Mid-autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. This year it fell on September 14th. My mom likes to celebrate the Mid-autumn festival by cooking an elaborate 9 course meal for the family. She varies the menu from year to year, but we always end the meal with moon cakes.
Moon cakes are made with a pastry crust and filled with a sweet paste. There are many different varieties of moon cakes. Some are filled with traditional ingredients like lotus seed, red bean, or date pastes. Some are filled not so traditionally with chocolate, coffee or even ice cream. My favorite moon cake is filled with white lotus seed paste and salted egg yolks. The crust of the moon cake can be embossed with Chinese characters, flowers or animals. Moon cakes are normally 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick, but more and more bakeries are making miniatures. Since they are fairly rich, we usually cut each regular sized moon cake into 8 portions.
Even though we have the moon cakes, I always make some kind of dessert for our Mid-autumn festival dinner. This year I made peach turnovers. I guess they are more like tiny pies since I used pie dough for the crust.
The pie crust I used is adapted from two recipes: one from Shirley Corriher's "Cookwise" and another from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible". Part of the all purpose flour in a traditional pie crust recipe is replaced with instant flour. The most well known brand of instant flour is Wondra. What is instant flour? Instant flour is wheat flour mixed with a small amount of malted barley flour. The wheat flour is moistened with water or steam, heated and then dehydrated which basically "cooks" the flour so that it will dissolve quickly. Malted barley flour helps to break down starches in dough and because it has less gluten, the resulting dough will be more relaxed and gives a softer, moister crumb.
The water and vinegar in the traditional pie crust recipe is replaced with sour cream. Sour cream contains butterfat, milk solids and acidity. The extra butterfat makes the dough more tender and lends a buttery flavor to the finished crust. The milk solids add flavor and contributes to a smoother texture. The acidity inhibits some of the gluten formation and makes the dough less elastic. Less elasticity means easier rolling and less shrinkage.
I used a minimal amount of sugar in both the crust and the peach filling, but feel free to adjust the amount of the sugar to your taste. I know that letting the fruit macerate, draining the fruit over a colander to collect the juices and reducing the liquid is a bit fussy, but I wanted try out Rose Levy Beranbaum's method for decreasing the amount of thickener needed for the fruit filling. Since I was making miniature turnovers, I think the method really helped. The filling wasn't too thick or gummy from the cornstarch and the juices weren't so runny that the crust got soggy from the fruit juices.
I didn't really get to enjoy most of the summer fruits this year since I wasn't feeling well enough to eat them. But now that I'm feeling a bit better, I'm lucky that the farmers' market still has some late summer peaches available. I used white peaches for my turnovers, but I think I prefer the yellow ones since they are a bit more assertive than white ones especially when baked. Nevertheless, my peach turnovers were totally delicious.
Mini Peach Turnovers
(makes 22-24 miniature turnovers)
(adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible")
Sour cream pie crust (see recipe below)
1 pound peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into approximately 3/8-inch dice
2-3 tbsp granulated sugar (depends on the sweetness of the peaches)
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp lemon zest
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water
1-2 tsp granulated sugar
To make the filling:
In a bowl, mix diced peaches, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Transfer fruit to a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid.
In a nonstick pan, reduce the liquid, with the 1 tablespoon butter, to about 2 tablespoons. Let liquid cool for about 10 minutes.
Toss the peaches with the cornstarch and lemon zest. Add the cooled reduced liquid to the peaches and toss gently.
To assemble the turnovers:
Roll out your chilled dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-inch round cutter, cut out 4-inch circles. (You can reuse the dough scraps once. Lay the scraps, side by side slightly overlapping and roll them between plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 15 minutes before cutting out more circles from the rolled scraps.) You should get about 22-24 circles.
Spoon about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the peach filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Brush the edges lightly with cold water (to help the dough stick) and fold dough in half. Using your fingers, press the border to seal it and then press the border using the tines of a fork. Refrigerate filled turnovers for 30-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F. If desired, brush the chilled turnovers with egg glaze and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut 3 steam vents into the top of each turnover. Bake at 400F for 12-15 minutes or until the pastry is lightly golden and the filling is bubbling. Let turnovers cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Oh so flaky
Sour Cream Pie Crust
(makes enough pastry for 24 miniature turnovers OR one 9-inch double crust pie)
8 ounces (2 sticks / 1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup instant flour (you can use 1/2 cup all purpose flour if you can’t find instant flour)
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream, cold
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 tbsp ice cold water (optional)
Freeze the butter pieces for about 15 minutes.
Place the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade. Process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the frozen butter is the size of cornmeal or very tiny peas.
Add the sour cream and lemon juice and pulse 6-7 times. Pinch a small amount of the mixture to see if it holds together. If not, add 1 tbsp water and pulse 3 times. Try pinching again to see if it holds together. If not, add another 1 tbsp water and pulse 3 times.
Turn dough out and wrap with plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
(Alternatively, you can make the dough by hand. Place the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl. Add frozen butter pieces to flour mixture and toss gently to coat butter. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two butter knives or with your fingertips until butter is the size of cornmeal or very tiny peas. Fold in the sour cream and lemon juice. Pinch a small amount of the mixture to see if it holds together. If not, add 1 or 2 tbsp water. Turn dough out and wrap with plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.)