This post is dedicated to my 16-year old son, without whom it would not have been possible to do the extensive research required to formulate the perfect hand pie recipe. Rob was a tireless taster of toasty hand pies, eating as many as 5 in a 24 hour period. My eternal gratitude paid in the form of a freezer full of frozen hand pies. (alliteration much?)
After Kate and I returned home from our blueberry picking bonanza with 22 pounds of beautiful, organic blueberries, the next step was to figure out what to do with them all.
You need to know that I live in a family of blueberry vultures, so as I was washing and sorting through the berries, vast numbers of them were quickly being consumed by sneaky, stealthy hands.
I froze several pounds, made jelly with a couple of pounds and began the search for the perfect blueberry hand pie with another couple of pounds.
The remaining berries were eagerly and joyfully consumed by the handfuls. Not a berry went to waste. And what is it about fresh blueberries that make them so enticing? Is it their size that makes it so easy to pop in your mouth? The bite of sweet and tart? Whatever it is, this family has the date circled on the calendar that we can head to our favorite organic blueberry farm and pick our own.
So, onto the perfect hand pie. I have tried my hand at hand pie making (wow, first alliteration crazy and now I'm working the pun!) but have been often frustrated at the results.
I was in search of a recipe that would yield a hand pie whose crust didn't crack and allow all the blueberry goodness to escape. It's a fine line to have a crust that is still tender and flaky, but also sturdy, and I think I have it! But before we get to the recipe, here are some of my…
Tips for a Perfect Hand Pie
- Keep your cool! Chilling the crust ingredients before, during and after making your hand pies is critical! You can't rush this part.
- Don't bake ahead. Your hand pies will be perfect for a couple of hours after baking, but will slowly get soggy. You can always crisp them up in your oven, but even better would be to make a batch and keep them in your freezer until you need them. And then it's a quick 25-30 minutes from freezer to finished.
- Egg Whites are your friend. Brush the egg whites over the entire surface of the dough before you put the filling on your dough. This helps create a bit of barrier so that the fruit doesn't make the crust soggy and helps the ends adhere to each other.
- You certainly don't need a hand pie press, you can just cut the dough into a circle or square and then turn half of it over the other half. However, if you are looking for one, this is the one I used.
- And if you don't have a pastry mat, I do recommend one. I got mine recently and after years of making pies without one, I can honestly say it makes the process so much easier. You've got the little diameter marks to make sure you are rolling to the right size. Plus, you don't need as much flour and it's easy to pull back the mat and get your dough off it and into your press or pie plate. This is the one I have and I am very pleased with it. Word to the wise…don't use a sharp knife to cut your dough…just saying.
- I use ClearJell Starch for thickening the filling. This is not the instant form of this product, I have not used the instant form so can't speak to it. I have it on hand as it is the only thickener to use when canning pie fillings, but it is great when not canning as well. It is widely used in bakeries and produces a thick, clear but creamy tasting filling without the flour or starch taste. However, you can substitute cornstarch as indicated in the recipe.
- And finally, if you are in the midst of making your hand pies and your son calls you outside to show you how he can create a siphon by sucking on a tube to empty the lawn mower of gas (uh…OK!), then by all means tuck your hand pies in the freezer before you head out. It seems that cats like pastry dough, or maybe they don't, but they have to take a couple of bites to be sure one way or the other.
So after experimenting with variations on a basic pastry crust and for the filling, I finally hit the hand pie jackpot! This recipe produces a crisp, flaky crust that is just sturdy enough to be held in your hands bursting with a flavorful filling thick enough to stay in the pocket of the pie.
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons butter, 1 stick, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and very cold
- 1 egg yolk, save the white
- 1/2 cup full fat sour cream, with a couple more Tablespoons as needed
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 TB sugar, or more if you like a sweeter filling
- 1 TB clear gel or 1/2 TB cornstarch
- 1/4 -1/2 TSP cinnamon
- In a food processor, mix flour and salt.
- Add very cold butter to flour mix all at once and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal, with just a few larger pieces remaining.
- Mix egg yolk with sour cream and add to coarse mixture and pulse until you the dough will hold together when squeezed. If it's too dry, add sour cream to the mixture, tablespoon by tablespoon.
- Divide dough into 4 equal pieces (approximately 3 ounces each), form into disks and wrap in parchment or wax paper.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour, or up to 2 days in the refrigerator or one month in the freezer.
While dough is chilling prepare the Filling
- Mix blueberries sugar, cornstarch or clear jel and cinnamon together. Mash a few of the blueberries to release their juice. You don't want it soupy, but just enough to incorporate the sugar and starch so that those ingredients are no longer dry.
- Set aside.
- At the end of 1 hour, roll each dough disk to a 1/8 inch thickness, which will form a circle of approximately 6-6 1/2 inches.
- If you are using a hand pie press, flour your press and lay your flattened dough disk on the press.
- Brush the entire disk, the side where your filling will be, with egg whites.
- Place 1/4 cup of blueberry mix in the middle of the disk and fold over, crimping down the edges.
- Make 3 small (1/2 inch) cuts in the crust and place on a parchment lined tray that will fit in your freezer and complete the process for the other 3 dough disks.
- Note: the dough is difficult to work with when it warms up, so work quickly or keep them in the fridge until you work with them.
- Once all 4 are done, place them in the freezer for at least one hour. You can make them ahead of time and keep in an airtight container and just bring out to bake as needed.
- Preheat oven to 400'.
- When oven is heated, remove hand pies from freezer and brush with egg yolk. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.
- Place in oven and set timer for 10 minutes.
- At the end of 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 350' and bake for 10-15 longer.
- Enjoy the deliciousness!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 418 Saturated Fat: 14g Cholesterol: 109mg Sodium: 348mg Carbohydrates: 44g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 6g Protein: 6g
For the record, I love regular old round pies as well. But there is just something so darn appealing about a pie that you can eat with your hands!
So my friends, if you are smack in the midst of blueberry season where you live, by all means, get out there and pick a pound or two or twenty-two and enjoy all the tasties that you can make with your blueberries. I will be back with my recipe for blueberry jam. In fact, I think I'll begin a series of blueberry posts…The Blueberry Chronicles! If there is a fruit that deserves to be chronicled, it has to be the blueberry…and maybe the peach…stay tuned.
Thanks again for spending a few minutes of your busy day with me today.
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