When I originally made this pie, inspired by Martha Stewart, in late July, I was inspired by Jennie’s lemon thyme crust. I had bought several pounds of fragrant, ripe peaches that either needed to be eaten right away or cooked. Some, I decided, were destined for pie. I pulled out my ingredients for the dough, but found that I only had regular thyme on hand. In it went – the dough chilled while I worked on the filling and the streusel.
This is a pie best eaten at room temperature, and, if you can allow such a thing, tastes better the following day, when the flavors meld together. It’s surprisingly reserved on sweetness – in other words, this is a grown-up pie, restrained, but not restricted. It lets the peaches be themselves. The crème fraiche turns into a sort of a custard that gently hugs the peaches all around. And that little herbal hint of thyme lingers on your tongue after the buttery sweetness of the crust is gone, like a faint perfume when someone leaves the room. Oh, that that lovely pie dish – remember how I recommended Simon Pearce pie dish in my gift guide? Yeah, well, they thanked me by sending me one. Something I thought was totally unnecessary, but a lovely, generous gesture, which is just the kind of people they are!
For The Pie Dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed
For The Streusel:
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup cold (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
For The Filling:
1 1/2 pounds ripe (4 to 5 medium) yellow peaches, pitted and quartered
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons crème fraiche
1. To make the crust, whisk together flour, thyme, sugar, and salt in a bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Add the butter, pulsing until the dough starts to come together, but is messy, with lima-bean sized chunks. Drizzle in the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together. Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.
2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together into a ball, then press it into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
3. To make the streusel, sift together sugar, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a roughly 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Trim edge to 1 inch; fold under, and crimp as desired. Pierce bottom of dough all over with a fork, and transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 400o F (204.4o C). Cover edge of crust with foil. Line crust with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake, covered, 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment (keep foil on edge). Bake until pale golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; remove foil; reduce oven temperature to 375o F (190.5o C).
6. To make the filling, place peaches into a medium bowl, and sprinkle with sugar and salt; gently toss to coat, and allow to stand 15 minutes. Spread 2 tablespoons crème fraiche onto bottom of crust; sprinkle with one-third of the streusel. Arrange peaches on top; spread or dot with remaining 4 tablespoons crème fraiche. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.
7. Bake pie until crème fraiche is bubbling and streusel is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 1 pie.