Butter Crust


Being in Rensselaerville, far from a grocery store, I crave ripened peaches. Many mornings we eat plain yogurt, fluffy like whipped cream and sprinkled with a few spoonfuls of homemade granola, adorned with nuts, coconut and raisins. It needs a sliced peach.

While driving to Hudson on a night off, one of the other scholars yelled, “Farm stand! Peaches!” Ellen, our trusting driver, skidded to a halt. With nothing guarding the stand but a note that said, “Peaches: $4. Please place your money in the box,” we threw $5 in accordingly and dashed back to the car, fruit in hand.

When Ellen the baker and I found out we’d have some time Monday, we made eye contact from across the table, and I mouthed, “peach pie.”

We spent Monday morning squishing our hands into pie dough. To learn about the taste of different fats, we made one batch with solely butter and one with a butter-shortening combination. With years of professional experience, Ellen had tricks up her sleeve. She advised me to mix the fat and flour in a mixer or food processor but then fold in the water by hand so the dough wouldn’t get tough.

Ellen removed the chilled from the fridge, rolled it into a neat circle and nestled it into the pie plate before returning it to the fridge. I asked her why she chills it a second time. Ellen did a dance with her shoulders and said, “I like it to get cozy.”


We filled the crusts to the brim with abundant peaches and blueberries, stirred with lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch and warm spices. We wove the lattice top together, brushed it carefully with egg wash and sprinkled it with sugar.

In two weeks of baking with Ellen, I’ve watched her eyebrows crinkle together, concerned with bake ware or fretting about the absence of a crucial flavor like ginger. But after time in the oven, sweetness permeates Molly O’Neill’s kitchen sending ease throughout. The pie is retrieved, left to snooze, and sliced after dinner. With a final scrape of the plate, coating my silver fork in syrupy peach juice, my craving is quenched.


 Makes a double crust//Ellen the Baker


  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup sugar + 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 6 ounces butter
  • ¼ cups ice water
  • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon cream

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cube the cold butter and plop it into the flour mixture. Put in freezer, if time allows, for at least 15 minutes.

Move the mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the butter is the size of large peas. Pour the mixture back into the medium bowl. With your hands or a rubber spatula, slowly incorporate the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the flour. Depending on the day and the environment, you may need to add one less or one more tablespoon of water. Scrape the sides of the bowl, bringing the dough together into a ball.

Cut the ball in half and pat each piece into a flat disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

After removing the chilled disks, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for five minutes. Lightly flour your surface. Using a rolling pin, begin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, using more flour if the dough is sticking. The dough should come out to be about 1/8-inch thick. Nestle it into your pie plate. Trim the edges or fold them under to create a rim. Return the pie plate to the fridge.


In the same way, roll out your second disk into a 12-inch circle, using flour as needed. If you want a lattice top, cut it into ¾-inch strips, using a pizza or pastry wheel. In a pinch, a knife works fine too. Put the strips on a parchment lined baking sheet, and return it to the fridge.

Remove the lattice pieces from the fridge. Weave the pastry.

Whisk the egg and cream with a fork. Brush it over the top of the crust. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Follow your pie recipe for baking times and temperatures as they vary.




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