Sometimes I get this resplendent feeling. It starts in the pit of my stomach. I can feel it pressing against my ribs and radiating out of my finger tips. A coniferous forest rises up around me. It’s symphonic. These trees, they aren’t rising, they’re shooting up, dwarfing me. The canopy is closing rapidly, and the rays of sunlight are reduced to pinholes. Scarab beetles and snowshoe rabbits conspire in the underbrush. There is music here. A primal composition of every song ever written. Every blip, every snare, every haunting a capella. It’s played on quantum strings. It’s the vibration of the very fabric of reality and so lovely. The streets and houses that were once around me have disintegrated and the milky way runs like a creek through the forest. There are faeries and strange little people with giant gems for eyes that I don’t entirely trust but seem to know ancient things about pain suppression. Magical beasts and deities, many armed and fire breathing, play dice. There is math here and neurons too. There is no time. The universe and all it contains are one moment, one substance in this forest. I have no body, no fingers or toes or little belly. I’m not afraid to die or fall out of love or be mediocre. Those concepts don’t even make sense.
My heart feels swollen in my chest. I feel majestic, but the tick-tock of a blinker intrudes. Headlights. I’m driving. I’m driving a pick-up truck. I’m driving a pick-up truck because he moved in with me this weekend, moved in with his stacks of books and antique furniture and a piece of obsidian. I’m driving a pick-up truck back home, now our home, from Walgreens. It’s midnight. I bought a pint of cookies & cream for $1.29. We’re going to share it in bed and watch our favorite television show. The forest is gone, and I’m mortal again. And then, as my street comes back into focus, for a moment I feel as if I’ll become untethered and be flung clear off the face of the earth, a special case that gravity capriciously forsook. It doesn’t happen. I stay planted. We eat ice cream in bed. But you see, sometimes I lose my gravity. In a moment all of reality ripples and shimmers as if it were about to dissipate entirely, and then, just as quickly, it solidifies back into lawn, mailbox, ceiling fan, spoon.
This phenomena, if you will, is one of the many reasons I love to cook & bake. For me, baking pie is, in a sense, like holding on to clumps of dirt for dear life. It’s real. I’m real. You’re real. He & I are real, and I don’t need to be afraid. And as I slice into ripe fruit, as flour mushrooms out of the bag into my mixing bowl, as I shred basil leaves with my fingers, I am here, and it is now.
I realize that the season for peaches has all but passed like a sigh, but I made these in August and wanted to share them with you. If you’re quick you might be able to grab the last peaches of the season depending on where you live. And this was not the last summer on earth, unless of course you believe that this world will end come December, so when the market stalls are brimming with peaches again next summer, you’ll be glad to have this recipe tucked into your apron. Or back pocket. Or hat. Or wherever you do your tucking. I tuck my recipes into an old symbolic logic notebook. I don’t even wear an apron. I just mess up my clothes all the time. It’s senseless.
White Peach, Rose, and Basil Hand Pies
The rose water in this pie filling compliments the floral notes of the white peaches and adds that certain je ne sais quoi that makes a dish feel special. It should be noted you can certainly use yellow peaches. Nectarines would be nice too. This can be easily adapted to make a full sized pie, just slice the peaches instead of dice them. While I’ve given measurements below, I usually just add the rose and honey to taste along with a healthy handful of basil. I often make it as a galette for a quick & easy dessert for impromptu dinner guests with dough I keep on hand in the freezer. Try it with some homemade cardamom ice cream & candied almonds. You’ll just die. It’s so good.
One batch of Thomas Keller’s Buttery Pastry Crust or your favorite pie dough
2 cups diced peaches (about 2 peaches)
2 Tbsp packed roughly chopped basil
1 tsp rosewater (or to taste starting at 1/4 tsp)
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup of honey (more if you’d like it sweeter)
squeeze of a lemon wedge
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 egg, lightly beaten for wash
Sugar for sprinkling (raw, sanding, or regular all work)
Heat oven to 425° F.
Mix all of the ingredients except the cornstarch in a bowl. Adjust taste to your liking. Let sit 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
Pour off about a tablspoon of the liquid in the bottom and mix with the cornstarch. Stir this back into the peaches.
Generously flour your work surface. Place one chilled, unwrapped dough on the flour and flour the top of the dough. Keep the other disk refrigerated while you work. Gently roll your dough out from the center until about 1/8 inch thick. Re-flour your surface as needed, continually lifting and rotating your dough to make sure no parts are sticking. If the dough becomes difficult to work with at any point, chill for a few minutes in the freezer on a baking sheet before continuing. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut an even number of circles in desired size using a floured biscuit cutter or the base of a small bowl. (I made 4″ pies using a scalloped biscuit cutter.) Lay circles on parchment lined baking sheet. Chill dough if getting too soft for a few minutes in the fridge or freezer before continuing. I find myself popping them in and out of the freezer as needed while I work if they start getting gooey.
Fill a small bowl with cold water and keep it near by. Top half the circles with a small amount of filling, about 1 Tbsp for 4″ pies and about 1 tsp if making bite sized 2″ pies. Using your finger lightly wet the bottom half with the water, top with another round, and seal edges by pressing gently but firmly to seal. You can also use a fork to seal them. Brush top with egg wash, sprinkle with raw sugar, and cut to vent.
When completed place in the refrigerator to chill and repeat with other disc of dough and remaining filling. When second sheet of pies are formed, put in fridge and remove the first sheet. Bake for 5 minutes at 425° F and then reduce the temperature to 350° F and bake 10-15 more minutes until pies are golden brown.
Cool on racks. Pies can be stored in air tight containers but are best eaten within 24 hours of baking.