Triple Vanilla Bean-Scented Peach Pie

I’ve said this before, but for the record, I love minis. Sure, they’re cute and that’s part of the reason I’m a fan, but an even bigger factor is that minis just make more sense. I seriously can’t remember the last time I baked a full-size cake or pie; I just don’t have enough people to feed on a regular basis to make them practical. My 6-inch cake pans (including my bundt pan) and pie plates definitely get way more use their 9-inch counterparts. Even when it comes to things like cookies or cupcakes, I scale back recipes to make smaller quantities 99 out of 100 times. It’s a good thing I really like math because every time I step into my kitchen to bake, there’s a whole lot of it going on!

Triple Vanilla Bean-Scented Peach Pie

This peach pie came to be in sort of a roundabout way. Though I am usually pretty strict about only going to the grocery store once a week, last week I went to three different stores, and at each one the peaches looked so good I couldn’t help but grab a few. Total impulse purchases. The peaches ripened more quickly than I could eat them though and it quickly became obvious I needed to get baking or risk having to throw them away. Luckily, I had just enough to make a mini pie, and after a quick Google search turned up this recipe, it was on.

I’ve only made a few peach pies in my life, but I’m confident that even if I’d tried 50 of them, this one would still be near the top of the list. As the title implies, the recipe utilizes a vanilla bean, and the unique ways it’s incorporated make the pie extra special. First, the seeds of the vanilla bean are pulsed with sugar to make vanilla sugar, some of which is then used to sweeten the filling. A portion of the remaining vanilla sugar is sprinkled over the top crust of the pie when it emerges from the oven. The bad news is that it makes the pie super unphotogenic, but what it lacks in appearance, it more than makes up for in taste. I can absolutely see myself using this trick on other pies in the future! The final place the vanilla sugar is used is in the whipped cream garnish for the pie. And yes, it’s optional, but seriously – don’t skip it. Peaches + cream = the best combo.

Triple Vanilla Bean-Scented Peach Pie

Every time I make a pie I promise myself I won’t eat it for breakfast, and every time I fail. It’s just way too easy to justify with all that healthy fruit in the mix :)

Triple Vanilla Bean-Scented Peach Pie
adapted from Pie by Ken Haedrich (via Ezra Pound Cake)

{Note 1: to peel the peaches, make a small “x” in the bottom of each with a paring knife, then drop them into boiling water for 30-40 seconds. Immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice water. If your peaches were ripe, the peels should come off easily now, starting at the “x” you cut.

Note 2: to be clear, the recipe below is for a 9-inch pie. If you want to make a mini as I did, halve the recipe and bake in a 6-inch pie plate.}

Flaky Pie Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup ice water

Filling
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
5 cups peeled, pitted and thickly sliced peaches (about 5-6 peaches)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes

Whipped Cream Garnish
1 cup cold heavy cream

To make the crust: Add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Plus a few times to combine. Add the butter

Put the flour, sugar and salt in the food processor. Pulse a few times to mix.
Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients, and pulse about 5 times to cut in (the pieces should be about the size of peas). Use a fork to fluff the mixture/evenly distribute the butter. Add the shortening and again pulse about 5 times then fluff once more. Drizzle 4 tablespoons of the water over the flour mixture and pulse the food processor until the dough starts to form clumps. If you squeeze some of the mixture between your fingers, it should hold together. If it doesn’t, add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse, until it does.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface. Shape into a ball and divide into 2 equal pieces. Shape each into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to overnight. (If you refrigerate overnight, remove the dough from the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to roll it – if it’s too cold, it’ll crack and be tough to roll.)

Unwrap one piece of dough and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 12-inch circle, turning and lifting as you go to ensure the dough isn’t sticking. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and gently ease in, making sure you don’t stretch the dough. Trim the overhang to about 1/2-inch and transfer the pie plate to the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 F.

To make the filling: Use a paring knife to cut down the center of the vanilla bean. Use the back of the knife to scrape the seeds from the bean and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the sugar, and process for about 1 minute, or until the seeds are evenly distributed. Transfer 1/2 cup of the sugar to a small bowl and stir together with the cornstarch. (Reserve the remaining vanilla sugar for later.)

In a large bowl, gently toss the peaches with the lemon juice and the sugar/cornstarch mixture.

Unwrap the second disk of dough and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 12-inch circle, turning and lifting to make sure it’s not sticking. Remove the pie plate from the fridge, and add the filling. Scatter the cubes of butter over the top. Use your fingertip to lightly moisten the edge of the dough with water. Transfer the second piece of dough to cover the filling, centering it as best you can. Trim slightly, then fold the top overhang under the bottom, pressing to seal. Flute the edges if desired. Cut several vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape.

Transfer the pie to the center rack of the oven. Slide a rimmed baking sheet onto the rack directly under the pie to catch any overflow juices. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven to 375 F, and continue baking until the juices are thick and bubbling through the steam vents. (Keep an eye on the crust during this last 30 minutes – you may need to tent it to keep it from browning too much.)

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and immediately sprinkle the top crust with about 2 tablespoons of the remaining vanilla sugar. Allow to cool completely before slicing (at least 2-3 hours).

To make the whipped cream: Add the heavy cream to a medium bowl. Whisk vigorously until it holds soft peaks, then add 1/4 cup of the vanilla sugar. Continue whisking until the cream holds stiff peaks. (Obviously you could use a mixer to whip the cream if you’d rather.) Dollop onto slices of the pie when serving.