Friday, July 23, 2010

Peach of Perfection

Don't know about you but I always get seduced this time of year in the produce section. Those blueberries look wonderful, no wait, I should get the apricots, but look at those lovely watermelons, no the peaches are even better...and so it goes.

If I buy everything that looks good I never have the time to play with it all in the kitchen. We have lots of yummy fruit cups and fruit salads anyway, but I want to bake with some of the fruit.

This time it was the perfectly ripe freestone peaches that took my fancy. Usually peaches at the store are rock hard and you have to go to the farmers market for ripe ones. This time there were plenty and plenty of firm but ripe peaches with that wonderful aroma that you only get when they are at the peak of perfection. I bought way too many, but who can resist?

I've eaten most of them as it, with sweet, sticky juice running down my hand and chin as I bite into them. One of the plum trees down the hill also has ripe fruit. That is why last night, after a full day of work, I stood at the kitchen counter peeling peaches and plums and concocting a freeform pie.

Somewhere recently I read on a blog that you can bake your streusel before using it. I always put it on raw and let it bake with whatever dish I'm baking but this time I decided to try topping the pie with baked streusel because the pie wasn't going to bake long enough to really crisp up the streusel if it was uncooked.

I decided to put a ricotta and egg mixture, sweetened with a little sugar and spiked with lemon zest, on the bottom to cradle the peach slices. If I make this again I'll drain the ricotta the day before...it was too watery and so the bottom crust didn't cook properly, even placed on a preheated baking stone.

The sliced fruit could have been piled onto the ricotta which had been swirled over much of the rolled out pie dough, but I decided to place them in a single layer so that the pie could be in the oven a shorter time. Didn't want to curdle the ricotta.

Since this is a freeform pie, the outer four inches is left free of filling and is pulled up to cover the outer section of the fruit and filling. I scattered the streusel over the center section with only a little going under the crust. After pleating the crust and giving it all an egg wash, into the oven it went! I used high heat so that the pie crust would brown up and get flaky quickly. That part worked like a charm.

This was a delightful pie with warm, sweet, perfect peaches and plums complemented by a creamy filling and crunchy sweet streusel and flaky, tender crust. The extra streusel would be good for making a fruit and ice cream semifreddo or a fruit and yogurt parfait...or eating out of hand, which is what I did while the pie was cooling.

You can use this idea for lots of pies, just change out the fruits. It would be great with apricots or blueberries or blackberries or raspberries or cherries...and divine with sliced apples and some cinnamon in the streusel. If you do the latter, pre-cook the apples. You only want to bake it long enough to cook the pie dough.

I wish I could remember the blog where I got the idea to bake the streusel first so I could give them credit.
Otherwise this recipe is off the top of my head. BTW, you can substitute other nuts for the walnuts in the streusel. How about pistachios with apricots or almonds with cherries?


Peak of Perfection Peach and Plum Freeform Pie with Fresh Nutmeg Streusel

Fresh Nutmeg Streusel
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, cold
½ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Unbaked dough for a single crust pie- your favorite recipe or use Pillsbury Readycrust as I did

Filling
3-6 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
2-3 ripe Santa Rosa plums, peeled and sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
zest of ½ lemon

Egg Wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees while you prepare the streusel. Line a half sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Set aside.

In a food processor pulse together all of the streusel ingredients until the mixture clumps. To make without a food processor, chop the nuts finely and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture clumps.

Spread the streusel mixture out on the pan, leaving it in clumps and globs, but breaking them down if bigger than your thumb. Bake in preheated oven for 10 – 15 minutes until golden to medium brown. Remove from oven. Mixture may have spread. Use a small spatula to break the mixture up if pieces have gotten larger than your thumb. Let cool.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the pie dough into a circle about 14 inches in diameter. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the dough circle. Place the parchment on a pizza peel or baking sheet with no rims or back of a rimmed baking sheet.


In a small bowl combine the ricotta, sugar, egg and lemon zest. Pour the mixture into the center of the prepared pie dough.

Using the back of a spoon, spread the cheese mixture over the dough circle, leaving a 4 inch strip along the edge free of filling.


Place the peach and plum slices in concentric circles over the filling, starting at the outer edge and working in.

Sprinkle streusel clumps over the center section of fruit, leaving about 3 inches along the edges of the fruit with no streusel.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F, placing a baking stone in the center of the top rack, which has been set in the center of the oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, place a large baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
Returning to the fruit and streusel filled dough circle, fold up the unfilled edge of pie dough.


You will need to pleat the edge as you go along. Use water to lightly wet the surface of the overlapping dough and press lightly to seal. Continue until all unfilled dough has been folded toward the center. Paint the dough with an egg wash. Place pie in oven, sliding the parchment onto the baking stone or large baking sheet.


Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before slicing.

Makes one 10-inch freeform pie.

6 comments:

David T. Macknet said...

Looks delicious! I envy you your wonderful fruit!

tanita davis said...

Ooh, peaches! I am missing those. And Santa Rosa plums. Your pastry looks lovely -- I'll have to try this with a bit of soft cheese with maybe some orange zest in it... hm. Yum.

ejm said...

I love freeform pies. Is it my imagination, or do they taste better when they're shaped that way?

-Elizabeth

(I got a basket of peaches yesterday and now the kitchen smells like peaches; we haven't even started to do anything with them yet!!)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Tis the season! Oh yes. I'm on my second box of 12 in a week. Sliced with ice cream and cake last night when what I really wanted was peach ice cream home made but with all my other dinner I just ran out of time.
Tonight though ...

Anonymous said...

I saw a prebaked streudel done in an America's Test Kitchen recipe. Tried it and it worked well. Love the free form idea. Thx.

Elle said...

David, Scotland must get good summer fruit at least for a while?

Tanita, yes, it would be good with soft cheese and citrus zest and even canned peaches would be yum.

Elizabeth, sure, anything freeform is better than constrained...at least in my world. Oh yes, peach fragrance...so short lived and lovely.

Tanna, Ice cream and cake and peaches...yum! Peach ice cream...double yum! There is a good recipe at Sinful Southern Sweets blog...link on this blog at right.

Anon, guess pre-crisped streusel's time has come which is good. Freeform isn't hard and is kinda fun and takes less pie dough.