Homemade peach pie offers the tender sweetness of a golden summer day baked into a dessert. Whether served plain or a la mode, peach pie is a freshly decadent ending to any summer meal.
Select the Peaches
Choose peaches that are slightly soft to the touch, with a sweet scent and no obvious bruises or broken skin. Frozen peaches are a good substitute for fresh ones if none are in season. Canned peaches can be used, but they are far softer than fresh peaches and will not taste quite the same.
Prepare the Crust
Basic pie crusts require only flour, fat and a liquid. Shortening, lard or butter work for the fat, and milk or water for the liquid. Chill your ingredients thoroughly before starting to keep the fat from melting. Rub the flour and fat together between your fingers until you have a collection of small flakes. Add your ice-cold liquid a spoonful at a time until the dough holds together enough to form a ball. Roll it out and line your pie plate with it, trimming any excess from the edges. Or use a store-bought crust to save time and ensure a consistent result from pie to pie.
Make the Filling
Peeled and blanched fresh peaches offer the most pleasing pie filling texture. Fill the bottom third of a large, deep bowl with ice and add cold water, leaving enough room for your peaches. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow "X" in the bottom of every peach to help the boiling water loosen the skin. Boil the cut peaches for 1 minute. Scoop the peaches out with a slotted spoon or spider and place them immediately into the ice water. Drain, peel and slice them, keeping the slices as uniform in thickness as possible.
Assemble the Pie
Season your peach slices with whatever appeals to you. Sugar helps enhance the natural sweetness of the peaches and thickens the juice into a luscious syrup without adding starches such as flour or arrowroot. Almond extract, ginger, vanilla and cinnamon all complement peaches. Add chopped pecans for texture and blueberries or blackberries for color. Place the seasoned peaches into your pie crust. Add a top crust, or weave a lattice top with strips of dough. Brush the top with an egg white beaten with a spoonful or two of water and sprinkle it with sugar for a glossy top crust. Poke a few vents in a whole top crust to let steam escape during cooking.
Bake the Pie
A crisp, flaky crust perfectly complements your silky peach filling. Place the pie on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven to catch drips and to make it easier to get the pie into and out of the oven. Preheat the oven, then bake the pie at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 F for another 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let the pie cool for 10 to 15 minutes to help the filling set. Serve the pie with ice cream or whipped cream, or simply as is.