I have discovered how to put summer in a crust. I expect Willy Wonka’s hot air balloon to curtsy down in my backyard any moment now. The recipe is his, on the condition that he grants me skinny dipping rights in his chocolate river.
Summer, it just so happens, can be distilled into sweet peaches and basil. How convenient, since the blushing fruit it tumbling from farmer’s crates faster than I can eat it, and the herb is a splash of green fireworks blotting out my box garden.
Peaches + Basil are rather like Petra + Biff holding hands the summer before high school. Petra, rounding out, a little softer each day. Biff, spurting up, hemlines receding from his wrists and ankles. Fast-forward a few summers. Petra and Biff snooker the lock on Biff Senior’s study and find the iridescent army of bottles in the armoire. Their chemistry is ethanolized. They feel all grown up as they totter out, hand in hand.
Lacking a Biff Senior armoire to plunder, I snitched Mama’s cooking Marsala and tossed a couple tablespoons into the pastry dough. I had heard that a splash of vodka makes piecrust tender as teenage hearts, but Marsala was the only intoxicator in the house, and I have not yet reached my drinking birthday.
Hypothesis: Marsala can be substituted for vodka to create perfect piecrusts.
Result: Oh frangible flakes! Marsala is the new queen of Crustistan.
So Petra and Biff settled down together in a crusty cottage with Marsala’s blessing. The walls were peeling off in golden flakes but they were too entwined with one another to notice. And summers came and summers went.
Miniature Deep Dish Peach Pie
- 1 cup flour
- ½ – 1 tablespoon sugar
- scant 1/8 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1-2 tablespoons water, vodka, or Marsala wine
- 3 peaches
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, packed
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 425° F. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt for the pastry. With a spoon, mix in the vegetable oil until the usual pea-sized bits form. Stir in the water or alcohol one tablespoon at a time, just until the dough sticks together and peels off the sides. Press into a ball and chill, covered, in the fridge.
Submerge the peaches in boiling water for ten seconds, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Peel the peaches (the peels should slip off like little coats in your fingers). Slice the peaches into thin crescents. Stir together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Toss the peaches and basil in the sugar until well coated.
Roll out the dough between pieces of parchment paper. When the slab is about ¼ inch thick, cut two rounds, one slightly larger than the 5-inch pie tin and one of the same circumference as the tin. Fit the larger circle into the tin and prick the bottom with a fork. Tightly layer the peach crescents, working in circles until the peach dome climbs almost as high above the rim of the tin as it descends below it. Slash the upper crust with a knife and set it over the peaches, crimping together the top and bottom crusts. Decorate with extra dough as you desire.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling (set a cookie sheet beneath the baking pie to help catch drips).