I promised myself that I would write about a grown-up book this week. But then all of a sudden it was late June and the whole farmers market was heavy with the smell of peaches—enormous, sunset-colored, fuzz-covered peaches—and all I could think about was Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. Was any book ever so delicious? If one can get past the somewhat Freudian implications of a young, motherless boy crawling into a warm, sticky, cavernous peach, Dahl’s descriptions of the enormous stone fruit are just magical. I fell in love with the cover first (not judge a book by its cover? Please.)–the creamy lilac purple of the sky, the soft buoyant peach floating on the choppy cerulean sea holding one very small boy. After James and the Giant Peach third grade was a Dahl-filled year for me—Matilda, The Witches, George’s Marvelous Medicine—I ate them up. That year I also got addicted to Hostess hand-pies. As a kid I would choose a food, often a strange one, and eat and eat and eat it until the very thought of it made me sick (the previous year I’d insisted on a bowl of instant mashed potatoes covered in Italian dressing every day after school, it’s hard for me to talk about). But that year it was hand-pies. Every Wednesday was a half-day at school and my cousin and I would walk to Fell’s Market and buy those half-moon-shaped pies wrapped in crinkly wax paper. They were covered in flaky sugar and filled with a thick fruit-flavored goop and chunks of something that no longer resembled fruit at all. They were just fantastic. I preferred cherry, Cam was partial to blueberry. While re-reading James and the Giant Peach the other day I could actually taste those sugary little abominations, the meaty crust squidging between my still-baby teeth, so when I came across this recipe for Bourbon Peach Hand-Pies on Smitten Kitchen I couldn’t believe my luck, it all tied together too perfectly! These hand-pies are a grown-up (but still heavenly) version of those Hostess pies. Make them now while peaches are at their peak, you won’t regret it.
James and the Giant Peach Bourbon Peach Hand-Pies
From Smitten Kitchen
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
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 teaspoon bourbon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
One egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water (for egg wash)
Coarse sanding sugar, for decoration
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 and 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. (I used a 4-inch cutter–if you can call a “cutter” the tin edge of the container that holds my smaller round cutters–and managed to get 12 from each dough half, after rerolling the scraps.)
3. Make the filling: Peel and chop the peaches into small bits (approx. 1/2-inch dice), 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 (I also added a teaspoon on cinnamon which I think added great flavor)
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 filling (use the smaller amount for a 4-inch circle) 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.
5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled hand pies from the refrigerator, cut a small slit in each and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash. Sprinkle sanding sugar generously over the pies, and place pies in the oven to bake. Bake until the hand pies are golden brown and just slightly cracked, about 20 minutes. Remove the pies from the oven, and let stand to cool slightly before serving.