Why This Recipe Works
To replicate the deep-fried peach hand pies from Peach Park in Clanton, Alabama, we needed a tender, crumbly crust that was still sturdy enough to be portable. To achieve that, we deviated from traditional pie dough technique (cutting cold butter into flour) and pulsed melted butter into the flour in a food processor to make sure that every speck of flour was coated. Baking powder and milk also helped add crumbly tenderness to the baked crust. For the filling, we added granulated sugar to boost the sweet peach flavor. We mashed the peaches to release their juices and reduced the mixture in a saucepan over medium heat to concentrate their flavor. Rather than rolling and cutting out rounds of dough, we divided the dough evenly into 8 pieces and then rolled out each one to minimize waste. Three tablespoons of filling was the perfect amount to stuff each pie. The final step was frying the pies in batches in peanut oil until they were golden brown.
Ingredients and Directions
Makes 8 hand pies
If using frozen peaches, purchase a no-sugar-added product; we prefer Earthbound Farm or Cascadian Farm frozen peaches. There is no need to thaw the frozen peaches, but they will take longer to cook; times for both fresh and frozen are given in step 1. Use a Dutch oven that holds 6 quarts or more for frying. The assembled pies can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before frying.
4 ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, and cut into ½-inch wedges, or 20 ounces frozen peaches
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ cup whole milk
2 quarts peanut or vegetable oil
1. Combine peaches, sugar, and ⅛ teaspoon salt in medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up peaches with spoon, until tender, about 5 minutes for fresh peaches and 16 to 19 minutes for frozen peaches.
2. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring and mashing frequently with potato masher to coarse puree, until mixture is thickened and measures about 1⅔ cups, 7 to 13 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and let cool completely. (Filling can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
3. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pulse flour, baking powder, and ¾ teaspoon salt in food processor until combined, about 3 pulses. Add melted butter and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand, about 8 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add milk and process until no floury bits remain and dough looks pebbly, about 8 seconds.
4. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter, gather into disk, and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your hands into ball, then press to flatten into round. Place rounds on prepared sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
5. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll into 6- to 7-inch circle about ⅛ inch thick on lightly floured counter. Place 3 tablespoons filling in center of circle. Brush edges of dough with water and fold dough over filling to create half-moon shape, lightly pressing out air at seam. Trim any ragged edges and crimp edges with tines of fork to seal. Return pies to prepared sheet, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until ready to fry, up to 24 hours.
6. Line platter with triple layer of paper towels. Add oil to large Dutch oven until it measures about 1½ inches deep and heat over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Gently place 4 pies in hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 1½ minutes per side, using slotted spatula or spider to flip. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 350 and 375 degrees. Transfer to prepared platter. Return oil to 375 degrees and repeat with remaining 4 pies. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.