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to be outside

Recipe: bourbon peach hand pies

use real butter was on CNN’s Eatocracy blogger spotlight yesterday if you want to check out the post.

It wasn’t a typical autumn hike, but then again – what’s typical? Autumn can be moody, so pick your permutation: sunny, windy, hot, dry, cool, rainy, overcast, misty. This day was rainy, misty, chilly. We chose a mostly valley hike in the trees with the last mile or so rising above treeline to an alpine lake nestled against the Continental Divide. There is something to be said for walking out into the woods, the mountains, the weather. I like to do it for exercise, but there is so much more than the physical benefit that gets me outside. The clutter in my head dissolves which allows me to think with greater clarity about those things that are important. As I’ve said in the past, I am insignificant when I’m out in Nature. It feels good. It feels right to me. It makes me happy.

young aspen collecting beads of rain

autumn is coming – just look at that glorious red fireweed

Alright, it doesn’t always make me happy. I’m a fan of fun #2, remember? Fun #1 is stuff like lounging on the beach sipping fruity cocktails or stuffing your face on a cruise ship. No interest whatsoever. Fun #2 involves some amount of pain and suffering which is eventually forgotten in favor of “Yeah, we really DID have fun, didn’t we? Right? Right?!” We hiked in a steady, soaking rain in 40°F for several miles up a few thousand feet. The trail became a stream where it was steep and deep puddles or thick mud where it was level. Perfect hypothermia conditions. Arriving at the lake, we saw that the Divide was obliterated by thick clouds that were pouring into the basin. And then I noticed a subtle change in the sound on my jacket hood. Tat tat tat became splat splat splat.

snow at 11,650 feet

jeremy gets bonus points for suffering my photography in the wet and freezing cold

Snow!! The winds were picking up above treeline, so we decided to head back before the weather worsened. We hadn’t seen anyone on the trails all day and then I heard Jeremy call out “hiker!” I looked up and saw a short woman clad in rain gear making her way up the trail toward us. We stepped aside to give her room. She stopped and asked where we had come from, beginning a friendly conversation as the rain continued to fall. Her friends were further back. She told us she had started ahead of them because she’s slow, that she had just recovered from a serious illness.

I looked at her closely. Her face was wrinkled, her hair gray. She had no eyelashes. Her eyebrows were thin… thin in that way I recognized. She referred to her illness in this code language. After a few more exchanges on the wildflowers, the weather, the glorious mountains, I softly asked if she wouldn’t mind telling me what her illness was. I suspected. I was right. She had cancer, had undergone her treatments recently and now she was out in the Colorado high country – in the freezing rain and snow – loving the beauty and feeling rejuvenated. I smiled and nodded. I placed my gloved hand gently on hers, “Yes, I too felt that after my treatments.” I still feel that today.

It’s not something I care to discuss with people unless they ask, but the empathy I shared with this tiny woman – a stranger – moved me to let her know that I understood. She’s had cancer three times and she is seventy-six years old. A fighter in her own quiet way, just trying to live and appreciate this amazing life. And basically kicking ass! I want to be hiking like her if I ever get to seventy-six. She shook her head and gazed at me sadly, “You’re much too young to have had cancer, my dear.” We smiled through quiet tears under the rain. We hugged. I squeezed her hand and she squeezed mine back. Strong. I think we just want to be assured that everything will be okay, except you don’t ever really know. That may be why she and I appreciate our time outside the way we do.

Not more than a few hours later I’m warm and dry at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, selecting perfectly ripe Colorado peaches while telling the farmer at the stand that it was snowing on the Divide that morning. I get to have snow AND juicy, sweet, organic, local peaches in the same day. That’s a mingling of seasons right there, folks. I wanted more peaches because I used up the last batch making something wonderful.

say what you will, but i swear colorado peaches are the best

flour, butter, sour cream, lemon, peaches

I grew up eating a lot of fruit. Fruit was usually our dessert if we had any dessert at all. I still operate in that mindset, although I must admit that the one dessert that really hits me at times is pie. Why not put some of that summer fruit in a pie? And then sometime during the planning of the pie, I’ll just eat the fruit outright and that’s the end of that. But this time I found a recipe for bourbon peach hand pies from Smitten Kitchen that I had to try because I needed an excuse to buy a bottle of bourbon and test a new flaky pastry.

