I think one of the nicest gifts I get from the LCBO every couple of months is the Food and Drink magazine. I wait for it and sometimes – to the annoyance of the staff, am constantly asking “is it in yet”. The editions come 6 times a year and it’s free. I have tried numerous recipes from the various issues and some have become part of my repertoire over the years. This is one of those recipes. The original recipe called for ripe apricots, I couldn’t find any so I substituted peaches – that was the only substitution I made to this recipe. You know I try and stay true to a baking recipe for the first pass, just to get an idea of what the Chef had in mind when he created the recipe.

I made this for a recent celebration we had at our house. The crust was amazing. My 94 year old dad – who still thinks I’ll outgrow this Chef thing and go back to my real job, even asked “when did you learn to make a pie?” Really?! I smiled and thought to myself thoughts that only a man my age could think of saying to his father at his age – ahem! But that’s the beauty of being 94, you can get away with anything – can’t wait! But on with our peach slab pie. With pies, and you know this, it’s as much about the crust as it is about the filling. So if the crust is good – flavorful, bakes up light and flaky – then you know you are half way there.

I like using peaches in pies. It really is one of my favorite fruits so I didn’t mind the substitution although I’m sure apricots would have been just as good. But if it isn’t peach season, it’s really tough to get juicy peaches. One of my favorite things to do in August is pick peaches at Niagara-on-the-Lake. They are so fresh and tasty, you barely need any sugar in the filling. When not in season, it’s a different story, they tend to be harder and drier so you need to play around with the sugar.

This quantity makes more than enough for the top and bottom of a 11×16” jelly roll (the original recipe called for a 13×17”, which I didn’t have) pan. This can easily be halved for a smaller pie. Make this dough in advance and chill in the fridge overnight or for at least 2 hours before using. It warms up quite quickly as you roll, so don’t dilly dally – don’t answer the phone and please, leave the wine glass on the table – just use a long straw.

For the crust
5 cups flour
2 tsp Kosher salt or coarse salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups frozen Churn 84 – yes that’s a lot of butter, but then we are working with a double batch of dough here
1 ½ cups cold water – a little at a time
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the filling
3 lbs peaches (or apricots)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup wildflower honey – I used Manukah honey
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup tapioca or cornstarch – I used cornstarch
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp 35% cream
2 tbsp or more coarse sugar for sprinkling on top of the pie

To make the crust – combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl
Using the big holes on a big box grater, grate the butter into the flour mixture – stopping to stir the butter into the flour about half way through each cup
Combine the water and lemon juice and drizzle into the flour – you may or may not need 1 ½ cups – you may need more or less – all depends on the state of the butter when you start bringing everything together – I find it best with crusts like this to start with a fork and then switch to your hands when it is starting to come together
When it starts coming into a ball, use your hands and bring everything together but don’t overwork the dough – just bring it together
Cut in half (one half slightly bigger than the other as it has to go up the sides of the pan as well)
Wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight

To make the pie
I didn’t peel my peaches, I like the skin on the peach, it’s good for you – you can peel if you like
Preheat the oven to 425f
Line the jelly roll pan with parchment paper
Roll out the larger half of the pastry into a rectangle – about two inches longer and wider than the dimensions of the pan, my 13×17” pan needed pastry that was rolled to 15×19”
Lay the rolled sheet in the parchment papered pan allowing for the overhang evenly – press into the corners, patch up any holes with pastry – this is soft dough
Roll the other sheet to similar size, place on parchment on a baking tray
Place both pie crusts in the freezer and freeze for about 10 minutes
Preheat the oven to 425f
Cut each peach into approximately 8-10 segments cutting around the stone
Toss the segments with lemon juice, honey, thyme and salt – let stand for 10 minutes
Add the tapioca/cornstarch and gently mix – you might find it better to sift it on top of the fruit – less lumps – stirring gently as you do this to avoid lumps
Remove the pie crust from the freezer and arrange the peach slices on top in an even layer – don’t forget to add the juices, don’t worry, they thicken up beautifully well and become part of the pie
With the top crust, use a small any shape cookie cutter and cut designs out for steam vents – I used a crinkle cutter, made half circles and flipped them over to look like an eyelid
If the crust is still frozen, let it stand at room temperature to thaw a bit before doing the cutting
Once cuts have been made, carefully place on top of the pie and crimp the edges using a bit of water to stick the edges together
Brush the top with the egg/cream wash and sprinkle with the coarse sugar
Bake at 425f for 30 minutes then reduce the heat to 375f and bake for another 20 minutes – set your timer for 15 minutes more and check, if it needs more, keep it in. The crust should be golden brown and cooked all the way through.