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guest post: bubbe pavone’s caramel peach pie

July 25, 2012

Benjamin Morris/NPR

We had this pie contest at work. Really – a contest for the best pie – and we were all taste-testing judges. And no offense to the other pie-sters out there, but there was really no competition – the caramel peach pie kicked ass. After sampling what was surely more than an appropriate-sized “sample,” I knew one thing – must. have. recipe. Well, fortunately for you and fortunately for me, baker extraordinaire Jessica Pavone is more than willing to share her pie recipe and wisdom. Thanks, Jessica!

This recipe also appears on the This Is NPR blog.

Some people are born into a family baking tradition, but, alas, I’m not one of them. In fact, I came to pie-making relatively late in life. (My grandma is said to have been a first-rate baker, but she hung up her apron before I was born.) So for me it’s always been about finding my own way—trusting my sweet tooth.

To me, a pie’s success hinges on its crust. Generally speaking, I’d say the classic butter-to-shortening ratio—70 to 30—holds in virtually every good pie. Meaning a pie worth eating is 70 percent good crust. Of course, like most things, it’s a personal decision. Some like an all butter crust. Some use cream cheese. Others prefer lard. Me, I like a crust that uses two fats—butter and shortening.

One of the best pie tips I’ve picked up is to always coat the fat with flour instead of blending the two together. Food scientist and baker Shirley O. Corriher has written extensively about the science behind pie crusts. A flaky one, for instance, requires a different process than a tender one.

This peach pie, modified from a Gourmet recipe, calls for a wet caramel: Heat the sugar with honey and then use the sticky result to coat the peaches. The rich caramel both plays against and enhances the peaches’ sweetness. And the buttery crust absorbs the peach juice perfectly.

Part of what I love about baking is the exactitude, the rigor—for a great pie (or cookie, cake, or croissant), everything has to be done to the letter. I learned to embrace that rigor years ago, while apprenticing with a New York pastry chef. But I also love it for other reasons, like the comfort of knowing that if I follow a good formula, with care and love, something truly sublime will emerge from my oven. When I’m baking, I feel like I’m part of something larger—and like everything is right in the world.

Jessica Pavone bakes under the nom de sucre “Bubbe Pavone.” Visit her blog for more info. Jessica’s recipe also appears on the This Is NPR blog.

bubbe pavone’s honey caramel peach pie

adapted from Gourmet

8 to 9 medium-size ripe but firm peaches (let them ripen overnight in a brown paper bag with the top folded down)
2 T cornstarch
1 ½ T unbleached all-purpose flour
3 t fresh lemon juice
1 t of cinnamon
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup mild honey (such as clover)
2 T water
3 T unsalted butter
your favorite pie crust (l like a butter and shortening crust)
1 T heavy cream
1 T Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Blanch peaches in boiling water to loosen skin; peel and cut into ½-inch-thick pieces.

Toss peaches with cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.

Bring ½ cup sugar, honey, and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Boil without stirring, swirling saucepan occasionally so that sugar melts evenly until it is dark amber—the color of an old copper penny. (This is a David Lebovitz trick.)

Remove pan from heat and add butter. Pour over fruit and toss.

Roll out 1 piece of dough and lay it on the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.

Transfer filling to pie shell.

Roll out remaining piece of dough. Cover pie.

Brush pie top with heavy cream and sprinkle Demerara sugar. Cut 3 vents in the top crust with a paring knife.

Bake pie for 20 minutes at 425°F. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue to bake until crust is golden-brown – about 50 minutes more. Cool pie to room temperature.

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