cut cold butter into the flour and salt

whisk sour cream, lemon juice, ice water together

pour in half the liquid

mix it with your hands

pat the loose clumps of dough together into a ball

Hand pies are adorable individual pies that you hold in your hand right before you stuff them into your face. I pretty much followed all of Deb’s instructions except with the dough. While rolling out each half, I folded the dough into thirds, then turned it 90 degrees and folded into thirds again, then rolled it to the desired thickness. I tried both squares and circles for my dough shapes. It makes a wonderfully flaky and light pastry. I could see using it for savory hand pies too.

roll out the dough

cut the dough and set on parchment

If you make this recipe, set aside some space in your freezer and your refrigerator because you freeze the flour and butter, then you refrigerate the dough, cut the dough, refrigerate the shapes, stuff the shapes, then refrigerate again before baking. While the dough shapes were chilling, I made the bourbon peach filling.

dice the peaches

vanilla, bourbon, sugar, flour, peaches

mix together to make the pie filling

My earliest attempts at folding the pies left them a little on the lean side as far as peach filling went, but eventually I found a happy volume of filling for the dough. Under filled pies are just a mouthful of pastry which I’m not especially fond of. Overfilled pies taste wonderful, but they usually disembowel themselves in the baking process.

add filling on the dough

wet the edges of the dough with water for sealing

pinch the ends together and use a fork to make decorative edges

some of the circular ones

After the last refrigeration, cut some steam vents into the tops and then brush the pies with the egg wash. Sprinkle coarse sanding sugar on top – or if you’re me and you’re out of large crystals of sugar, use regular sugar. The baking times will depend on how large your pies are. I found doneness easiest to gauge by the color of the pastry (golden).

brushing the egg wash over the pastries

baked and cooling

I love this flaky pastry recipe as it gets many nice and thin layers and has a terrific texture when baked up. These peach hand pies are perfect with tea or coffee or eaten straight up. They also make great gifts. Imagine the look on your friend’s face when you hand them a little bag of homemade hand pies. Just be warned that they are ridiculously easy to eat. One, two bites – gone! So easy that you may not WANT to give any away.

i like the little ones best

sweet peach filling wrapped in delicate pastry

Bourbon Peach Hand Pies
[print recipe]
from Smitten Kitchen

2 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
16 tbsps (8 oz) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tsps fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water

2 lbs. peaches
1/4 cup (35 g) flour
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg yolk
2 tbsps water
coarse sanding sugar (I used regular sugar)

Pastry: Combine flour and salt in a medium-large bowl. Put the butter pieces in a small bowl. Freeze both of the bowls for an hour, then make a well in the center of the flour and add the butter. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter until the whole thing has the texture of coarse meal (I actually left some pea-sized chunks of butter in there – it’s awesome). Hollow out another concavity in the center of the butter-flour mixture. In a different bowl, whisk the sour cream, lemon juice, and ice water together until evenly blended. Pour half of the liquid volume into the flour and combine them with your fingertips until the dry mix has absorbed all of the liquid in big clumps of dough. Set the clumps aside in another bowl, add the remaining liquid and repeat. You don’t want to overwork the dough because it’s supposed to be flaky pastry, not stretchy bread. Consolidate the lumps of dough together into one mass and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for an hour. [Deb says you can store the dough for up to one month in the freezer at this point.] Cut the ball of dough in half. Lightly flour a work surface and roll half of the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness (I did a little book folding: fold in thirds, turn again and fold in thirds, roll). Cut shapes to your desired size and geometry. I tried squares (that’s a generous description – they were cut free-hand) and rounds (I used a 3 1/2-inch biscuit cutter). I like both. Move the dough shapes to parchment-lined baking pans and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Do this over again until you’re out of dough. I made 12 square shapes and 12 circles.

Filling: Peel and pit the peaches then cut into a medium dice. Toss the peaches with the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the bourbon and vanilla and toss to coat.

Assembly: Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let them sit for a couple of minutes at room temperature so they are no longer brittle. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the peach filling on half of your square or circle (the temptation to overstuff is large, but try to resist – they’ll look prettier). Wipe some water on the edges of the dough and fold it in half to make a semi-circle or rectangle or triangle depending on the starting shape. Press the edges together to seal the pie and then using the tines of a fork, you can press the edges to create a ruffled look. Once you’ve finished filling all of the dough shapes, place them in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.

