In peak peach season, the juicy stone fruit finds its way into myriad desserts — from cakes and cobblers, to, of course, pies. In the South, summertime often means driving to a local farm and picking peaches right off the trees, fighting off sneezes as clouds of fuzz waft off branches. When tote bags are filled to the brim with all the fruit one can grab, they’re quickly whisked off to kitchens to be washed, chopped, spiced, and baked.
In grocery stores, the picking is less labor intensive and the scenery less stunning, but the large arrays of peaches are almost as overwhelming and exciting. And when totes are swapped for rolling shopping carts, shoppers will find themselves able to lug as many peaches as they desire, all without breaking a sweat.
Once ovens are preheated and cutting boards tie dyed with yellow juice, a transformation begins, and hand-picked peaches are turned into even more delicious confections.
The warm spiciness of bourbon improves almost any dessert, but peach pie is perhaps incomplete without it. To elevate the whiskey’s notes of baking spices, add a healthy dose of nutmeg and cinnamon to the mixture, plus some brown sugar. And if your peaches are not as ripe as you’d like, a bit of honey can also be added to make up for the lack of sweetness.
For hand pies, softening the peaches on the stovetop is ideal, as this will allow more filling to fit inside the casing. Cornstarch thickens the mixture, which, after being boiled and caramelized, is combined using a fork to smash the peach slices into a jam-like texture.
And while bourbon may be an obvious addition to this beloved dessert, there’s another, more surprising boozy ingredient that is vital to this recipe (according to my grandfather): vodka. Rather than using solely cold water to make the dough, this recipe calls for one part vodka, one part water. Though it may sound strange, this ingredient is a must, as vodka is key to the flaky, melt-in-your-mouth texture of any great pie crust. That’s because the booze evaporates during the baking process, leaving small pockets of air in the crust to create a perfectly buttery, delicate mouthfeel. (Pro tip: Sprinkle any extra pie dough with cinnamon sugar, roll it up in a coil, and bake alongside the pies. This crust is so good, you won’t want to waste any scraps).
One bite of this boozy, juicy dessert will transport you right to that Southern peach farm — no matter where you are.
Bourbon Peach Hand Pies with Vodka Crust Recipe
- 2 ½ cups pastry flour (preferred) or all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup vegetable shortening cut into 4 pieces
- 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into ¼-inch cubes (keep in freezer after cubing)
- ¼ cup cold vodka (80 proof)
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 egg, whisked
- 2 cup peaches cut into small slices
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons bourbon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Honey, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
- For the crust, combine flour, salt, sugar, and shortening in a food processor until the mixture has a mealy texture.
- Add butter, and pulse until pea-sized pieces form.
- Add vodka and water, and pulse until mixture begins to stick together.
- Remove the dough from the food processor and form into a ball.
- Cut dough in half, and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Press into disk shapes, and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- While the dough chills, begin making filling.
- Add all filling ingredients into a saucepan and cook at medium heat.
- Once the mixture bubbles, turn heat to low.
- Smash the peaches with a fork or spatula until they’ve reached a desired consistency.
- When the mixture thickens to the texture of jam, remove from heat.
- Once the dough has chilled, remove one disk from the refrigerator and roll it out into a 12-inch circle. Use a cookie cutter or glass to cut the dough into 3-inch rounds.
- Repeat with the second disk.
- Spoon a small amount of filling into the center of half the disks.
- Top with another disk, and seal the edges using a fork.
- Brush with egg, and cut a small slit in the top of each hand pie to release steam during baking.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.