Peach Cream Pie from the '70s
September 13, 2015
This was probably the last week for our local peaches (and who would eat any other kind?). If you scored a couple of baskets, here's a recipe for the best peach pie in the world. To give credit where due: it appeared in the Denver Post in the early 1970s, and I've been making it every peach season since then.
You'll need a baked pie crust.* Either make your own from a favourite recipe or buy a pre-made pie shell and bake it according to the package directions.** Set it aside to cool while you assemble the other parts of the pie.
I will give the instructions here as they originally appeared. For variations, you can look for the peach cream pie suggestions in Fast & Fearless Cooking for the Genius, the book (publication date September 28, 2015).
In addition to the pie shell, you will need six to eight peaches, a custard sauce, and a cream cheese topping. We'll start with the custard:
Fill a medium-sized bowl with water and ice. Set it aside. In a small saucepan mix 2½ tablespoons of four, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Whisk in, slowly, a cup of milk. Heat this over medium-low until it has thickened slightly and is almost boiling. In a small bowl, beat one egg yolk. Now stir the hot mixture into the yolk, a tablespoon at a time, until about half of the thickened hot milk has been mixed into the yolk. At this point, use a rubber spatula to scrape the warmed yolk mixture back into the pan and put the pan on low heat, stirring until it thickens just slightly more. Do not let it boil or the egg will curdle. Remove the pan from the heat and plunge the bottom of it into the bowl of ice water to speed the cooling. Stir occasionally as it cools, then add half a teaspoon of vanilla.
You can make this ahead and chill it in the refrigerator, if you like. Put plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to keep a skin from forming.
For the cream cheese mixture, mix together with a fork, a whisk, or a hand-held mixer a three-ounce package of cream cheese (at room temperature) and half a cup of powdered sugar. In a separate bowl, whip half a cup of heavy cream. Now scrape the whipped cream onto the cream cheese and fold it in. It should be smooth. Refrigerate until the peaches are ready.
Peel the peaches. The easiest way is to bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the peaches, as many peaches as will fit and still be covered with water. Count off twenty seconds. Remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and put them into a bowl of ice water, then put the rest of the peaches into the boiling water for their twenty seconds. To peel them, simply remove them from the water and slip off the skins. Very much fun, if you like this sort of sensual activity.
You can also peel the peaches with a paring knife or one of those soft-fruit/vegetable peelers (similar to but different from your potato peeler).
Slice each peach into six or eight pieces, directly into the pie shell, if you like. Move them around to even the top as best you can. Now pour the custard sauce over the peaches, being sure that some of it flows down between the peaches. (Alternatively, you can slice the peaches into a bowl and pour the custard over them, then mix them together before you put them into the pie shell. The original recipe does it the first way, but the second way is easier to control.)
Put spoonfuls of the cream mixture on top of the custard/peaches and spread it over with a table knife so that the white topping is the only thing showing. You can eat the pie right away or refrigerate it for a couple of hours. If you hold it too long, the crust will get a bit soggy from the peaches and custard.
This pie is definitely worth the effort.
*On days when I'm too busy or too lazy to make a pie crust, I make this as "peach cream pudding" by omitting the crust and just layering the peaches, custard, and cream topping in a bowl. It's especially pretty in a straight-sided clear glass bowl.
**The filling described above makes a 9" or 10" pie. If your pre-made pie shell is smaller than that, then arrange the leftover filling in a bowl to eat separately, as the cook's little reward.