It's the end of an era and the birth of a new one. That's how it feels around here since my oldest son, Charlie, graduated from high school a few days ago in a beautiful and moving commencement. I realized only that night, as the processional music began to play, that I had been half-consciously trying to avoid thinking of the graduation ceremony as a real watershed moment, but that's what it was. A watershed in the life of my child, to be sure, but also for our family as a whole and for me as a mom.
Let's just say it was a good thing I remembered the Kleenex.
I find myself immersed lately in a whirlwind of emotions about Charlie. Extraordinary love and affection, pride at his accomplishments, a mixture of apprehension and excitement about him leaving home for college next fall, and curiosity as to what his future may hold. It's all just amazing to me that we've come this far in the journey.
When your babies are born, you imagine all of the landmark events that will likely occur in their lives, but for a long time that's all you can do--imagine them. When one of the big events actually transpires, and you're there to witness it in a formal and celebratory setting, it's a strange and wondrous thing.
About this recipe . . .
So, what does all this maternal sentimentality have to do with blushing peach mini-pies? Not a darn thing. But I figure that's okay, because juicy little fruit pies don't need a special reason to justify their existence.
These were put together on a hot and steamy day. When I mixed the crust, I'd originally intended to make just one standard-size pie. The crust, what with the heat wave, wouldn't roll out all that cooperatively, so I went to plan B and formed these into casual mini-pies--much easier from the assembly standpoint on a blistering day. They look sort of free form and funky because I was trying to work swiftly and throw them in the oven without delay. I managed to get five minis out of the recipe.
Aptly named, blushing peach pie's moniker can be attributed to the girlishly pink, raspberry-based syrup that you mix with the sliced fruit. Made from fresh raspberries, sugar, and water, the syrup is cooked in a sauce pan, then strained. Combined with the peaches, this stuff's really good. Talk about something worth blushing over.
This recipe hails from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, a solid and chunky classic that every home-baker needs to have around. I didn't change the ingredients or their proportions, but I completely reworded the directions to reflect what I actually did.
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or pastry flour (I used pastry flour, but I usually use regular flour for pie crust.)
1 tsp. salt (I used coarse kosher salt.)
1 cup cold butter, shortening, or lard, or a combo of these (Does anyone out there still use lard? I've never had the guts to even buy it, but I've always heard it makes for a darn fine crust. I used half butter and half shortening here.) 2 to 4 oz. ice cold water, as needed (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
To make the pie crust dough:
Whisk the flour and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender, work in half of the fat until the mixture resembles large peas. Then, work in the rest of the fat until the particles are about the size of rice grains. Sprinkle in the ice water, a tablespoonful at a time, while tossing the dough with a fork. You want the dough to be just moist enough to hold together when pressed in your hand. Don't let it become so wet that it feels sticky. Be judicious with the water.
Press the dough into one big ball, cut it in half, press each half into a disk shape about an inch thick, and wrap the disks in plastic wrap. Chill them for at least one hour before attempting to roll them out.
Ingredients for the fruit filling: 6 cups of peeled, sliced, ripe peaches 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice 1/4 tsp. salt (I used coarse kosher.) 1/4 tsp. nutmeg 3/4 cup to 1 cup of granulated sugar 1/4 cup cornstarch 1/2 cup raspberry syrup (See separate recipe for that below.)
While the dough is chilling, peel your peaches, and slice them into large bite-size chunks. Sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to help keep them from browning and set them aside. (If you prefer, you can blanch the peaches first and remove their skins that way, but it's not critical you do it that way. To blanch them, put the peaches into boiling water, boil for a minute or two; quickly remove them and plunge them into ice cold water to stop the cooking, then peel off the skins by hand. The skin should come off easily.)
In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, nutmeg, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the 1/4 cup cornstarch. Set aside.
To make the raspberry syrup: 1 cup fresh raspberries 1 cup granulated sugar 1 cup water
Stir together the raspberries, sugar, and water in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook for several minutes, stirring regularly, until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat. To remove all the seeds, pour the syrup through a fine mesh sieve that's been placed over a heatproof bowl. Set aside and let the syrup cool somewhat.
To roll out the dough, mix the filling, and assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
If you're making mini pies have all of your pans nearby. Remove one of the dough disks from the fridge, unwrap it, and let it sit for about five to ten minutes to soften it up slightly. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out no thinner than about 1/8" thick. For five minis, cut out five small circles slightly larger than the diameter of your pans, and set the scrap dough aside. Working quickly, place the dough circles into the pie tins, being careful not to stretch the dough. Do the same with the second disk of chilled dough. Press all of the scraps into one ball and reroll that out. Using a sharp knife or a pizza wheel, cut the dough into little strips that will fit across the top of your mini pies.
Quickly add to the peaches the bowl of dry filling ingredients (salt, cornstarch, nutmeg, and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar). Stir well and taste the liquid; if it's not sweet enough add in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add approximately 1/2 cup of the raspberry syrup and stir into the fruit just to combine. Scoop the fruit mixture evenly into the pie shells.
Lay 4 to 6 of the little dough strips in criss-cross fashion over the top of each pie, crimping the edges as you wish (with your fingers or with the tines of a fork, etc.). Brush the strips of dough lightly with milk and sprinkle the crust with coarse/sanding sugar or granulated sugar. Place the pies onto a parchment covered baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then check the mini pies; if they're browning too quickly, lightly cover them with foil. Lower the temperature to 375 at this point. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling looks hot and bubbly, perhaps 15 to 20 more minutes more even for minis. Cool the finished pies on a cooling rack. They can be served while still in their individual pans, or you can try to remove them from the pans when they're completely cool by flipping them over into your hand and quickly reinverting each one onto a plate.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . . .
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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