Thursday, July 16, 2009

Peach Hand Pies

Something happened to me when I signed the 30 year mortgage on my condo at the end of 2007. I kept hearing the words "30 years" over and over in my head. When I moved in, and looked around, I thought to myself... I'm going to be a 57 year old-old maid rumbling around this place one day. I closed my eyes and pictured myself as that weird lonely old lady who lives down the hall, smells like cat piss, and lingers too long at the elevator hoping you'll talk to her. To put it mildly: I freaked the freak out. I realized: holy shit! I'm single! And 27! And I want 4 kids someday! And I have zero prospects! What's a girl to do?

I'm not really sure what other girls do if they find themselves in that predicament, but what I did was thrust myself into the dating world full steam ahead. I was on Match and E-Harmony like it was my job. I went out on literally a BAZILLION dates. I e-mailed, texted, chatted on the phone with a BAZILLION more guys.

It was exhausting.

Some weeks I went out 3-4 times with 3 different guys. What? You think that sounds fun? HELLS NO. It sucks. Imagine your worst 1st dates. Now imagine having 2-3 of those a week. For a year and a half! Right. Finally, after dating a ton of non-compatible guys, a handful of guys that I considered compatible, but didn't feel the same way about me, and then another handful of guys that were just the most inappropriate scum of the earth (and yes... I have so!many!stories!) I decided that it was time for a sabbatical. Initially, it was just going to be a month break. No dating for a month.

Then that month turned into 2 months. And I was loving having MY life back. My independent, fly by the seat of my pants, do-whatever-the-hell-I-want-without-having-to-plan-around-douche-bags-lives life. One night a friend and I went out and ended up having a "sad drunk." The night started off well, but eventually it turned into a drunken woe is me and while we're at it, let's order another shot of something night. I bitched about dating and about being rejected by all the guys that I was into, he bitched about his own love/dating issues. And we got shitfaced and depressed. Not a good combination.

The next morning, I woke up with a massive hangover and a flat tire. I shook my fists at the universe in disgust. Why me? Why haven't I met someone? Why did I get so freaking drunk and sad last night? Why do I have to have a flat tire and a hangover on the same blessed day? I spent the first half of the morning sitting at my desk at work (oh yes... it was a workday, no weekend sad drunk hangover nursing for me) willing the tears in my eyes and the booze remnants in my stomach to stay put. It was bleak.

At lunch, my brother helped me with my tire, removed it (in like 20 degree weather with no coat) and took it to a local gas station to have it plugged and then he put it back on for me. I made it through the work day. I got home and chugged a gallon of gatorade which finally seemed to do the trick. And it was then... at the end of this awful, no good, piece of shit day that I realized: despite feeling defeated and sick all day... I'm happy. The happiest I've been in my adult life, in fact. Why did I spend so much time and effort torturing myself with seeking out something to fill a void that I didn't have in the first place? Who cares that I was 28? I'm 29 now, in six months? I'll be 30... I mean that's what happens... time progresses, and FAST. Nothing in life is guaranteed. So, as long as I'm happy right now, that's all that matters.

My 29th birthday was one of the best I've had. And it's because I had let go of all these preconceived ideas of where I should be at certain points in my life. I'm 29, I'm single and you know what? I'm loving every minute of it.

I know what you're thinking... what does this have to do with Peach Hand Pies? Well, if you'll allow me to really stretch a metaphor here... these hand pies are a lot life my life these past couple of years.

I had been wanting to make a peach pie for a long time now. I love pies. I picked up a ton of peaches at the farmers market awhile back and decided I was going to tackle a peach pie. And then... I got the opportunity to bake something for a poolside cookout that my mom was going to. I decided that a pie isn't really poolside type of dessert, so I thought... that's okay, I can just make these hand pies. Mini peach pies, if you will.

These handpies were a freaking mess. The dough was ornery as all get out, my filling was super wet. I spent a crapload of time on them and when I test baked one... it tasted like like a niblet of peach wrapped inside a toilet paper roll. The dough was so tough and you barely tasted the filling. I was sad. I decided to let them hang out in the fridge overnight and hoped that the rest would help before I baked them all.

The next morning, I baked them, the dough was still a little cardboardy, but not as bad. And, as they sat around all day, they started to get better. Softer, flakey-ier. And by the time I delivered them to my mom for the cookout... they were pretty good.

We all have expectations. Big expectations of how our life is going to turn out or small ones like how a recipe is going to turn out. And sometimes... you think you've failed when things don't go exactly the way you've planned. But just because things turn in a different direction and cause some awfulness, doesn't mean all hope is lost.

Peach Hand Pies
from Smitten Kitchen

This recipe took a lot of time. I had issues with the dough and I think I eventually overworked it. It was a little tough, but as the day went on, it softened up a bit.

The thing about hand pies is that you're going to get a lot more dough flavor than you would if you were to just make a peach pie (obviously, but i wasn't really thinking about that when I made them). I think maybe the hand pies are better suited to a fruit that is more tart and robust in flavor than a sweet, ripe peach. My peaches got flavor-bullied by the dough. Maybe blackberries? Or tart cherries?

I wanted these to be more like fried pies. The fried pies that I was offered so much as a child and didn't have the palate for yet. They aren't like fried pies. But they are pretty good. And, regardless, you end up looking like a freaking master pastry chef when you show up with a basket full of these.

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 (I used rum)
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, 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 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.


Mary said...

This is the best post ever.....the pies...the life commentary...I loved it. E-high five to you!

Anonymous said...

You know, my grandmother always used dried apricots for hand pies and fried pies. You are right - the more robust flavor of the apricots is much better than an apple or peach filling. Even though peaches are my favorite!

kamagra said...

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