Robert Wemischner is the author of The Dessert Architect and Cooking with Tea. He’s a culinary instructor at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.
As a long time tea lover, I believe that pie and a cup of perfectly brewed tea win out any day over the pie and coffee at the quintessential corner diner of your imagination. (Are there any corner diners left?) But not just any pie and not just any tea. The champagne of teas, as Darjeeling from northeast India is known, not only makes a great partner in the cup to early summer peach pie, but when used in the pie, the tea adds a subtle undernote to the juices that exude from the peaches when cooked. With its natural peach-scented flavor profile, Darjeeling pairs beautifully with the sweet tart peaches now overflowing stands at farmers markets all around the Southland. It’s a pairing that I wait all year to savor. For my pie, I simply simmer the peaches, blanched and peeled, in brewed tea, sweeten the mixture to taste, thicken it slightly with a slurry of cornstarch and peach cooking liquid, add an accent of spices, and a bit of butter, and then let it cool before putting into the flakiest of all-butter crusts. As an optional extra, a homemade tea ice cream, made from tea-infused custard sauce, adds the final touch. And what do I like to drink with this? You guessed it—a nice Darjeeling. Mae West’s saying “Too much of a good thing is wonderful” certainly applies here.
Peach Darjeeling Pie with Tea Ice Cream
Serves 6 generously
Here’s a quick puff pastry dough that I like to use for this pie but feel free to use any dough that you like. It’s best to make the dough first since if it’s well chilled, it’s easier to work with and will yield a flakier end result.
For the dough:
8 oz. (scant 2 cups) all purpose flour
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold but malleable, cut into pieces, measuring approximately 2 inches long by 1 inch wide
½ tsp salt
4 ozs. (one- half cup) ice water
Place the flour, butter and salt into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, lightly toss the ingredients together until the butter is evenly coated with flour. Add the water all at once and mix gently again to distribute the water evenly throughout the dough. Do not overwork. At this point, the dough will be shaggy, not yet cohering into a rollable dough.
Turn the ragged mixture onto a lightly floured surface and using a rolling pin, tap firmly on the dough to help it come together, frequently scraping it free from the work surface until the ragged mass starts to cohere. Using more pressure, roll the dough into a rough rectangle. Then fold one end of the dough toward the middle and the other end on top of that so you have a three layer roughly rectangular shape. Flour the work surface lightly again and with the short end of the dough facing you, roll the packet into a rectangle again, being sure that the dough is not sticking to the work surface. Fold the dough again into a three layer packet and chill. When the dough is well chilled, divide it into two unequal parts using one third of the dough for the bottom crust and the remaining two thirds for a lattice top for the pie and return the two pieces of dough, wrapped well, to the refrigerator. While the dough chills, make the following Darjeeling Tea-Peach filling.
Darjeeling Tea-Peach filling:
20 grams whole leaf Darjeeling tea (fragrant and fresh)
16 ozs. water
10 medium sized ripe yellow peaches (you will get a better yield of usable fruit from freestone but cling varieties will work too)
6 ozs. granulated sugar, approximate (more or less to taste, depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
1-1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 t. cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 ozs, unsalted butter, cut up into ¼ inch cubes
For final pie assembly:
Heavy cream, as needed
Granulated sugar, as needed
Use a small paring knife to remove the skin of the peaches. Remove the pit and then cut the fruit into ½ to ¾ inch slices.
Bring the water to the boil. Add the tea leaves. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and allow to steep for 3 minutes. Pour the liquid through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl. Discard the leaves. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove 5 ounces of the liquid and allow it to cool.
Whisk the cinnamon and nutmeg into it and then dissolve the cornstarch in that liquid, stirring until perfectly smooth. Then add the spice-cornstarch mixture back into the remaining sugared tea liquid. Cook over medium heat until the liquid thickens and the starch is fully cooked. Add the sliced peaches to the liquid and simmer until the peaches are tender but not mushy. Add the butter and stir until melted. Allow the mixture to cool while you roll out the chilled pastry to line the pie pan.
Rolling the dough:
Place the empty pie pan onto a sheet of parchment paper and then trace the outline onto the paper. Set aside.
Roll the smaller of the two pieces of dough into a thin circle, large enough to cover the inside of the pie pan with a one inch overhang all around. Place the dough into the pan without stretching it, allowing for an overhang of one inch (this overhang will be folded in once the lattice is in place.). Pour the fruit filling into the dough and place the pie into the refrigerator while you roll out the remaining dough for the lattice top of the pie.
(If you wish, instead of a lattice, simply roll the remaining dough into a thin sheet, trim it into a circle, one inch larger than the top dimensions of the pie. Use a round, square or other shaped small cookie cutter to cut out decorative shapes in a symmetrical pattern, cut a circle to fit nicely on top of the pie and fold in the overhang and crimp using a fork or other tool sealing the two layers together. )
For the lattice, roll the larger piece of dough into a sheet, about ¼ inch thick, large enough to fully cover the top of the pie. Cut the dough into thirteen even strips, each about ¾ inch wide. (The dough should be soft enough so that it doesn’t break when you manipulate it but not sticky or melting).
Turn the paper with the circle drawn on it over (marked side down) and place 6 of the strips within the drawn circle onto the paper, ¾ inch apart and parallel to one another. Fold back every other strip halfway and place a strip of dough perpendicular to the line of strips. Return the folded back strips to their original positions and then fold back the other strips. Place another strip parallel to, and ¾ of an inch apart from, the center cross strip and continue the process of folding back the strips and positioning the cross strips to complete the lattice on both sides of the center strip. Chill the lattice until firm, about half hour.
Final assembly of the pie:
Remove the lattice and pie from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Brush the edge of the bottom crust lightly with water. Carefully place the lattice onto the pie and fold the overhang over the edge of the lattice to enclose it all around the pie. Use a fork or other tool to crimp the bottom and top doughs together to seal. Brush the lattice lightly and carefully with heavy cream. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Place the pie on a heavy rimmed cookie sheet (to catch any drips from the pie) and bake for approximately one hour and 10 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.
If desired, serve with Darjeeling Tea Ice Cream, prepared as follows:
1 Tablespoon whole leaf premium quality Darjeeling tea
4 ounces milk
4 ounces granulated sugar
5 egg yolks from large eggs
6 ounces heavy cream
In a medium saucepan, place the tea leaves in to the milk. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 3 minutes. Pour the liquid through a fine meshed sieve into a small heatproof bowl. Discard the tea leaves.
In another small bowl, using a whisk, beat the sugar with the egg yolks until pale in color. Add the tea infused milk and stir with a spoon or heatproof silicone spatula until dissolved. Place the mixture into a medium sauce pan and using the spoon or spatula, stir, without aerating, until the mixture thickens slightly (the temperature of the liquid should be 180 degrees F.) The mixture should coat the back of a spoon. Pour the liquid through a fine meshed sieve into a bowl set over an ice bath and cool quickly, stirring occasionally. When cold, stir in the heavy cream and mix until just blended. Then freeze the mixture in an ice cream machine, according to manufacturer’s instructions. Place the ice cream into a container with a tight fitting lid and allow to firm up further, about two hours, until just before serving the pie.
Cut the pie into six equal wedges and serve with a scoop of ice cream and a cup of Darjeeling (or other tea of your choice). Now take a bow!