It was 1977. My husband and I had decided to go to Europe. Why? Because my wonderful grandparents offered to care for our dog and cat, encouraging us to “go take a long trip” while we were young. We sold our meager belongings, drove from Buffalo to Florida , left the pets with the folks, and became carefree vagabonds on ten dollars a day.
We returned from our escape to a harsh reality: my grandmother was dying. Having no real commitments, we stayed on and cared for her. I set up a studio to make the dolls I had put on hold while we traveled. Eventually, after she passed away, it was time to get back to our own lives. We headed north again, dolls, dog, and cat in tow.
My grandmother made wonderful breads and cakes. When we finally settled into our own apartment, I had an overwhelming desire to bake. Before our trip we were very young and very restless. Now, I thought about my grandmother and I just wanted to settle down and create our own home, make sweet things from scratch, and set a welcoming table for friends and family-- things she loved to do.
A pie was the first thing I baked as my husband and I began the next phase of our life together. To this day, whenever I take a warm pie out of the oven, I think of my grandmother and of renewal. Losing her taught me to embrace simple pleasures in order to begin again. A pie, with ingredients that can change with seasons or whims but is always housed within an enveloping crust, became my metaphor for settling in and enjoying the simple comfort of making a creative home. Thanks, Grandma.
Recipe for Green Peach Pie and Green Peach Tart
My favorite pie is Blueberry, but this is my second favorite, because I had never had one until I made it up. The key to this pie is finding the first peaches to hit the shelves when they are very green and even harder than apples. They will be not easy to peel, but it is well worth the effort. This works well cooked as an open tart or in a traditional two crust pie.
10 or more hard, green, unripened peaches
3 cups of flour (plus more for rolling dough and mixing with sugar)
¾ C vegetable shortening (plus more for greasing pan)
¾ C butter
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar added to cold water to make ½ C liquid
1 egg, separated
1 C sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ C light cream for brushing on top of the pie
Make the Crust (for a 2 crust pie)
3 cups of unbleached flour
¾ cup vegetable shortening
¾ cup butter
½ cup icy cold water (first put the 2 Tbs white vinegar into the measuring cup to total ½ liquid)
Keep the shortening in the freezer until ready to use.
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, shortening, and butter. Using an electric mixer at a slow speed, combine until the dough is crumbly and in the size of small peas. Slowly add the liquid and mix together just until the dough forms a ball. DO not over mix. Split the dough into two parts and roll each on a well floured surface to about 8 inches wide. Wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, for at least 45 minutes. I have done this several days ahead.
Build the Pie
Peel and pit enough peaches to make a tall pie. I use around 10 peaches. Slice them as you would apples.
Grease a ten-inch pie plate. Roll out one crust onto the well floured surface, large enough to cover the pie plate. When it is about ¼ inch thick, roll the crust onto the rolling pin and roll it out again onto the greased pie plate.
Whip one egg white until foamy and brush the inside of the empty crust. Make a mixture of 1 cup Sugar and three Tablespoons flour. Sprinkle some of this on the inside of the crust. Layer the sliced peaches with the remaining sugar mixture. Dot the top with butter. Moisten the bottom crust with water along the edges. Cover the fruit with the remaining crust, once again using the rolling pin to pick it up as before. Pinch the two crusts together after trimming the excess dough.
Cut steam holes in the top crust and brush with a mixture of light cream and the remaining egg yolk. Sprinkle with sugar.
Put the pie into a preheated 425 degree oven 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 and bake another 40-45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
For a Green Peach Tart, I use an open French style tart pan—the kind where you can remove the bottom from the frame after baking. Follow all the instructions as before, but after brushing the bottom crust with the egg white, sprinkle very lightly with sugar only. Place the sliced peaches parallel to each other carefully starting at the outer edge and continuing around the inside of the pie creating concentric circles within each other. Bake as before, but after turning down the oven temp, leave in only until the peaches soften--about 35 minutes. Drizzle with honey to taste after the pie comes out of the oven.