Let’s face it: we live in a world of portable food. Much like with many heritage recipes, there’s room for debate about how to make a proper hand pie. Historically, hand pies were primarily created with reconstituted dried fruit–apples, peaches–since fresh fruit often is too wet to be supported by the delicate pastry. Today, a blend of dried and fresh fruit (or a generous amount of thickener) yields a nicely balanced mixture of flavors and texture.
Hand pies are very often deep fried, but can be skillet fried (preferably in cast iron) or baked for those who are wanting something more health conscious. The dough is typically an adapted form of biscuit dough instead of traditional pie crust, which is better able to withstand the frying process without splitting or leaking filling.
Persimmons are typically in season from September to December. As soon as I see them at the grocery store, I just can’t resist making them into something special. Using my favorite cornmeal pastry gives them a bit of an interesting crunch and balances out the sweet persimmon filling.
Persimmon Lemon Hand Pies
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or fingertips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. This dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle sugar evenly over it. Add peeled, sliced persimmons & sauté until liquid is bubbling & lightly golden. Reduce heat & continue cooking until persimmons are tender (if you wish, thicken any juices with cornstarch). Add 5-spice & salt. At this point you can either mash persimmons to make a filling or you can puree them in a food processor,
Prepare egg wash. Remove pastry from fridge & roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut into 18 rounds. On each round place a heaping teaspoon of persimmon filling. Fold in half & seal with your fingertips. Place the mini hand pies on a parchment lined baking sheet & keep in the fridge or freezer while you continue to make the rest of the pastries.
Brush egg was all over the pastry crusts. Bake for about 12 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven & place pastries on a wire rack to cool.
Grate lemon to make lemon zest for top of pastries. In a small dish combine powdered sugar with enough fresh lemon juice to make a runny glaze. Dip pastry tops in glaze then sprinkle with lemon zest & silver dragees.