Last week in the bakery, I made peach pies.
It took several tries to arrive at one I was happy with. First, I made the one I wrote about here, but the bourbon flavor wasn’t strong enough and it was too sweet. So then I made a new recipe that called for macerating the peaches and then mixing the juice with two cups of dry rosé and reducing it down to almost nothing. Which made a good pie — I loved the delicate pink color — except I couldn’t detect the rosé, and what’s the point of using all that rosé if you can’t taste it?
And then I tried a bolder method: a whole cup of bourbon cooked down to just a few tablespoons and then infused with fresh rosemary. With this pie, while I didn’t detect the bourbon and rosemary outright, those two ingredients added complexity and depth, turning the ever-insipid peach (sorry, peach lovers) into the flavorful, more peachy, affair I was pining after.
pre-ordered pie awaiting pickup
Also! I left the peaches unpeeled, and then carefully arranged them in the pie shell, skin-side up. This way, with the peaches packed in tight, they didn’t cook down into mush and the skins added a lovely peachy color. The skins, I was delighted to discover, did not, in any way, detract from the texture of the pie.
Because I baked the test pie on a Friday and it was still too warm to cut into by the end of the day and the bakery and diner were closed that weekend (Redwing!), I was forced — FORCED — to take the whole pie home with me so it could be properly taste tested.
And boy oh boy, did we ever taste-test the heck out of that pie. We had it for dessert that night, and then I had it for breakfast the next morning, and then I had it again that afternoon, etc, etc., until, within just twenty-four hours, we’d managed to taste test that pie straight into oblivion.
My job is so hard.
Peach Pie with Bourbon and Fresh Rosemary
Adapted from Erin Jeanne McDowell’s recipe in the Poughkeepsie Journal.
1 recipe (2 disks) rich butter pastry
4-5 firm, juicy peaches
1 cup bourbon
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
½ slightly-rounded cup dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Roll out one disk of pastry and place it in a 9-inch pie plate, allowing the excess to hang over the edge of the plate. Roll out the second disk of pastry and cut it into strips: you can either make a lattice directly on the filled pie, or weave it on a piece of parchment and then flip it onto the fruit-filled pie. At the bakery, I make stacks of lattice weave and then store them in the freezer to have on hand for easy pie assembly.
Pour the bourbon into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until it’s reduced to one-fourth cup. Remove from heat and add the rosemary. Steep for a couple minutes — or longer, if you want a stronger rosemary flavor. Remove the rosemary and squeeze/press to get every drop of the rosemary-infused bourbon reduction. Add the brown sugar and return to a boil. Cook for a minute, stirring steadily. Remove from the heat and add the butter and salt.
Measure the cornstarch into a small bowl. Add a little of the hot bourbon caramel sauce and whisk until smooth. Add the cornstarch slurry back to the bourbon mixture and, whisking constantly, boil for one minute. Remove from heat. (At this point, the caramel can be refrigerated for a few days — maybe even weeks — until ready to use.).
Pit and slice the peaches. Do not peel. Toss with the caramel sauce and then arrange the slices, cut-side down, in tight, concentric circles, tucking in peaches where needed to make a well-filled (but not heaping) pie shell. Pour the remaining caramel sauce over the peaches. Top with the lattice weave and crimp to seal. Brush the lattice and edges with an egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with a pinch of salt and a bit of heavy cream).
Bake the pie in the bottom half of the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until the center is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. If needed, cover the tops and/or edges with foil to protect from burning. Cool to room temp and serve with vanilla ice cream.
This same time, years previous: Italian meringue buttercream, lemony cream cheese frosting, all practicality, on his own, the quotidian (7.21.14), how to beat the heat, braised cabbage, salvation’s chocolate chip cookies.