The best peach hand pie I ever tasted was a Peach Fried Pie from a roadside stand in the North Georgia Mountains on an amber autumn afternoon. A friendly older farm couple, skin etched by the sun, were lounging on aluminum lawn chairs under a large blue and white striped beach umbrella, waiting patiently for customers.
They were selling boiled peanuts, homemade jams, jellies and fried pies. We bought the fried pies, wrapped up in brown paper bags. The farmer’s wife had scrawled the word PEACH across the crumpled, oil dotted bags in cursive. An unintentional canvas, her artwork hinted at the goodness inside.
Those Peach Fried Pies didn’t taste like a product someone made to earn money, they tasted like a gift made with loving hands and heart. Those Peach Fried Pies didn’t make it home.
We parked at a picnic area nearby and hiked along the creek until we found the perfect flat rocks to sit on and relish the scenery and the pies. They were so delicious, flaky tender crust filled with sweet Georgia peaches. Wondering if the pies were so good because of where we were eating them, we decided to save half for home.
On the way down the meandering mountain highway we got lost and HAD to have a snack to tide us over. The Peach Fried Pies were just as perfect in the stuffy car stuck in dreaded ‘return to Atlanta’ traffic as they had been by the side of the clear bubbling stream. I have always believed our getting lost was not an accident, but a calculated excuse to finish off those Peach Fried Pies!
These Peach Hand Pies are not fried, they are made with a rough puff pastry that yields light and firm pies you can bake by the dozen. For this recipe you will need peach pie filling and puff pastry. You can use store bought puff pastry or you can make your own using my rough puff recipe.
For the Puff Pastry:
Place the following ingredients in the bowl of your food processor:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Now add 1 tablespoon very cold water to the bowl. Pulse again. Add another tablespoon cold water and pulse again.
Mixture should form a ball. If it doesn’t, add more water, one teaspoonful at a time until your pastry ball forms.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out quickly into about a 6 inch by 9 inch rectangle. Visually divide your pastry into thirds lengthwise and place four tablespoons of butter (cut into 6 lengthwise strips, a cheese slicer works great for this) on the bottom two thirds of the pastry. Fold the other one third over on top of the butter like a book. Then fold it over again onto the last one third of the pastry.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
Take the pastry out of the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it back on your lightly floured surface. Roll it out into another 6 by 9 inch rectangle, turn it one quarter to the right or left and fold it into thirds again. Then roll it into another rectangle, give it another quarter turn and fold it into thirds again. Re-wrap the pastry and refrigerate for one hour.
Follow the same process as outlined above another 2-4 times. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour between each turn. The more turns you make, the more layers you will get.
If pastry is too cold to roll out, let it sit out just a few minutes to soften.
When you have completed your turns, re-wrap it one final time and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
One puff pastry recipe will yield 12 hand pies.
For the Peach Filling:
4 cups fresh peach slices (about 4 to 6 medium peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced)
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
1 tablespoon potato starch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water
Place all ingredients except potato starch water in medium saucepan. Heat on medium low just until sugar is dissolved. Add potato starch water, turn heat up to medium high and stir until it bubbles and congeals. Remove from heat and let cool.
While peach filling is cooling, remove your puff pastry from the refrigerator and let warm slightly so you can roll it out.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
If using my puff pastry recipe, divide it into thirds and roll out each section separately into an 8 by 12 rectangle. Then use a knife or pizza cutter to cut each pastry rectangle into four 4 by 6 inch rectangles.
If using store bought puff pastry, you won’t need to roll it out. Just let it warm up until you can unfold it without it tearing. Cut the puff pastry into the shape and size you desire.
Place 1-2 tablespoons peach filling in the middle of each shape. Use a finger dipped in lightly beaten egg or cold water to go around the outside edge of the pastry and fold it over. Press lightly to seal or go around the edges, pressing with a fork.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and light golden brown. Let cool on a rack until ready to serve.
You could shake some powdered sugar and cinnamon over the top when serving if you wish, but I think they are perfect on their own.
Store any leftovers in a brown paper bag, lovingly labeled ‘Peach Hand Pies’ in your own cursive handwriting.