Lucky for those of us who love ’em, peaches grow in 33 states and come in season as early as April (Florida), throughout the summer in 30 more states, and ripen well into October (Colorado and Idaho), giving us a luxuriously long season for this luscious stone fruit. California—with its Mediterranean climate of mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers—produces more peaches than the other 32 states combined, followed by South Carolina and then Georgia.
I’m partial to Texas Hill Country peaches, myself; specifically, those from Gillespie County. These smallish, sunset-hued orbs owe their ambrosial flavor to the region’s limestone-rich soil, laden with minerals and micronutrients, and its location in the heart of the Edwards Plateau, which provides the sultry days and cool nights peaches love. You’ll find some of the sweetest ones dotted along the Pedernales River, which snakes from just west of Fredericksburg and east through Stonewall (home of the Peach JAMboree and Rodeo) to its terminus in Lake Travis, just northwest of Austin.
For the crust:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 6 ounces organic cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 1/4 cups organic all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface
- 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar (buzzed in a food processor until fine)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons vodka
For the filling:
- 10 to 14 ripe but firm peaches (to yield 8 cups sliced)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
- 3/4 cup organic cane sugar (buzzed in a food processor until fine)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon coarse organic cane sugar
Make the crust: Chill the butter and cream cheese in a bowl placed in the freezer for 30 minutes. Sift the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Place a few ice cubes in a glass measuring cup and add about 1/2 cup water.
Scrape the chilled butter and cream cheese into the food processor bowl and pulse until the mixture is a coarse, uneven texture. Drizzle in the vodka and pulse once. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse again. Drizzle in a bit more water and pulse, as needed, until the dough holds together when you pinch it between your fingers.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide into two equal balls, and wrap them in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days before baking.
Make the filling: Fill a 5-quart stockpot half full of water and bring it to a full boil over high heat. Make a 4-inch-deep ice-water bath in a large bowl, or a clean sink.
Cut a small “x” in the blossom end of each peach, then drop into the boiling water. When the skin starts to curl away from the “x,” use a slotted spoon to transfer the peach to the ice-water bath. Peel the skins off from the “x,” and slice the peaches into a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and almond extract, and use your hands to toss gently.
With a fork, fluff the organic all-purpose flour, tapioca flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a small bowl. Don’t add the mixture to the peaches at this point; the sugar will macerate the peaches and they will lose too much of their juice.
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Transfer one of the dough balls from the refrigerator to a lightly floured surface. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough out to a 12-inch round. Drape the dough over a 9-inch pie plate so that the crust hangs over the edge of the plate by about 1 inch all around. Trim any uneven edges.
Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the peaches and gently toss using your fingers. Carefully transfer the peaches to the pie crust using a measuring cup. Do not add more than 8 cups of peaches and their juices to the pie shell. Dot the top with the pieces of butter.
Remove the other dough ball from the fridge, roll out to a 12-inch round, and use a sharp knife or pastry wheel to cut 1/2-inch-wide strips. Weave these over the pie, alternating over and under, to create a basketweave effect. Trim the dough to about 1 inch all around, then roll the edges under and use your floured fingers to form a fluted edge.
Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl and brush it over the top of the crust; sprinkle the coarse sugar over this.
Bake for 10 minutes at 450° F. to quickly evaporate the alcohol, then reduce the oven temperature to 350° F. Continue to bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the filling bubbles. If the edges brown too fast, cover them with a pie crust shield, or strips of aluminum foil. Let the pie cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.