One of my fondest childhood memories of summertime in Tennessee is when my dad would conveniently find himself in Georgia every July, and he’d bring home baskets of peaches. When I say “baskets of peaches” I quite literally mean baskets of peaches. The 4-quart woven kind that you’ll fill up on a morning run to the farmer’s market, times six.
We’d ooh and ahh, touch their fuzzy skin and sniff every basket for their signature Georgianess. My mother’s face held a smile, but now that I’m practically the same age she was then, I have a sense that she was gritting her teeth, and sifting through her brain’s card catalog of recipes. I mean, what does one do with six gallons of peaches and excited children? Her peach preserves were always a big hit — we’d eat spoonfuls right out of the jar — but her fried pies were legendary.
Fried pies are becoming extinct, sadly. They’re tricky business and to be honest, a royal pain in the ass to execute. I wouldn’t even advise attempting them for reasons including, but not limited to, filling explosions.
With it being peach season and nostalgia being “so in” right now, there is a simpler way to achieve this classic Southern treat and up your picnic game. I call them hand pies, because they fit in your hand. And then your hand miraculously turns into a shovel and before you know it, you’ve eaten six. Pies, not shovels.
You can use any fruit pie filling for these, homemade or not. I prefer making filling from scratch, but that’s because I’m a bit of an overachiever. (That’s actually not true — hand pies use so little filling that I have enough leftover to bake a whole pie, which is a lesson I learned after eating half my batch of hand pies before a picnic.)
PEACH HAND PIES
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
Squeeze of lemon
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
3 – 4 large peaches, cut into chunks
In a large saucepan, stir together water, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice on medium heat, until it thickens, which should take about five minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the remaining ingredients. Let it cool to room temperature. I use a potato masher to break up the bigger chunks.
Crust / Assembly
Refrigerated pie crust (stop clutching your pearls, please)
Biscuit cutter (or a 4-inch cookie cutter, in case you don’t have a set of biscuit cutters hanging out in your kitchen)
1 egg white, beaten
Let the fun begin!
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the pie crusts and cut as many circles as you can. With these requiring so little filling, you can easily make a small or big batch. Two pie crusts, four pie crusts, it really doesn’t matter.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and lay out the dough. Drop about a tablespoon of pie filling into the center of each circle. You’ll very quickly get a feel for exactly how much to put in each one, so don’t worry about exact measurements. (Who has time for those, anyway?) Fold each circle in half, and use a fork to press down the edges. It secures the inside and looks pretty. Give each one a poke on the top with a fork. Brush the top of each pie with egg white.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Congratulations, you just made hand pies.
Glazing them is not a requirement, but it adds a little something extra.
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
Whisk these two together and spoon a little on top of each pie when they come out of the oven.