One of the classics of southern cooking is fried fruit pies. Usually either apple or peach, these little individual pies are a treat that once tasted are never forgotten. I think the most famous fried pie maker in our family was probably my Aunt Bernice (pronounced BUR-niss in true southern fashion). Aunt Bernice was a fantastic cook who could make the most out of the most humble ingredients of anyone I ever knew. Tall, light red-haired and gentle is what I remember about her. An unassuming woman with extraordinary talents in the kitchen. She was as much a mother to my father as was my grandmother. And Aunt Bernice was taken from us far too soon by breast cancer.
I can just imagine her working in her kitchen in the little house on the farm she and my Uncle Clayton owned. And if I close my eyes and imagine, I can almost smell her fried pies. I remember her making mostly peach fried pies but sometimes she’d use apples. Just for a change, you know. Of course, hers were always fried. Probably in peanut oil. It was plentiful and inexpensive back then. I can see her cutting out the little circles of dough with a tea glass, spooning in the filling, folding each one over and crimping the edges with a dinner fork. Then she’d slip each little pie into hot oil in a black cast iron frying pan. After exactly the right amount of time, she’d flip each little pie over revealing a perfect golden brown crust. After another few minutes in the hot oil, out the pies would come and onto some brown paper, probably a saved grocery bag, to drain and cool. If you could wait long enough for them to cool, that is.
I was thinking about Aunt Bernice the other day and her famous fried pies. I really wanted to make some for me and BeeBop but I wanted to try to see if I couldn’t do a baked pie instead. Not that I have anything against fried food. I surely don’t. But we do try to only have it in moderation these days. So I followed the usual recipe up to the frying point where I just brushed them with an egg wash and popped them in the oven instead. They don’t taste exactly like a fried pie, but they sure are a passable substitute.
Start by making the filling from either dried apples or peaches. I chose apples this time because…well, because that’s what I had in the pantry. Cook the fruit with sugar, water, a little butter and cinnamon until it becomes soft and the syrup is thick. Remove the filling from the heat and crush the fruit with either a potato masher or a fork. Set the filling aside to cool.
When the apple filling has cooled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the pie crust and cut small circles using a cup or glass as a guide.
Place a generous tablespoon of filling on each circle. Wet the edges of the dough and fold over to complete enclose the filling. Crimp around the cut sides of the dough with a fork.
Now if we were making the old-fashioned fried pies, at this point we’d begin slipping each of these into a pan of hot oil. However, since we’re baking, we’re going to place the completed pies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Beat the egg together with the water and brush each prepared pie with the egg wash. You can also sprinkle with sugar if you like.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. When the pies are completely cooled, mix together the powdered sugar and water or milk. Drizzle the tops of the pies with the sugar glaze.
Serve with a scoop of ice cream. Why not. You’ve given up the frying :-)