Crick-in-the-neck peach pie

I loves me some pie.

I sit at a desk for most of my work day, hunched over, with my head extended unnaturally from my body. That’s a helluva lotta hours to be positioned in such an non-ergonomic way. As a result, my neck, shoulders and back get mighty tight. Try as I may, I constantly forget to push my shoulders back and do some stretches. This has resulted in an impressive plethora of big, tight, rigid knots throughout my upper body.

It never bothered me before, as I’ve been working like this for years now and my posture is worse than Quasimoto’s (but better than Kristin Stewart’s) but lately, I’ve been plagued by almost-constant aches and pains. To remedy this, the Husband and I went to a Chinese massage complex last Saturday afternoon. You read right – not a massage parlour but a massage complex. It’s in a strip mall in Richmond and the space itself is simply a row of rooms filled with masseuses from mainland China torturing their customers.

There’s no soothing music, no trickling water fountains, no scented massage oil, no soft, comforting hands gently rubbing your muscles as you’re lulled into sleep.

This is hardcore. It’s massage on steroids.

My lady had hands of steel, akin to vices with merciless, undulating grips. She was small and wiry, often perched on the edge of the massage table like a bird of prey, her entire body suspended over me as she kneaded – nee – pulverized my troublesome knots. Her elbows and forearms were utilized a good 90% of the time for maximum efficacy and pain-induction.

Good crunches: eating potato chips, cracking crab claws with my freakishly strong teeth, biting into corn on the cob

Bad crunches: the sound of my massage on Saturday – my knots were crunching the entire hour I was at this den of distress with my mistress of misery.

It hurt so bad.

See the rubber ball gags in Chief Wiggum and Snake’s mouths?

From the hilarious Simpson’s episode “22 Stories About Springfield” where they parodied Pulp Fiction.

I needed one of those simply to stifle the screams that were slowly inching their way out of my throat.

As I emerged from the complex, eyes squinting and blinking in the harsh sunlight, I clearly needed something to blunt the memory of my ordeal.

It’s summer time. What says summer more than juicy, sweet, fuzzy peaches? It’s pie time.

I’ve only ever made pie twice in my life. Once was a dismal failure with apple pie over a decade ago. The other was a blueberry pie that turned out pretty good. Both times I used pre-made pie dough. This time, I was determined to make it myself.

I used Mark Bittman’s recipes from How to Cook Everything. His pie dough called for the use of a food processor. I only have a tiny one cup processor so that wasn’t going to work. I’m doing this old school – by hand!

Two-crust Pie dough (from my 1998 edition of Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything“)

2 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 small pieces
6 tablespoons ice water

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the cold cut butter. I used a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looked like cornmeal.

Sprinkle the 6 tablespoons of water over the mixture and blend it together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add a bit more water if it’s too dry.

Shape the mixture into a ball with your hands. Flatten it into two discs, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them into the fridge for 30 minutes (or the freezer for 10 minutes).

The dough came together easily enough – I was impressed it looked like how I imagined it should. Then I started messing up.

Mistake number 1 – I didn’t shape 2 discs of dough for the bottom and upper layers of the pie. Instead, I made one big disc which screwed me over when I tried to create two rounds of dough from it. I cut it in half to make two pieces and because they weren’t round, it didn’t make a circular crust. My first attempt at trying to shape it into a circle with my hand warmed the dough too much and it was too soft to use. I had to smush it back into a ball and put it in the freezer. I smartened up with the second piece – I rough handled it into some semblance of a ball and rolled it out. Not perfect but it’ll have to do.

To pre-bake the bottom layer, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the dough into a pie plate. At this point you should prick the dough all over with a fork – mistake number 2: I didn’t prick the dough all over with a fork. Arrrgghhhh. Crimp the edges of the pie or press it down with the tines of a fork to make it look pretty – mistake number 3: my pie dough wasn’t large enough to go all the way up and over the sides of the pie plate therefore I didn’t make the edges pretty. Arrrrgghhhh.

Take a large piece of foil and fold it over. It should be big enough to cover the entire crust after it’s been folded. Smear one side of the foil with butter and place it butter-side down over the pie crust. Fill the foil with dried beans, rice or pie weights. Bake it for 12 minutes. Remove it from the oven, reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and carefully remove the foil with the weights. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is a beautiful shade of brown. Remove the pan and cool on a rack.

Because I didn’t prick the pie crust, it was puffing up in the oven. It also shrank so that the pie crust only went up the side of the pie plate 3/4 of the way. I freaked out a bit and pulled it out of the oven before the completion of the baking time. Oh well – that can’t hurt, can it?

Peach Pie Filling (adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”)

2 pounds or 6-10 peaches depending on their size
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar (you can add or subtract depending on the sweetness of your peaches) and extra for sprinkling on the pie crust
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (or 2 tablespoons instant tapioca)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 Egg
Milk (as needed)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

I used 10 small peaches for my pie. To peel them, I boiled them first so that their skin would come off easily. Mistake number 4: I totally boiled the peaches too long. They were half cooked and some were pretty mushy. Hell, it’ll be fine after it’s baked. No one will ever know!