Finish: Heat the oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, whisk the yolk and water together. Remove the pies from the refrigerator and slice a few steam vent slits in the top of the dough for each pastry. Brush with egg yolk wash and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake about 20 minutes or until the pies are golden brown and starting to crack. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes before devouring (the filling is HOT). Makes about 24 depending on the size of your pies.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

blackberry peach coffee cake blueberry peach crisp bourbon peach cobbler peach pie cinnamon rolls

36 nibbles at “to be outside”

  1. Allison says:

    Ooooooooh. Those hand pies sound amazing. Tomorrow’s farmer’s market day here, so you can bet I’m going to be looking to get some peaches… ^_^

    Also? You’re a rockstar. I want to be badass like you when I grow up. :D

  2. Debbie says:

    What lovely little hand pies! They look so delicious. Love the pictures and story of your hike. I hope that I also live to be 76 and love life and nature the way that lady does…..

  3. la domestique says:

    I love those bourbon and peach hand pies! Wasn’t the Boulder Farmers Market great yesterday? I enjoyed the gloomy weather and picked up a bunch of leafy greens and potatoes for a hearty supper. You’ve got me yearning for a little day trip into the mountains and a hike.

  4. Kristin says:

    Whew…you moved on to disemboweling pies just in time. I had teared up, & they were just about to start rolling down, and I’m already stuffy enough from allergies. Thanks for sharing the lovely story.

  5. mountain mama cooks says:

    I’m here squealing that snow is falling. I know I can’t be the only one…..we’ve yet to see it in Park City. Those peach hand pides? Well, I want one (or 3 or 4) for breakfast. I do love some Knob Hill and our Utah peaches are pretty damn good too so I do believe I’ll be giving these a try sooner rather than later!

  6. Bev Weidner says:

    Those are so cute I just wanna rock them to sleep! YUM.

  7. Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet says:

    Wow…fantastic. I shielded my eyes to the “white stuff” photo. Not ready to see that just yet. :) BUT the hand pies…yow! I’d eat 12 of those right now.

  8. Jenny says:

    My favorite part – not the pies, not the snow (love snow) – – the fellow warrior you met – brought tears to my eyes – you both ROCK.

  9. deb says:

    I am so glad you enjoyed them — and made them look so beautiful, as always. The dough (since I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking about it) is exactly like my (and most folks’) standard pie dough, plus half a cup of sour cream and lemon juice. It’s amazing how those two ingredients transform it into… cushiony flakes.

  10. Garrett says:

    Jen, I love this. Excellent work. THose pies look simply amazing.

  11. merry jennifer says:

    I love that you met this woman on your hike. It sounds like that chance meeting meant a lot to you — and probably her, too. Surviving cancer, though the shitty entity that it is, can sometimes bring people together.

  12. Bing Chou says:

    Can’t wait to get home to try these out. Amazing.

  13. Sheryl says:

    I respectfully disagree – Michigan peaches are the best!

  14. Patricia Scarpin says:

    The pastry is so flaky I could have sworn it was puff pastry, Jen. Beautiful little bundles of joy! I’m crazy for peaches.

  15. Susan/@latenitepho says:

    Definitely going to try this. Thanks!

  16. Elle says:

    Loved the CNN feature!

    I have to confess – I was absolutely elated the first time I stumbled across your blog.

    My dad isn’t big on using formal measurements (unless you consider handfuls and “pour three circles of vinegar” to be measurements) so I absolutely LOVE that you break down the traditional recipes.

    It also doesn’t hurt that your photos and stories rock too!

  17. erin @ from city to farm says:

    Knob Creek, highly approve!! Thank you for sharing your hike experience, and in such a beautiful way. Surviving that type of intense experience definitely leaves one with a more profound appreciation of the day-to-day and such a bond with those who share that experience. This post left me with full eyes, and a sudden desire for hand pies! Thanks again for sharing!

  18. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    Oh no, not snow! It you have snow there, it’s only a matter of time until we have it here!

    I’m not ready! not not ready!!!!

    Guess I’ll just have to console myself with peaches and bourbon!

  19. Soma says:

    Oh I want this so bad now. I think I will try this now with the pastry puffs sheet i have. Lovely post. In Texas we are enjoying the real summer now after the terrible triple digits.

  20. Lynne says:

    Wow I am getting a case of Colorado peaches anyday, and I am in Minnesota a coworker and I ordered them..
    Now I know what I am doing with some of them.. Yummy you are an inspiration to us all!!

