I Love You as Much as Pie

Peach Pie

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

When my daughter Allegra was 5 she said, “I love you as much as pie!”

She knew early on the role of pie in our family: Pie=love.

My mom, Betty, and my Nana both made pies, mostly apple. Nana had another specialty called “sunny silver.” Betty made lemon meringue, cherry and other pies on occasion, but she always had an apple pie or two in the freezer, just in case. She always used the green bowl to make the crust, she insisted on Gravenstein apples – and she never used a recipe.

Recently my mom died. The first thing I made was this peach pie.

Note: My blog and website went dark for six months while I cared for Betty during her last months of life. Cooking=therapy; I cooked but I couldn’t write.

I’m not alone in my culinary connection to family. Many chefs and home cooks say that their passions for cooking were inspired by a mom or grandma. In the first days of grieving the loss of Betty, my friend Cheryl brought us cinnamon rolls made from her mom’s recipe. They were comfort food at its finest.

Recently I heard luminary chef David Chang tell Evan Kleiman on KCRW’s Good Food that the boiled chicken he insisted on putting on the menu of his new LA restaurant, Majordomo, was his mom’s recipe. It was simply the best and he wanted to share it with others.

About my peach pie. Last August I froze sliced tree-ripened peaches with sugar and lemon juice – ready for an off-season fruit pie. (The sugar and lemon preserve the peaches’ sunny color.) Growing up with Betty’s apple pies in the freezer influenced me to preserve seasonal fruit in the same way.

One should never feel bad about enjoying a homemade fruit dessert. Peaches are a source of many key nutrients, including vitamins C, A, K, the mineral potassium and dietary fiber.  The pigments that give peaches their color are powerful antioxidants called carotenoids that promote health and protect against disease, particularly some cancers and eye disease. One carotenoid, beta carotene, is converted by the body to vitamin A.

To make this peach pie a little lighter it only has a top crust. It’s known as a dessert “flip” to put a spotlight on fruit rather than pastry. You never have to worry about a soggy bottom crust. The focus is juicy,  tree-ripened peaches.

Mom would approve. Betty, I love you more than pie.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Peach Pie

The not-so-secret ingredient in the filling is a little fruit brandy which, is barely detectable in the baked pie but adds a special nuance of flavor. See “Pie Seasoning Options” for alternatives to the spices listed.

3 pounds ripe peaches peeled* and sliced (about 6 cups)
1 cup sugar (half light brown, packed, and half granulated is my preference)
3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca**
1 tablespoon fruit brandy or eau de vie
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon or freshly grated or ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Pie dough for single crust pie or Streusel (recipe follows)

1. In a large bowl, stir together peaches, sugars, tapioca, brandy, lemon juice, spices and salt. Set aside for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, Preheat oven to 375 ° F.
3. Roll pie dough and on a lightly floured surface to roughly an 11-inch circle. (For easy clean-up, roll between two sheets of parchment paper, very lightly dusted with flour.) With cookie cutters or biscuit cutters, cut into shapes.
4. Turn peach mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Arrange pastry cut-outs on top.
5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown, covering with foil as needed to prevent over-browning.
6. Remove pie from oven and cool on wire rack.

*To peel peaches, drop into a pot of boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. With tongs, remove peaches and cool. Slip off skins and discard.
** Whirl tapioca in a blender or clean spice grinder to pulverize before use. That way you won’t see little spheres of tapioca in your filling. In fact, you can blend the entire box at once in a blender and have it available for all your thickening needs.

Pie Seasoning Options: For a clean fruity flavor, omit all spices. Or, add ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (or the seeds scraped from a split vanilla bean)or a tablespoon or two of finely chopped crystallized ginger..

Streusel: Stir together ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup (about 2 ½ ounces) chopped almonds or pecans, ½ cup packed golden brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir in 3 tablespoons melted butter and 2 tablespoons nut oil (such as walnut), avocado or canola oil.
© 2018 Lorelle Del Matto

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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