Add ‘crumb’ to a Peach Pie and Pump up the Excitement Level
Peeling peaches is the pits. And if you’re like us, you end up eating your weight in fresh peaches (ideally over the sink, with juice running down your arms) before you ever work up the motivation to cook or bake with them.
But also if you’re like us, once you go through the effort of boiling the water, blanching your peaches and peeling them to reveal the jewel-toned flesh, you remember that it really only takes 10 minutes and wasn’t so bad after all.
By now, hopefully, you’re running out the door to the market to buy more peaches. We’ll wait, and when you get back, the perfect summer pie recipe will be waiting for your newly-naked fruit.
Classic peach pies rank high among top summer treats, but in general, the best way to make someone even more excited about a fruit pie is to add the word “crumb” to the name. There’s something about those sweet, crunchy-chewy morsels of streusel-y goodness that no one can resist. This version sticks to the classic flavor of cinnamon, but for a subtle, unique variation, try replacing it with ground cardamom.
What’s even better is that a crumb topping means only one pie crust to roll out. If you’d like, you can use store-bought, but we like the tender flakiness of a freshly made dough. Whatever you choose, line the pie plate before you peel the peaches. This gives it some time to rest in the refrigerator, which will help prevent shrinking.
When it comes to the peaches, set yourself up for success. You might be tempted to choose a firm peach, to make peeling and slicing easier. But under-ripe peaches are actually a nightmare to peel, and even after boiling, you will struggle to separate the skin from the flesh. Culinary Institute of America chef Genevieve Meli advises you pick fruit with a “sweet, ripe aroma” and it “should be plump and firm but not hard, and free of bruises.” Once boiled, the skin will peel off effortlessly.
If you’re lucky enough to find ripe freestone peaches, snatch them up. Otherwise, slicing peaches from the pits can be tough. The easiest way to slice a peach and prevent a big bowl of mush is to cut the peach into four segments, around the pit. Then slice those segments. You can use a paring knife to trim any remaining flesh from around the pit, or just gnaw it off like the rest of us.
Working with fresh fruit always means some variability in the consistency of your filling, and peach pies are especially notorious for runny innards. With enough time to cool, this pie should thicken enough to slice and serve. But if your peaches were extra juicy (lucky!), don’t be frustrated. Even a runny pie is better than no pie, especially topped with a scoop of ice cream.
PEACH CRUMB PIE
1 single-crust prepared pie dough
Brown Sugar and Oat Crumble (recipe follows)
3 lbs. peaches
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set the rack in the lowest position.
Line the bottom of a pie pan with pie dough. Refrigerate while you prepare the crumble and filling.
Prepare Brown Sugar and Oat Crumble. Set aside.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. In a medium bowl, prepare an ice bath. Lightly cut an X on top of each peach. Gently lower half of the peaches into the boiling water with a slotted spoon and submerge for 30 to 60 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and immediately submerge in the ice bath. Repeat with the remaining peaches. Transfer the blanched peaches to a cutting board. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins with a paring knife or peeler. Pit the peaches and cut them into ⅓-inch slices.
In a medium bowl, combine the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Toss to combine. Immediately transfer the mixture to the prepared bottom crust. Top with the crumble.
Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the filling is bubbly and thick, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Let cool for 2 to 3 hours. The filling will continue to thicken and set as the pie cools.
Makes one 9-inch pie, about 10 servings.
Brown Sugar and Oat Crumble
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
⅓ cup light brown sugar, packed
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. kosher salt
4 tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch cubes
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
Add the butter to the flour mixture, tossing to coat. Cut the fat into the mixture using your fingertips, a pastry blender, or two forks until the mixture looks like coarse irregular crumbs.
Distribute the crumble evenly over the pie or tart and bake as directed. If not using immediately, store the crumble in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Makes about 2 cups.
Chef’s Note: If making the crumble in a food processor, stir in the oats by hand after pulsing in the butter to avoid chopping the oats.