By Kim Dannies
No good at the hand jive? Consider mastering the hand pie. This twist on traditional summer pie crafts funky minis that are fun to serve and eat. Sun drenched strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are ripening daily, so don’t even pretend to resist this buttery, flaky, crunchy pillow bursting with color and oozing sweet warm fruit.
These pockets of goodness are easy to make with your favorite pastry dough and are perfectly portable for picnics, concerts and family parties. Once you have the pastry made and the method down, improvise on the little darlings: they carry sweet and savory ingredients equally well. Basically, whatever is growing or showing up—in your yard, at the farmer’s market or in your fridge—it is all fair game for a delectable hand pie.
Hand Pie Hints
Chop fruit and vegetables into a small dice and pre-cook quickly; fillings should be cool and moist, but not wet. Easy pastry: 3 cups pastry flour pulsed with 1 stick Crisco and 3 (or more) tablespoons of water to form a sticky ball. Chill.
Mix fruit filling with 1 tablespoon cornstarch (no need to add cornstarch to apples; add less to blueberries, which thicken with their own pectin). Boil for 1 minute and add flavorings like lemon zest, vanilla, ginger and cinnamon. Cool filling completely before using.
Cut dough into 4-inch rounds about half an inch thick. Don’t overfill hand pies or they’ll burst at the seams. Spoon one generous tablespoon of filling, leaving a half-inch border. Fold the pastry around the filling, brush edges with water to seal the pie and press edges with a fork. Pierce the top to allow steam to escape. Chill or freeze the pies for at least 20 minutes before baking.
Not into homemade pastry? Substitute commercial pie dough or frozen puff pastry; allow puff pastry to thaw in refrigerator for 2-3 hours before using.
Freeze unbaked pies for up to three months; bake them straight from the freezer. To prevent leaks, always bake them in a very hot oven—at least 400 to 425 degrees. Bake until golden, 20-30 minutes.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com