Driving to meet a friend for a run yesterday, I heard Kim Boyce talk about her hand pies on NPR. I was already salivating the first time I heard the story, but the same story repeated when I got back in the car after my run and then I knew I needed to make them.
Hand pies are quite an invention. You get to eat pie, but you don't need a plate or fork and you can even take them to go. I've made a Cherry Hand Pie before using puff pastry, and I love Ali's Apple Hand Pies with Cheddar Crust, but in the peak of summer peaches seem like the only option.
This recipe calls for making your own puff pastry. The end result is a flaky, buttery crust that is absolutely worth the work and time involved (the actual work is limited, but you have to let the dough chill a few times). If you are short on time, you can certainly make the filling and use store bought puff pastry, but this crust is worth making from scratch - just note that you need to start a day ahead of when you want to serve the pies.
When it comes to the filling, what I love about this recipe is the addition of jam to the filling mixture. The jam adds flavor and thickens the filling. And speaking of filling, every time I make hand pies, I attempt to stuff as much filling as possible into the pie, which always backfires. This time I exercised restraint and I'd advise you to as well... there will still be plenty of fruit inside and your pies will actually stay sealed!
About 5 cups (600 grams) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (60 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (10 grams) kosher salt
500 grams (about 1 pound - 4 sticks)) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups ice-cold water
2 pounds ripe peaches (approximately 6) (I had about 2 cups of filling leftover, too)
1/2 cup peach or apricot jam
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, whisked well
To make the dough, place dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor. Add butter and mix or pulse until broken down to sizes varying from peas to almonds to walnuts. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add the smaller amount of water recommended. Toss together and squeeze the dough to determine if more water is needed. The dough should just hold together, with shaggy dry areas as well as areas that are moister. If the dough is too dry, add the remaining water and toss. Transfer dough to a shallow container or wrap into a rough square in plastic wrap. Chill overnight.
After the dough has chilled, unwrap it onto a floured surface. Pat the dough into a square, then use a rolling pin to roll it into a rectangle about 8 1/2 x 14 inches. The dough will crumble and be rough around the edges, but don't add more flour or water — it will come together during rolling.
For the first "turn," fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. The seam should be on the left side. Chill 30 minutes.
For the second turn, take the dough out, this time with the seam at the bottom. Again roll the dough into an 8 1/2 x 14 inch rectangle and repeat the previous step. Chill 30 minutes.
For the third turn, repeat the previous step, then wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
After the dough has chilled for the final time, roll it to a thickness of approximately 1/8 inch. Cut into 7-inch circles (if you don't have a cutter, you can draw a knife around the edge of a plate). Take any scraps and knead them together and chill, covered, before re-rolling. Repeat until all of the dough is cut into circles. Keep dough circles cold while you prepare the filling. Puff pastry warms very quickly and turns into a buttery mess, so do be sure to keep it cold.
To make the filling and finish the pies, cut the peaches in half and discard the pits, slice them into wedges (I sliced mine into eights), and then slice the wedges in half. Place peaches in a large bowl and add the jam and sugar. Stir lightly to coat - the fruit should glisten with a light coating of jam.
Take your prepared pastry circles and brush with the beaten egg. Fill the circles with the filling (approximately 3-4 tablespoons of peach filling), then fold into a half-moon shape and press a half-inch from the edge to seal (Boyce suggests not crimping the very edges themselves, to avoid compressing the layers). My mom got me one of these "pocket pie presses" - it isn't necessary, but it does help to seal the edges and to prevent me from over-stuffing the pie with fruit.
Place on a pan in a single layer, brush with the egg and sprinkle with cinnamon. Freeze for a minimum of one hour.
While the tarts are freezing, preheat the oven to 375°F. When the hand pies are frozen, line a few baking sheets with parchment and place the hand pies on the sheet (with ample space between them).
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, rotating the pans halfway through. The tarts are ready when the crusts are dark golden-brown and blistering, the fruit is bubbling and perhaps some juice has run from the hand pies and caramelized on the parchment paper.
(Boyce stresses that color equals flavor. And with such a high crust-to-filling ratio, she says, you don't want it doughy — so try to let the pies get a bit darker than you might be inclined). Remove pies from the oven, and immediately transfer the hand pies to a cooling rack, before the caramelized juices cement them down.
Serve the hand pies warm from the oven or later that same day. The unbaked hand pies will keep, well wrapped and frozen, for up to one month (I only baked 4 of mine today).