Shall I invoke yet another ode to the humble peach – that fuzzy southern institution that heralds the serum of interminable summer heat; a metaphor for scrumptious, petite things; a term of endearment for lecherous love…
There was only one peach tree in my youth and we did vile things to its graceful limbs – we trimmed, chopped, and tended them until the extremities of bulbous growths sprouted obscene spindles, unable to hold their heavy, luscious burdens. In retrospect, this did not seem judicious for when the peaches came in a sudden gluttonous orgy, there followed a cascade of fallen fruit that painted the ground in its orange hues of sugary overload. I recall with clarity traversing the yard towards our miniature orchard amidst a reverse-rain of departing birds, a sudden interruption to foul-filled picnics, a veritable feather and fruit haven. The birds and I feasted but their appetites never waned, while I gradually grew tired of the orange stone fruit in all of its weary transmutations. Perhaps if that tree was not as generous in its fruiting, I might be constantly pining for orange stone fruits.
These days an acquired polite indifference yields to bargain bins and dollar bags filled with thrifty fruity odors that confer a longer life to peaches in the forms of preserves and jams, a celebration of summer’s fecundity that fits tidily into tiny jars. I made a ginger peach butter for the thrill of it – a cheap memento of a bargain shopper’s Sunday forage and ravenous hoarding. I really like this butter. The subtle ginger peach combination is growing on my palate like a second skin, akin to San Francisco scarves in cool, foggy summers. Wrapped in these chilly sea mists, it’s no wonder that I yearn for the comforts of warm fruity delights. That, and the coziness of a cup of tea.
The ginger peach butter has proved itself versatile. I dilute it with hot water to dress French toasts. I eat it on cheeses. I’m giving some of it away for gifts. I’m also enlisting it in my quest for more hand pies. It’s a slow journey, but I’ve already made this and this with delicious consequences.
This pie has a more cake-like texture than others, reminiscent of Fig Newtons, or rather what Fig Newtons aspire to be: declared the boyfriend. I found these hand pies delightfully straddling cake and pie territory… comfortable in their non-declaration of genre, while playfully enticing in their righteous Lilliputian style. Moreover, the dough is made using a hand mixer. Strange, right? This recipe yields a fortuitous abundance – an easy, casual gift with many more to spare.
Sweet Hand Cake-Pie Dough
Dough Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts
3 c. pastry flour or all purpose flour
1/4 ts. baking soda
1 ts. baking powder
1/2 ts. salt
2 ts. lemon zest, finely grated
1/2 sweet cream butter, @room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
3 oz cream cheese, @room temperature
2 TB buttermilk
1 ts. vanilla extract
Fillings for Peach Hand Pies: Martha’s recipe was for an apple butter filling, so I adapted it for a summer treat with my ginger peach butter.
1/2 c. Ginger Peach Butter*
1 Peach, finely diced
dusting: 1/4 c. granulated sugar & 1/8 ts. ginger powder. Mix well.
+ Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, zest.
+ In separate bowl, use a hand mixer to beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and mix, followed by cream cheese, milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
+ Form dough into a ball and flatten into a disk 1″ thick disk. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or until firm to the touch. This can be kept frozen up to 1 month.
+ Once dough is chilled, roll dough out to a thickness of 1/8 “. Cut out 2″ *** rounds and refrigerate until firm (1 hour).
+ Have a glass of ice water and a pastry brush. Fill half the rounds with a small bit of peach butter and diced peaches, leaving a half inch radius around the edges to press the dough together. Brush the edges with ice water and press the two firmly together. Brush the pie tops with ice water and sprinkle a bit of ginger sugar on top.
+ Refrigerate the pies for 1 hour or until the dough feels firm again.
+ Preheat the oven to 375°F and bake until golden. Mine took 20 minutes. The bottoms tend to cook really fast so I placed them on the oven’s top shelf.
* I think you could potentially replace this with a puree of peach, ginger, and sugar that’s slow cooked to a thick gravy-like consistency.
*** I find that the pieces fit better if you shape and stretch the top into a small cap. Or, just cut the tops a bit bigger. Also, you could make regularly sized 4″ hand pies, which would be faster.