Lexington, KY – In high school, I took evening art classes at a small art academy outside of my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. During the weekly three-hour instruction time, students would sneak to the nearby convenient store where we would stock up on essential right brained foods – namely those uber-sweet, calorie-ridden Hostess apple and cherry pies. And every week, for me, it was love at first bite.
Unfortunately, even for an avid baker like myself, making homemade pie is a daunting task. Will the crust have layers of flaky pastry, tender but not soggy? Will the filling ooze like molten lava or jellify to the point of no return? One thing I have learned, pie baking is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Despite my ongoing trepidation, each year the summer’s abundance of peaches and berries inspire me to pick up the rolling pin and try, try again. This year I have finally met the challenge with success by tackling pie baking in a whole new (old) way -
Hand pies are making appearances everywhere nowadays from trendy urban food trucks to four-star restaurant menus. This summer, I urge you to try your hand (forgive the pun) at these pies. You will certainly be the trendiest baker on your block.
Peach Hand Pies
- Makes 14 to 24 (depending on cutter size)
For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water
For the filling:
2 pounds of peaches
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
One egg yolk, beaten with 2 tablespoons water (for egg wash)
Sugar for sprinkling
1. To make the pastry, in a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water, then add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. If preparing ahead of time, the dough can be stored at this point for up to one month in the freezer.
2. Divide the refrigerated dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4 1/2-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut seven circles out of the rolled dough. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling, cutting and chilling process with the remaining half of dough.
3. To make the filling, peel and chop the peaches into small bits (1/2-inch cubes), much smaller than you’d use for a regular-sized pie. Mix them with the flour, sugar and pinch of salt, and add the bourbon and vanilla, if you wish.
4. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature until just pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon about 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling onto one half of each circle of dough. Quickly brush a little cold water around the circumference of the dough, and fold it in half so the other side comes down over the filling, creating a semicircle. Seal the hand pie, and make a decorative edge by pressing the edges of the dough together with the back of a fork. Repeat process with remaining dough. Place the hand pies back on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.