When I think of perfectly in-season peaches, my mouth gets a little tingly and starts to water. However if you ask me do I like peaches, I’d have to think for awhile. Peaches are one of those foods that are only good if they are perfect. Just the thought of canned peaches is enough to stop me in my tracks and make me say I hate the fruit in general. But the sweet and juicy near-perfection that is a peach ripened on the tree and picked in late Summer is a different story entirely. Its taste doesn’t need any enhancement: plain is wonderful!
But can you make it even better? How? Well that’s simple: add fat and sugar. But what’s more complicated is how you apply that fat and sugar. The flavor of peaches just pleads to be paired with the flavor of burnt sugar. Mix the two together and then—perfection. Nope, not yet. Wrap those flavors in soft and flaky pie pastry and then you finally have perfection.
Everyone has tasted bad pies, and until these hand pies, I’m not sure I’d ever really had a peach pie that did justice to the fruit. The first time I tried these, I followed a recipe from a cookbook and added the warm caramel to the peaches. The result was a hard rock of caramel in the middle of weeping peaches that made it impossible to fill and seal the individual pies. By making the caramelized sugar separately and then pounding it into tiny pieces for the pies, you avoid the mess and it cooks up beautifully.
This crust was my grandmother’s recipe, handed down from her Aunt Lula, and is one of those no-fail crust recipes that goes with everything. These pies are fantastic with the homemade crust, and it is a necessary step. You can use the ones at the store, but you will probably end up fighting with the little guys, cursing your bad luck and wishing you had taken the time to make the crust. I used store-bought for the final picture shoot, and I almost abandoned ship and gave up. Then I had two other people test the recipe; one with the homemade dough and one with store bought. Not only did the homemade crust taste better and have a better texture, but the pies with the homemade crust were easier to seal and leaked less often.
Peaches have never tasted as good to me as they do in these hand pies, but apples are also delish. So, be a hero and make these for your peeps tonight! Enjoy!
Lula’s Pie Crust –click here for a printer friendly version of Lula’s Pie Crust
makes two pie crusts or a dozen hand pies
This can be made the day ahead. It is a very versatile dough that can be used for hand pies, sweet or savory pies, or even quiche. Make this once, and you may just stop buying store-bought crusts. This recipe is also works well in a food processor.
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, (2 sticks)
6 tablespoons ice water
1 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar
Mix salt and flour together.
Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour until you have butter pieces the size of large peas. In a separate bowl combine water, vinegar and egg. Beat to mix and pour into the flour mixture.
Knead until just combined.
Form into two balls, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Caramel Peach Hand Pies – click here for a copy of this recipe
makes 12-14 individual pies
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons butter
For fruit filling:
4 fresh peaches or apples (enough for 2 cups of chopped fruit but do not peel and chop until right before filling)
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
1 egg for egg wash
cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
Pour sugar in the middle of a medium sauce pan or skillet set over medium-high heat. Slowly pour water around edge of sugar. Slowly stir the mixture until all the sugar has dissolved. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pan with water to insure that all sugar crystals have dissolved from the edge.
(see pictures below for help with making caramel)
Let the mixture boil slowly until the sugar turns light tan, watching very carefully so that it does not burn. When the caramel is almost the color of tea turn off the heat and swirl the pan. The sugar will get darker. Add the butter and stir until the butter is completely melted and mixed in with the sugar. Carefully pour the caramel out onto a parchment or silicone-lined baking pan and let cool. When the caramel has cooled completely break into large pieces and place in a plastic bag. Using a meat tenderizer or rolling pin pound the caramel until it is broken into particles with the largest pieces about the size of a piece of peas. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll the balls of dough out into a circle about 1/8” thick. Using a 5” bowl or can, cut the dough into circles. You will have re-roll the dough out to get between 12-14 rounds.
Peel and cut the peaches into small pieces, about ¼”. Toss with flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and caramel particles. Heap one large spoonful into the center of each circle (about 2 tablespoons), dividing evenly among the pie circles. Brush the edges with egg wash.
Carefully pinch the edges of the pies together being sure to firmly seal each pie. Place the pies on a large baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Use the edge of a fork to crimp the edges and to punch holes in the top of each pie. Brush the top of each pie with egg wash. Sprinkle with a little sugar or cinnamon and sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
A small amount of liquid may leak from the pies, and that’s okay (it’s some of the best part!) Cool slightly before serving or storing.
Can be stored for two days. These do not hold up very well in very humid conditions. They still taste good, but the texture of the crust suffers.
Note: If you have multiple pans and can build the pies right on lined baking sheets, you will have better luck with sealing them.
Making caramel play-by-play:
1. Get a chair, this is going to take awhile (No, not really. That wouldn’t be safe. I definitely did NOT do that!)
2. add sugar and then pour water around edge
3. use a pastry brush to brush any crystallized sugar from the edges of the pan. This is your secret weapon. Your caramel will never crystallize as long as you do this one step.
4. watch closely as the bubbles change from spread apart to close together to slightly colored to whoa Nellie – grab your butter and start stirring.
(Do you have any idea how hard it is to try to stir butter into caramel with one hand while trying to focus and take a picture with a bulky camera in the other?)
5. Phew, you’re done. Pour out onto a silicone rubber mat quickly before it hardens up and sticks to EVERYTHING! See, now wasn’t that easy?