When a recipe has stood the test of time, it can stand the test of your kitchen, too.
But what Rhonda really picked up from her now 99-year-old grandmother—and her Depression-era make-do attitude—is that experimenting and tweaking are good. And experiment and tweak the next generations did. (Crazy kids!)
When Rhonda had only enough pie pastry in the freezer for a bottom crust, she abandoned the top layer of her grandmother's and mother's versions for a crumb topping. She also chose tapioca starch as a thickener in place of her mom's flour and added some salt, too.
The crumb top, developed from fusing techniques from various recipes, gets added about halfway through the baking process, which means that it doesn't sink into the creamy peach filling but rather remains a cookie-like entity.
And while the pie is a family favorite throughout the extended branches, not everyone makes it the same way. When I informed Amanda Hesser—she's Rhonda35's sister—that we were photographing the pie at the office, she told me that she sticks with the double-crust made with shortening.
But we went rogue and used a butter and cream cheese pie dough, figuring that with all its longevity and flexibility, this pie could take our silly riffs.
You try, too: You'll have a hard time messing this one up.
For the pie filling:
- 1 pie dough (if you don't have a favorite, try Grandmom-Helen's Always-Flaky Pie Crust found here on Food52)
- 5 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches (from about 8 medium peaches)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the crumb topping:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Now it's your turn to make the pie your own, and we've got a few suggestions:
- Rhonda says you can substitute the sour cream for plain Greek yogurt, compensating for its tang with an extra tablespoon of sugar. (We'd guess you could also experiment with crème fraîche or mascarpone. For a guide for swapping in dairy products, look here.)
- Instead of nutmeg and cinnamon, Rhonda uses the same amount of Chinese five-spice powder. Work with finely chopped rosemary, allspice, cardamom, orange blossom water...
- Almonds or pistachios or hazelnuts instead of pecans.
- Chopped crystallized ginger in the crumb. Or coconut flakes?
- Breadcrumbs instead of oats. Truly wacky!
- Add apricot and vanilla bean:
- Or strawberries and lemon juice:
- Go herby and fragrant with tarragon and nutmeg or thyme and honey:
- Or nutty and boozy with almond extract and bourbon:
- Bolster the peaches with blueberries:
What's your favorite variation on peach pie? Tell us in the comments!