Thursday, September 3, 2009

oh, baby.... (peach hand pies)

Two things happened last weekend. One, I dug out my food processor. Two, I was unceremoniously called a 'baby.' For being scared. In a scary movie. (The Descent) This seemed a little uncalled for. You don't call someone hysterical for laughing in a comedy.

I don't think I've been called a 'baby' since elementary school, when my cousin Sam and I would taunt each other back and forth with the hated moniker. We were 15 days apart, so the name carried much consequence. I remember back then, nothing seemed worse than being called a 'baby.' Surprisingly, 15 years later, it still carries a hefty punch.

I've been thinking about fear a lot lately anyway. Most fears I hold onto are irrational...and I've found it helps to ask 'of what consequence are the actual consequences I'm afraid of?' Like...the monster from the Descent is not actually going to come get me. So, it's really of no consequence. It probably didn't warrant screaming at the top of my lungs while other people slept.

Another example, I have a huge mental blockage around making pie crust. But, why? Yes, it's difficult, but the worst that could happen is I could fail, and the consequence is that I've wasted some flour and butter. Not a big deal. This makes the fear fizzle away some.

Deciding to do this blog with Erin has been great for this too. That girl is fearless! My baking is meticulous...reading and re-reading recipes, comparing, measuring. She just goes for it! And she's been an amazing encouragement to me in trying new exciting things, and old scary things. It goes like:

Linda: Oh, I really want to try XYZ! But I'm scared! It looks hard!
Erin: Why? It's awesome! Just do it! It's not that hard!
Linda: Oh...ok!

This is a dramatization because we don't always speak in exclamations points. But I guess sometimes that's all it takes. (See, cooking is like this big, overstated metaphor for life.)

This is all to say, this week Erin and I are making peach hand pies. QFC had a great deal on organic peaches, so I trekked to Capitol Hill on my lunch break and bought a whole bagful. Erin found the idea for hand pies on smittenkitchen, and they looked delectable. So I had to calm my pate brisee fearing heart.

I started baking about a year ago from a copy of Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. She taught me layer cakes, cupcakes and pie crust in a food processor. At the time, I didn't have a fancy pants food processor, so I went through the painful process of cutting the butter into the flour by hand. With a knife. Oh, what trials I have endured for fresh pie.

Then after I did get my food processor, fancypants included, I never made pie crust with it. I was excited to finally try it this week, but then I read smittenkitchen's post on Pie Crust 102. She recommended a hand held dough cutter instead of the food processor, and promised it made a flakier crust.

Now, I am against one-wonder gadgets. I grew up in a household where you made do with the basics. I'm still amazed at the silly things American people sell (and buy!). An apple corer!!?!? I have one too! It's called a knife. (Or more efficiently, my teeth.) An egg holder?? Why not set your egg down on the plate, sir? Anyway, back when I was making my ghetto piecrusts a year ago, I didn't even have a rolling pin! I used a cold can of Pepsi. Yup. Pretty. Awe. Some.

(Now I have this super gangsta' rolling pin. Thanks to a special someone! See, how fancy my pants do grow.)

All this ranting aside, I really really wanted to make some flaky, melt in your mouth crust. And since this was my big 'conquer your fears' moment, I needed some extra cards stacked in my favor. So on a quest for basil through Pike Place Market, I found myself at Sur la Table, the proud new owner of a dough blender. And let me tell you, it was worth every penny of the eight dollars and Washington state sales tax I forked over for it.
I blended my butter as minimally as possible. Smittenkitchen recommended stopping around pea sized butter pieces.....I stopped at fat, happy nickels. I was on a mission! It took some work to make the dough come together, but the puffy, flaky, incredibly buttery end result was amazing.

When I pulled those babies (ahem) out of the oven, I gave myself a secret handshake of joy. You could see each individual layer of awesomeness around the edge of the pies. And you know what this made me want to do? Make my own puff pastry. Because I'm like Jet. Li. Fearless. But alas...another weekend.

I chalk these pies up under the whopping big success category. I'm sure I'll do greater things with pie crust, but firsts always have their place in a heart. I was afraid of many things...that the crust would be hard, that the whole thing would crack open and burst, but these little pies were docile as peachy, endearing sheep.

I only used half the dough so far, which I baked in two batches of four pies. For the second batch I added mango to the filling, which made an interesting tropical taste. I still have half the dough in my freezer, people! What adventures will I dream up next!? Salmon pie? (Ahem, Derek.)

Peach (Mango) Hand Pies
adapted from smitten kitchen

This recipe may seem a little daunting, but coming out the other side it's really not so bad. You make the dough, chill, roll and cut, chill, fill, chill, bake. The filling is so easy it's negligible. There's downtime for chilling so bring a friend or a book. Plus, for my second batch, I had the dough and filling ready, I woke up one morning, filled four pies, chilled it, baked it and voila! Fresh peach pie!

Basic Martha Stewart Pate Brisee (pie crust dough)
(I used half this to make eight pies. Mathematics tells us that you could use this to make 16 pies or halve it and make eight like me.)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sticks butter
ice water

(This filled eight pies. Normal laws of math apply.)
1 large peach, chopped (about 3/4 cup, chopped)
1/8 cup chopped mango
1/8 cup flour
1/8 sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

1 egg plus 2 tablespoons water for egg wash
sanding sugar

1. Cut butter into pieces, return to fridge to cool.
2. Sift flour, salt and sugar into bowl. If you are OCD, you can chill this bowl too.
3. Add cold butter to flour bowl (which should be a big, big bowl.) Use your dough blender (!) to cut butter into flour until pea (or nickel) sized pieces of butter are still visible.
4. Slowly add ice water (by tablespoons) to flour and continue until clumps of dough form. Begin working with hands to bring dough together.
(If you feel like the dough is not coming together, add more water. If you try a few times and it starts getting warm, take a breather and return the bowl to the fridge. Do not warm up that butter.)
5. After dough forms into a ball, split into two pieces and wrap in plastic wrap, form into discs and return to fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes.
6. Remove one disc, and on a heavily floured counter, roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. If you want to be successful here, just add tons of dry flour to the top and bottom of your disc. It doesn't hurt your dough.
7. Use something with a four inch diameter to cut rounds out of your dough. I used a little cereal bowl. Or, you can cut squares and fold along the diagonal like turnovers. Transfer your rounds to prepared parchment lined cookie sheet and quickly return to fridge to chill 30 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, make filling by mixing fruit, flour, sugar and spices.
9. Fill rounds with peach filling, wet half of the edge with water and fold to seal. Indent edges with fork if you're into cute stuff like that. Chill.
10. Brush pies with egg wash. Cut a slit in each so they can breathe when baking. Dust with sanding sugar, if you have it.
11. Bake 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
12. Bask in awesomeness. (Actually, remove to wire rack and cool.)


  1. mmmmmm I'm excited for my try!

  2. That's awesome!

    I think I've only made one awesome pie crust in my lifetime and I've yet to replicate it. I'm more of a shortbread crust kind of gal.

    Seeing this makes me want to try again...maybe after I've tackled a few things on my "To-Do List" of baking.


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