Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My labors never cease...

Well, folks, I hope you had a great Labor Day! Sadly, I had to work on what was surely the most glorious day of the season! I kept looking longingly out the lakeside windows at school to see what seemed like more sailboats than water on beautiful Lake Champlain. It was tempting to be bitter about having to work, but we've only been back a week, and the faculty made a willing trade of Labor Day for two days over the Columbus Day weekend in October. I'm sure we'll really need a four-day mini-vacation by then!

On top of having to work, my allergies morphed into a nasty head cold by the end of last week, and now it all seems to be settling in my chest. I expect someone will have to call hospice soon. ;-) And as my roommate has gone off to the home office in Minnesota for a month of training, I don't have anyone to cook for at home, even if I felt up to it. But my sweet friend, Lee Ann, took pity on me over the weekend, and invited me over to a Labor Day Weekend cookout with her family so that I wouldn't be on my own at home. The day before, I had stopped by one of my favorite farmstands--Garrant's on Military Turnpike, for all my local readers--to buy some more canning tomatoes (a half-bushel for seven bucks!). My own tomatoes are starting to come on like gangbusters now (observe the most recent haul, left), but I will be teaching some canning classes soon through continuing education, and I want each student to have a quart of tomatoes to take home, so I'm trying to get ready for that.

Anyway, when I was at Garrant's, I spied a quart of overripe peaches for the rock-bottom bargain of one dollar! I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with them, but I couldn't pass them up for that price. Then Deb at Smitten Kitchen gave me the perfect idea for what to take to the party at my friends' house: the flakiest fresh peach turnovers! Deb made smaller "hand pies," but I made larger, six-inch turnovers, and since I was serving them to two little girls, I omitted the bourbon, increased the vanilla, and added a wee bit of almond extract. Of course, the larger pies had to bake a bit longer, but other than those minor changes, I followed her recipe very closely, and they turned out beautifully, just as pictured on her gorgeous blog. I snapped a quick picture of the turnovers when I was at Lee Ann's (below), but of course, Deb's pictures are much better. Then again, I don't think Deb had her hand pies served with homemade, hand-cranked vanilla ice cream like we did at our cookout! So there! Tee hee. The recipe follows. It's fussy, to be sure, and you'll spend the better part of your day chilling and re-chilling that damn dough. But your patience will be rewarded with an exceedingly flaky, tender turnover that's the perfect foil for summer's freshest, sweetest peaches--or perhaps the ripe stone fruit of your choosing.

Fresh Peach Turnovers
(Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes about 10-11 (depending on cutter size)

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:
2 pounds of peaches
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

one egg yolk beaten with one tablespoon cream (for egg wash)
coarse sanding sugar, for decoration (optional)

1. To make the pastry, in a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for one hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. If preparing ahead of time, the dough can be stored at this point for up to one month in the freezer.

2. Divide the refrigerated dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a six-inch round cutter or bowl, cut about five circles out of the rolled dough. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling, cutting, and chilling process with the remaining half of dough.

3. Make the filling: Peel and chop the peaches into small bits (approx. 1/2-inch dice), much smaller than you’d use for a regular-sized pie. Mix them with the flour, sugar and pinch of salt, and add the vanilla and almond extracts.

4. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature until just pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon about two tablespoons of peach filling onto one half of each circle of dough. Quickly brush a little cold water around the circumference of the dough, and fold it in half so the other side comes down over the filling, creating a semicircle. (I found it unnecessary to use the water to seal the edges as there was plenty of juice oozing out!). Seal the turnover, and make a decorative edge by pressing the edges of the dough together with the back of a fork. Repeat process with remaining dough. Place the turnovers back on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled turnoevers from the refrigerator, cut a small slit or two in each and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash. Sprinkle sanding sugar (if using) generously over the pies, and place pies in the oven to bake. Bake until the turnovers are golden brown and just slightly cracked, about 35 minutes. Remove the pies from the oven, and let stand to cool slightly before serving, preferably with homemade vanilla ice cream! Yum!

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