  21. Maria says:

    Gorgeous photos as always! Peaches are so tasty right now, I can’t get enough. I bet they are even better in hand pie form!

  22. barbara says:

    Oh Jen that made me cry..the eyebrows…I still have the thin line….on one side, nothing on the other.

    But the pies made me smile. Love you. xoxo

  23. Jun says:

    It’s so lovely!!!

  24. Rumpy Drummond says:

    mmmmm….. i wish I worked for you as taste-tester.

  25. Chris @nestlefoodie says:

    Hi Jen! I love how your posts are about so much more than a recipe (the recipes always look fantastic though). I always get so happy when your posts are waiting in my in-box :)

  26. Erin says:

    CO peaches kick PA peaches’ a** any day, JenJen. Thanks for sharing. Love you and miss you!

  27. Tini says:

    Dear Jen,

    Thank you for sharing this recipes.Instead of using butter, I made it with goat butter instead and it taste so delicious!

  28. The Weekend Dish: 9/10/2011 | Brown Eyed Baker says:

    […] Bourbon Peach Hand Pies (use real butter) I love hand pies (my apple hand pies always get rave reviews!), and this peach and bourbon version sounds to-die-for. […]

  29. Lisa says:

    Your post brought tears to my eyes.

    I’ll think of you both when I make the pies with the wonderful British Columbia peaches that survived our earthquake this afternoon. :-)

  30. Andrew says:


  31. Judith B. says:

    The connection you made with the beautiful hiker was very touching…I’m sure your thoughts and strength brought her comfort (and well as yourself). Mother Nature certainly has her own way of healing.

    Love the peach hand pies….definitely will make them.

  32. Margie says:

    Oh, those Colorado peaches…..yum, yum, yummy!

    That was a little angel on the trail. What a beautiful story. I loved reading this post. It gives hope in more ways than one.

    Off now, going to read the CNN piece. I have no idea how I could have missed it.

  33. Joy says:

    The pies look great.

  34. egb says:

    Lovely photos. Living in Georgia, this recipe looks like a must!

  35. Alanna says:

    Such a touching story; your writing and photos are just superb. And these tiny pies look delicious. Thank you!

  36. jenyu says:

    Allison – you are the best :) *hugs*

    Debbie – me too!! xo

    la domestique – love the Boulder Farmers Market. LOVE!!

    Kristin – thanks.

    mountain mama cooks – they’re small, so 3 or 4 is fine ;)

    Bev Weidner – I know, I love little foods because they’re just so durn cute.

    Heather – I don’t recall (nor do I want to) just how many I ate!

    Jenny – thank you xo

    deb – this dough is just awesome and I thank you for introducing it to me and my Colorado test subjects :) xo

    Garrett – you just brought a tear to my eye!! thank you, sweetie. :)

    MJ – it really can. I knew where she was – just coming out of treatments, starting to feel better, but not quite normal. It’s a fearful hopeful feeling. It took me back.

    Bing – totally worth it.

    Sheryl – ha ha!!! :)

    Patricia Scarpin – I know, right? I couldn’t believe how lovely it turned out without all of the fuss of puff pastry.

    Susan – :)

    Elle – I think so many of us feel that way about our parents’ cooking. Ha ha, glad we “children” can get together and make some sense of it and share!

    erin – thank you.

    Rocky Mountain Woman – there are worse things to console yourself in ;)

    Soma – oh, I really feel so bad for you guys with the triple digits. Ugh.

    Lynne – oh man, that sounds amazing! You guys are seriously dedicated to the Colorado peach!

    Maria – these are good, but I still love a juicy, drippy, ripe peach straight up.

    Barbara – I think the eyebrows were the final kick in the gut for me – more so than the hair loss :( But we get through it, don’t we? Love you so much, B. You are my inspiration. xo

    Jun – thank you!

    Rumpy – I wish you did too… or at least my waistline wishes you did!

    Chris – you’re such a love. Thank you xoxo

    Erin – ha ha! I miss you too. I was hoping these might entice you to leave that silly place and come HOME!!

    Tini – wow, that sounds lovely!

    Lisa – xxoo

    Andrew – :)

    Judith – thank you.

    Margie – She was quite a fighter and yet so tiny and sweet. We have amazing people in our midst and we don’t even know their stories.

    Joy – soooo good!

    egb – yes, you absolutely must with those famed GA peaches :)

    Alanna – thank you xo

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