Octopus Pie: Peach pie with an almond and pecan praline
On Saturday, Ray and I entered our fourth peach pie baking contest at the Collingswood Farmers Market. Because I loved the recipe from last year (pecan praline peach pie) so much, I decided to work with that, and instead do something pretty bizarre with the top crust design. How bizarre? Well, I hand-cut the crust to look like Cthulu, or what most people recognized as an octopus.
I was inspired by the photo of this pie, which has circulated on Facebook quite a bit:
I thought it was so clever, and after Ray and a bunch of friends encouraged me, I decided yup … I’m going to hand-cut this crazy looking design. And it paid off, because we took FIRST PLACE for presentation!!! Who’d have known the judges would like my crazy octopus/evil being pie so much?
With the blue ribbon also came the wonderful prize of $50 worth of market gift certificates, of which I proudly cashed in $5 of certificates for a quart of peaches.
In the taste round, we were up against a lot of wonderful peach-as-the-only-fruit pies, but we ended up getting on the board with enough points to tie 4-ways for second place. Whoo!
As soon as judging was over and we were waiting for photo-taking of the prize-winning pies, Ray snagged us a fork and we dug in. I couldn’t have been more pleased. The peaches were juicy and not overly sweet (they could have been a touch sweeter, perhaps), and the buttery, saltiness of the almond pecan praline was wonderful. I could pick up the touch of almond extract I used, which was great.
On the way home in the car, with the remaining pie in my lap and ribbons tucked into my purse, I mentioned to Ray that out of the 3 baking competitions I’ve participated in this year, I’ve walked away with prizes/ribbons from 2 of them. That’s the best I’ve done yet … and I can’t wait to come up with something fantastic for the apple pie baking contest!
For the pie dough, pulse together flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Blend in butter by dropping a cube at a time into the food processer, just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 1/3 cup whiskey over the mixture and pulse a few times until incorporated.
Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more whiskey 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. With heel of your hand, smear the dough once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball. Divide in half and form into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
For the filling, combine the cut peaches with sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice, tossing to combine.
Let the filling sit at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally.
For the almond pecan praline, combine all the ingredients and mix to combine. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit and position a rack to the lowest level in the oven (this will help ensure a crisp crust).
To prebake the bottom pie crust, grease the pie plate thoroughly with butter or shortening, then roll out one disk of dough and shape into the pie plate.
Place in the fridge and chill for 40 minutes, then continue to chill in the freezer for an additional 20 minutes.
Place a layer of foil over the crust, shaping around the edges of the crust. Add 2 cups of dried beans, ceramic or metal pie weights.
Bake for 15 minutes, then set on a rack to cool slightly before removing the foil and filling the bottom crust.
Press the pecan praline into the bottom crust. Add the filling. Roll out the second disk of dough and either place on top, fitting it with the bottom crust and cutting slits to vent, make cutouts with a cookie cutter and place the crust pieces in a design on top of the pie, or hand-cut a design (like the octopus).
Using a pastry brush, apply an egg white wash to the top crust.
Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425 Fahrenheit, then turn the oven down to 375 Fahrenheit and continue baking for 35-45 minutes, checking to be sure the top crust doesn't get too brown.
Cool for 1-2 hours.