I’m going to make a sweeping generalization here, and you may not like it, so brace yourself. The world is broken into two camps — the pop tart camp and the pie camp. Now, you may have thought the two camps were cake and pie, and you wouldn’t be wrong exactly. But being someone who came late to the pie party (I was decidedly very un-pie and very pop tart/cake until more recently than I care to admit), I am here to tell you that there is a bridge between the camps, and that bridge . . . is hand pies.
Hand pies have all the attributes of a pop tart that you (okay, I) love: portable, amazing crust to filling ratio, adorable (yes, some of us think pop tarts are adorable); and all the attributes of a pie: flaky and buttery crust coupled with yummy, over the top, seasonal fruit fillings. and these little strawberry numbers? To die. The crust is my go-to off the charts flaky pie crust with vodka redux and the filling a simple strawberry with a bit of black pepper for bite (essentially my strawberry rhubarb filling, minus the rhubarb). Although, honestly, you could use any of the fillings on this site, like rhubarb filling one or black and red raspberry filling or apple sour cherry filling one to fill your pies.
Because the crust and filling (basically) came from my archives and because hand pies are not unlike pie-pies (duh), I didn’t do a ton of research prior to offering up all this recipe goodness to you. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I looked to Smitten Kitchen, Food52 and Bon Appetit, for thoughts on baking times and pie-size (and shape) and edge crimping technique. In the end, the pies take a bit more time than a regular pie and probably the same amount of time as homemade pop tarts.
Nothing about them is hard and the reaction to them? Very gratifying (ie: people love them). And kids, or at least the two that I live with, love them kind of the most (ie: way more than they could ever love pie, and maybe about the same as they love pop tarts).
Bake Strawberry Hand Pies
For the pie dough
- 2 1/4 cup 2 Tbsp pastry flour (see note)
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 sticks 16 Tbsps high-fat, salted butter, cold
- 2 Tbsp vodka ice cold
- 2 Tbsp cold water
For the strawberry filling
- 3 cups strawberries washed, hulled, and chopped
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp arrowroot
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper or to taste
- Lemon juice from half a lemon
For the egg wash
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp heavy cream
- Sugar in the raw
To make the pie dough
- Whisk the pastry flour and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Slice each stick of butter into about 12 pieces. Toss the butter into the flour and place the bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes. Combine the vodka and water and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the freezer and dump the contents on to the counter. Using a rolling pin, flatten/smear the butter into the flour (I recommend using a rolling pin to fraisage the dough, rather than the palm of the hand, as hands can get awfully toasty and melt the butter). Your goal is sheets of butter, crumbly bits of butter/flour and almost no loose flour (this is important, otherwise the dough is too dry and it is hard to roll out later). Use a bench scraper to move the dough around as you work, periodically bringing it all back into a pile in front of you. Break up any large-ish sheets of butter with your fingers so all the butter bits are (relatively) uniformly shaped.
- Once your pile consists of butter sheets and crumbly dough, sprinkle a little of the vodka/water mixture over your pile, and use your hands to gently incorporate the liquid into the flour and butter (I kind of toss the dough around in my hands and move it around a bit on the counter with the bench scraper). Continue sprinkling and incorporating until the dough is uniformly crumbly, damp, and flour-y — about 4 sprinkles in total. Don't be afraid to spend some time here tossing the dough with your fingers to really help the flour absorb the liquid (but don't overwork the dough by kneading it, etc). Form the dough into a ball (as best you can) and transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to mold the dough into a disc. Wrap it tightly and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Lightly flour a work surface, remove the disc from the fridge, and place it on the surface. Flour the top of the disc and let it rest on the counter until it softens a bit — about 10 minutes, or so (a little rest keeps the edges from cracking). Now, using your rolling pin (and your fingers, if necessary) begin rolling/molding the dough into the shape of a rectangle. It will come together as you work — even if the edges crack. If it is not cracking, but is instead extra sticky, sprinkle extra flour on the disc and your work surface to combat the stickiness. Once in the shape of a rectangle, take one of the ends of the rectangle and fold it a little more than halfway across the rectangle towards its other end. Then take the other end and fold that over the first (as if you are folding a long and skinny "business" letter). This first fold you make might be made with dough that is both sticky in places and crumbly in others, but that's ok.
- Once the dough is folded, roll it out again into a rectangle (re-flouring beneath it and on top, if necessary), and fold up the ends, like a letter, for a second time. Repeat this one or two more times (3 to 4 times in total). By the third time, your dough should have transformed into something much more pliable and easier to work with. Cut the final rectangle in half, form each half into a disc, tightly wrap each disc in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.
- Remove one disc from the refrigerator, roll it out, generously flouring your work surface as you go. Ideally, you want a 12 by 12-inch square of rolled out dough (so you can cut twelve 4-inch squares from it) but I didn't have that sized square exactly, and ended up doing some re-rolling of scraps to get the number I needed. Use a paring knife (and a ruler) to cut twelve 4-inch squares from the dough. repeat with the remaining disc and place all 24 squares on two parchment-lined baking sheets in the fridge.
To make the filling
- Combine the strawberries, granulated sugar, arrowroot, salt, pepper, and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl and stir gently with a wooden spoon. Set aside.
- Prepare the egg wash by combining the egg and cream in a small bowl and whisking. Remove the dough squares from the fridge and brush half of them with the egg wash and make four small decorative cuts with a paring knife in the second half. Place about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of drained filling in the center of an egg-washed square (try to spoon up mostly fruit, as opposed to fruit and juice — and be warned, if you put too much filling in your hand pies, they will leak). Cover with a decoratively cut square and using your fingers, press around the edges of the square and create a seal. Using the tines of a fork, make a decorative pattern around the edges, further securing the two halves together.
- Place the finished pie on one of the lined baking sheets, and continue assembling pies, until you have run out of dough. You may have extra strawberry filling left over. Place the sheet in the freezer, and freeze for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the remaining egg wash on top of the pies and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake the pies for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling through the vents and the pies are nicely browned. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
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