going to use the fruit, they'll happily share. We can't give the fruit from our other trees away fast enough. Ask about our cherries or our pears, and the answer will be please, take more! We can't use it all, and it's a shame to waste it. We are delighted to be able to share, and we are all the more delighted that people are considerate enough to ask instead of just taking what is easily in reach.

So--if it's not yours, don't take it.

And now, for the peach pie. We resorted to buying our peaches from a local stand this year, and they were quite good, if not as good as our own peaches would have been. B's father was visiting and peach pie is his favorite, so B asked me to make one for him. I haven't made many pies and the crusts I've tried have been hit-and-miss. So I was excited to try the Best American Classics version. And my excitement was completely justified. This pie was amazing. I'll be making it every year now, and I can't wait to use the crust for a sour cherry pie, too. I made two pies, one with almond extract and one without. Somehow, even though I used the same peaches for both pies, the peaches in the pie without the extract were juicier and created a bit of a flood. The pie was still good, though a bit soggy.

lattice-top peach pie (from New Best Recipes, editors of Cook's Illustrated)
1 recipe pie dough for lattice-top pie
flour for dusting the work surface
6-7 medium, ripe peaches (about 7 C sliced)
1 TB juice from 1 lemon
1 C (7 oz.) + 1 TB sugar
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
pinch salt
3-5 TB potato starch or Minute tapioca
*I added about 1 TB almond extract

Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable). roll the larger piece of dough to a 15 x 11" rectangle about 1/8" thick; transfer the dough rectangle to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a pizza wheel, fluted pastry wheel, or paring knife, trim the long sides of the rectangle to make them straight, then cut the rectangle lengthwise into 8 strips 15" long by 1 1/4" wide. Freeze the strips on the baking sheet until firm, about 30 minutes.

Following the illustrations on page 884, roll the smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface or between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a 12" circle. Transfer the dough to a 9" pie plate by rolling the dough arounda rolling pin and unrolling it over the pan. Working around the circumference of the pan, ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressinag it into the pan bottom with the other hand. leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the pie plate in place; refrigerate the dough-line pie plate.

Remove the dough strips from the freezer; if theya re too stiff to e workable, let them stand at room temperature until malleable and softened slightly but still very cold. Form the lattice top and place in the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on it, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan and fill a large bowl with 2 quarts cold water and 2 trays ice cubes. Score an X in the bottom of each peach and simmer in the boiling water 30-60 seconds, depending on the peaches' ripeness. Transfer peaches to ice water and let stand about 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Starting from the X, peel the peach, using a paring knife to lift the skin off in strips. [I skipped this step, peeling my peaches with a vegetable peeling. I'll probably try this next time, as my way took forever.] Halve and pit each peeled peach and cut into 3/8" slices.

Toss the peach slices, lemon juice, 1 C sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and potato starch into a medium bowl.

Turn the peach mixture into the dough-lined pie plate. Remove the lattice from the freezer and place on top of the filled pie. Trim the lattice strips and crimp the pie edges. Lightly brush or spray the lattice top with 1 TB water and sprinkle with the remaining 1 TB sugar.

Lower the oven temperature to 425 F. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake until the crust is set and begins to brown, 25-30 minutes. Rotate the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 375 F. Continue baking until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices bubble, 25-30 minutes longer. Cool the pie on a wire rack at least 2 hours before serving.

basic pie dough, lattice-top variation (New Best Recipes)
3 C flour (15 oz)
1 tsp salt
2 TB sugar
7 TB vegetable shortening, chilled [I used butter-flavored]
10 TB cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
10 TB ice water

Process the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.

Sprinkle the ice water oer the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4" disk. Wrap in palstic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.

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