Hypothetically, lets just say that we sat down for coffee, a good Seattle cup of coffee, and you asked me to describe the Pacific Northwest - because you're curious. I would have to tell you that it is one of the most magical places in the world. A panoramic skyline of soft snowy mountain peaks, resting on top of a bright green tree line made up of towering Red Woods and Douglas Fir, mossy canopies and lush forest. Sandy beaches scattered along the coast, speckled with pieces of gnarled driftwood and washed up bull kelp. The air is always so crisp, like you are on top of the snowiest peak, away from it all. The coffee is top notch, the food is inventive, local, and creative. The people are friendly, and environmentally conscience. It's a pretty extraordinary place to be. The magical beauty of the Pacific Northwest captured me many years ago. Occasionally the curiosity crosses my mind, what's next? where to? but it's usually just a transient thought rather than a more immediate desire. It's the first time in my life that I've felt content and connected. Like I've got nowhere else to be.
It's exactly where I want to be. It's where I live, it's where I work, it's where I play, but to be honest, I've never really called the pnw my home. I'm currently back visiting my family for a few weeks in Southern Ontario - the place that I always refer to as home. Some days it still feels like I am just off at uni, living out of a backpack, planning to return home one day. (And then I try to order a decent cup of coffee or a find a vegetarian restaurant, and I quickly remember why I moved in the first place). My sister is off for the summer with her 2 little ones, and my parents have just sold our childhood home. They are moving just a few miles from my sister, to be closer to their gran-babies. With this move comes a lot of feelings for me. I am happy that my parents are moving. It's a well needed change, but a little sad that our structural house will now fade into memories. And then some days when I am feeling anti-materialistic, I feel apathetic towards the move, that it is only a house darn it, and it's the people that are the most important. We can create memories any where we want. The house is merely a place to shelter us from rain, keep us warm, and protect us from bugs, snakes and wolves. I'm wondering when I am going to start calling Seattle home, not just a place where I live. Will it happen after my parents move, or will Ontario, as long as my family are still here, always remain my home?
Ontario, really is a special place in the summer though, and there are definitely some features that I miss. Strawberry picking at the local farm, a few minutes from my parents house. Sweet and juicy Ontario peaches piled high in tiny green and white baskets. Corn on the cob sold on almost every roadside corner - specifically the ones lined with rows and rows of tall green corn stalks. Swimming in the wondrous lakes, always warm enough to spend several hours. Cottage life, the warm air, the sound of crickets, birch trees, dry forest, and those adorable tiny ma and pa roadside ice cream shops that make up the small towns. One day I will dedicate a whole other post to the Ontario fall and its changing colors and crisp air. It's been far too long since I've made it back for the summer, 3 years to be exact. I am trying to get it all in - spending as much time as possible, lounging on the Muskoka chairs late at night, with the air still warm and heavy, listening to the sound of the crickets fill the surroundings. It's quite refreshing not being able to hear the busy street, cars breaking, honking, people swearing. Oh, how the city wears on me.
As a homage to Ontario, of course, it seems fitting to make something peachy. Since I posted on peach pie last summer, and am not really feeling the crisp, I opted for a cobbler, with its loose definition - a fruit or savory filling poured into a baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit or pie crust. I covered mine in pie crust, because any chance I get to cover something in pie crust, I will. The pie crust is a simple recipe, flour, salt, sugar, butter, and water, all mashed together, real loosely. If I can give one tip for pie crust, is that you should not try to micro manage your pie dough. That was the mistake I made in the beginning. It takes as little handling as possible. A lot of resting and chilling. The butter broken down into small pieces of varying size, and it really erks me when a recipe states pea size pieces, and I am sure that I am faulty of that in the past. A good pie dough, should be made up of varying size butter pieces, some big some small, heck, it even better when you roll the butter in, leaving smooth thin sheets. It's the varying size pieces of butter that give pie crust its multitude of layers, unpredictable. When you roll out your dough, it will fall apart, and appear too crumbly to every hold its shape, but that is when you know you have a good dough, and regardless of what it looks like before it hits the oven, it's the taste that counts.
Peaches are amazing, and when you've found yourself in a situation when you've gone overboard and bought way too many, because that little basket really didn't seem big at the time, you can always bake them into something delicious. Regardless of what they taste like when they are old and mushy, they will cook up into a beautiful sweet mess. The older they are, the better, keeping in mind that when they start to mold, that is a sign that we best be turning them into compost. I have found that the best way to peel peaches, is by immersing them into a giant pot of boiling water for a few minutes, and then directly into an ice bath. The skins will fall right off. A sure fire method. This cobbler is extra yummy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. When the cobbler is warm, and the ice cream melts into the peaches - magic I say.
PEACH COBBLER WITH FLAKY PIE CRUST
6 - 8 servings
notes: I tried baking this cobbler two ways. The first method, I used a deep dish (7 inches), and found that the peaches and liquid created more of a soup like dish and the crust sank into the juice and did not bake up crisp - it remained soggy. The second time I baked it using a 2 - 3 inch deep dish, with a 2 inch layer of peaches, and the crust stayed on top of the peaches and browned perfectly, because the juice was dispersed evenly in a thin layer across the pan. If you prefer to use a deep baking dish, you may have to add more tapioca to soak up the extra juice from the peaches, or opt for a biscuit topping. Make sure to use over ripe peaches!
1 1/2 cups pastry flour
1 tbsp white granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
2 - 5 tbsp ice cold water
8 peaches, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
3 tbsp minute tapioca
1 egg + 1 tsp water
1 tbsp sugar for sprinkling
In a large bowl, add the flour, 1 tbsp sugar, and salt. Combine. Remove the butter from the fridge and chop it into 1/2 inch pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and combine with your hands or pastry cutter. Break the butter into smaller pieces of varying sizes, no bigger than a quarter. Once the flour and butter are dispersed and crumbly, fill a cup with ice and water. Add a tbsp at a time to the flour and combine with your hands. Add just enough water so that the dough holds together when squeezed, but is not sticky. Dump the dough on the counter and shape into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least half and hour to rest the gluten.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the peaches and boil for a minute. Remove from the water and then place directly into an ice bath for a minute or two to cool. Make a slit around the peach and peel back the skin. It should come off easily. If it does not, place the peach back into the boiling water for one minute. Cut the peach in half and remove the pit. Cut the peaches into into 1/4 inch slices and place into a 11 x 7 inch baking dish. Add 3/4 cup of sugar and 3 tbsp minute tapioca and combine. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Remove the dough from the fridge and let sit on the counter for a few minutes to thaw. Dust the counter with flour and roll out the dough. Place the dough directly onto the peaches, or cut out thin strips for a lattice, or fun shapes to place on top. Brush the dough with an egg wash - one egg and one tsp of water whisked. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp of sugar. Place into the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the crust turns golden brown. Remove and let cool. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. May be stored in the fridge covered for a couple of days.