Slice the peaces to whatever size suits your fancy. I made my slices thicker cause I like them to have a bit of bite instead of dissolving away after baking. Mix together all the dry ingredients and toss the peaches with this mixture. I wasn’t really “tossing” the peaches since a lot of them were super soft and melty from the zealous boiling.

Pile the peaches into the pre-baked pie shell, making the pile a little higher in the centre. Dot with butter. Mistake number 5: I forgot to dot with butter.

I forgot the butter but I sprinkled some of my coconut palm sugar over the peaches for a touch of caramel flavour.

Cover with the top crust. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers – this could not be done since I had to tuck the upper crust in so that it would connect with the shorty pie crust underneath. Beat an egg with a bit of milk. Brush the top crust with the egg mixture and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Cut vents into the top crust to allow steam to escape while baking.

Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 40-50 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown. Cool on a rack before serving warm or at room temperature.

Now, Bittman wrote a very important sentence into his recipe: “Do not underbake.” I paid no heed to those words. I totally underbaked my pie. While the crust looked golden, crisp and finished, it was soft and doughy underneath when I tasted my pie. Devastating! Mistake number 6.

In my defence, it LOOKED like it was done! I might decrease the temperatures next time so that the crust won’t brown so quickly.

The peach filling was tasty though, especially with Breyer’s French vanilla ice cream (that I totally scored for only $2.97 on sale). I also loved the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger.

I guess it’s not bad for a first try. And surprisingly, the pie tasted great the next day, and the day after that. Why, only last night I was eating it straight from the pie pan while it rested on my lap, forking pie into my mouth, on the couch in front of the t.v.

I’m all about class, you know.

24 thoughts on “Crick-in-the-neck peach pie

  1. This pie looks gorgeous, so perfect!!! Love the vents in the crust. . makes it look so pretty! And thanks for sharing your massage complex story . . I am a whimp so there’s no way I would have been able to endure that. Glad you had the pie to enjoy after that! 😛 and what’s wrong with eating it put of the pie pan. . doesn’t everyone do that? (everyone does, seriously!)

    • Yup – and gotta bake with these delicious summer fruits while we still have them. I highly suggest you either bake or buy some peach pie asap to satisfy that craving 🙂

  2. Ha! I’m definitely familiar with a gruelling massage. (I swear they pay off!) This pie looks like the perfect reward.

    Thanks for the follow on twitter! Looking forward to reading the baking adventures of a fellow Vancouverite. 🙂

    • No pain, no gain, right? I was happy to find you on Twitter. Everything on your blog looks like something I’d love to eat (especially that amazing spiced rum chocolate bundt cake). Glad to find another local blogger!

  3. Your stories crack me up so bad..only because I can actually visualize your face as you explain your massage
    man, I wish I had me a slice of that pie…

  4. Love the pie recipe! in Australia we don’t have enough pies around! I’m going to have to make this one!
    Couldn’t stop laughing at the better then kstew comment, hahah!

    • Haha, I’ll take the laughs wherever I can get them. I thought it was timely that I made a KStew joke just as the big scandal was hitting. And you definitely need more pie in your life. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the dough that I made – I definitely want to try different recipes until I find that perfect crust.

  5. This was hilarious. And yes, I agree anything with peaches will cure everything. Where in Richmond was this? This sounds like something from Chinatown in Oakland!

    • Lol – Oakland is pretty hardcore. The Husband and I stayed at our cousin’s place in Oakland five years ago. Parked outside their apartment was a van peppered with gun shot holes. They moved soon after our visit 😉 This place is called Big Feet and it’s on No. 3 Road near Lansdowne. I went for another massage this past weekend and the second woman was even stronger than the first! At one point, she was massaging my lower back and it felt like her hand was going to shoot into my body. It works though – she got a helluva lotta knots out (by physically removing them with her fingers…I kid!).

      • haha! That is funny, I think I will need to check that place out. As for Oakland, it is a little hardcore in certain places! Luckily as my friends from class say my hood in O Town is in the yuppy, yoga wearing, frozen yogurt lake side.

  6. I’m reading this post as I’m hunched over my computer and yes my posture too is almost as bad as Kristen Stewart’s!

    Your pie looks amazing! Good for you for making the pie crust old school style.

    • Haha, thanks! It makes me really happy that people are picking up on the Kristin Stewart reference/jab. As for the pie crust, it definitely wasn’t up to my expectations. That just means I need to try again 😉

  7. Haha, pie out of the pan in front of my laptop, watching the TV is my signature move. I know all about class as well :p
    This looks fantastic! I have never had peach pie. WHY! I have no idea.

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