makes ten 3½” hand pies
For the Cornmeal Crust-
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 cup ice cold water combined with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (you will not use all of this liquid) and ½ cup ice
Place the ice cold water and cider vinegar in a Pyrex measuring cup with a handful of ice (about ½ cup) and refrigerate.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar. Add the butter pieces, using your fingertips to coat the butter with the flour mixture. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture, until you have mostly pea-sized pieces of butter with a few larger pieces.
Retrieve the water/vinegar/ice from the refrigerator. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, tossing it with a fork to incorporate. Add 2 more tablespoons of the water mixture, tossing again, and then additional tablespoons (no more than 12 tablespoons total) until the dough begins to come together. (12 tablespoons of liquid seems to consistently be the correct amount. Depending on the weather, you may need a little more or less.) Gather the dough together, divide it in two discs, flatten them slightly, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out. When ready to roll, retrieve one round of dough from the refrigerator, and let it soften just enough to facilitate rolling. Roll the dough on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, to a thickness of about ⅛ inch, approximately 13” in diameter. Use a 3¼” cutter to cut out 5 squares of dough; you can reroll scraps once, if needed. Slide the parchment sheet with the dough squares to a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Repeat with the second round of dough, then begin the filling.
For the filling-
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (so you don’t forget.)
2 cups total, diced peaches and nectarines (I don’t peel the nectarines, just the peaches)
1-2 tablespoons cooled honeyed bourbon caramel (depending on sweetness of the fruit)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ginger
2 teaspoons fresh lemon or fresh orange juice
dash of orange bitters (optional)
egg wash from 1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water or milk or cream
coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling
In a medium bowl, toss the diced fruit with the caramel, cornstarch, spices, juice, and bitters. Retrieve the dough squares from the fridge. Brush the edge of half of the squares with a thin border of egg wash. (The other squares will serve as the top of the hand pies.)
Spoon one tablespoon of fruit (leaving most of the liquid behind) into the center of half of the squares. Cover each fruit-filled square with one solid square, pinching the edges to seal using a fork. Brush the top of the hand pies with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sanding sugar. Place the pies on a parchment lined baking sheet, allowing a little breathing room between them, about 3/4 of an inch. Use a fork to prick a few holes in the top of each pie, so steam can escape as they bake.
Return the hand pies to the refrigerator, or preferably to the freezer (if space allows) and let them get good and cold, at least 10 minutes in the freezer, at least 20 minutes in the fridge. This helps the pies hold their shape in the oven.
Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until golden and the fruit softens. Serve with Honeyed Bourbon Caramel.
Note about lattice tops:
You can certainly top the pies with a lattice made from half of the dough squares. If you decide to do this, you have to cut the dough into ½ inch strips and chill them before assembling the pies. If you try to do this once you’ve placed the fruit on top of the bottom layer, the lattice will get soft and the fruit will seep into the bottom of the pie and you’ll be kicking yourself. It’s a little more fiddle, but the end results are pretty great.
For the Honeyed Bourbon Caramel- makes approximately 1½ cups
⅓ cup honey
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
generous pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
2-3 teaspoons bourbon (depends on the day)
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, combine the honey and sugar over medium heat, whisking only to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer, carefully swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble, (first big bubbles, then smaller bubbles) and turns from light brown to deeper amber. Tilt the pan if you see the mixture getting darker on one side. Remove the pan from the heat, carefully add the cream (mixture will spatter!) whisking to combine. Return to low heat briefly, allowing the sauce to thicken a bit. Remove from heat, add butter, salt, and vanilla, stirring until combined. Add bourbon. Let caramel cool in a heat-proof bowl, then refrigerate.