What’s better than pie? A pie you can hold in your hand without making a sweet, sticky mess, the ones that are shockingly named “Hand Pies”. After making many traditional pies, I wanted to expand my pie repertoire and venture into something a little different. My husband’s weekly staff meeting was the perfect venue to debut my latest concoction. His colleagues often bring treats to share, so I offered to make something he could take (it’s good to keep teammates well-fed and happy). Enter Hand Pies. No need for plates and forks, just an appetite and maybe a napkin.
As with any other pie, hand pies start with a normal crust, and my go-to recipe is from the book “Me, Myself and Pie” written by a local Amish woman. It’s a wonderful book, I highly recommend it (check out a past post describing the book and a pie I made).
I always make my pie crust dough at least a day ahead of time so it can chill in the refrigerator and relax – nothing like a relaxed pie crust. Actually, I have found that letting a pie crust relax during each step of the process reduces shrinkage when baking. No one likes shrinkage, unless it’s in our waistline. I make the dough, wrap it and store it in the refrigerator at least overnight. After I roll it out, I let it sit for about 15 minutes before cutting or shaping into a pie plate. Just a little trick I picked up that seems to work for me.
Some hand pies are made by cutting circles of dough, topping one half with filling and then folding over and sealing. I really wanted my pies to be full circles, so I went in search of the perfect size circle dough cutter. I needed a circle larger than a biscuit cutter, so I had to get creative. After trying the plastic lids from sour cream containers and other dishes, I finally found what I was looking for – an empty coffee can. And it was a can of Chicory coffee that I bought in New Orleans for my now-husband (I was wooing him with caffeine, and it worked!).
I rolled out the dough more in a large rectangle than the usual circle hoping to fit the largest number of coffee can circles on the dough. After cutting the circles with the can, all while mentally reminiscing about that trip to New Orleans, I carefully put them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. If you haven’t used parchment paper for baking, you must. It is the best thing since sliced bread. Easy clean up, nothing sticks, why wouldn’t you use it?
In the case of hand pies, I decided to cut the apples in smaller pieces so I used my handy dandy spiral slicer corer peeler contraption, then further chopped them in smaller bite sized pieces. Lately I have been experimenting with pre-cooking the filling so the apples will be more tender. I saute them in melted butter until al dente (Italian for “to the tooth”, or firm to the bite) then add the cinnamon, sugar and other spices and cook a little longer until the sugar is melted. Cooling it over night in the refrigerator made it much easier to handle when assembling the hand pies.
Next step, top those little babies with the apple pie filling.
Once the circles were topped with filling, I rolled out more dough and cut more circles. I carefully placed them over the filling and sealed the edges by pressing with the tines of a fork.
They already looked beautiful, but now it was time to really bling them out. Using a wash of an egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of cream, I brushed the liquid over the top of the pies, then sprinkled with sanding sugar.
Sanding sugar is a coarse sparkley sugar that adorns the tops of pies and pastries beautifully. Because of it’s chunkiness, it it doesn’t melt or burn like granulated sugar. Sweet bling!
Finally, using a knife, I cut vent holes in the top, don’t want the filling to blow out the sides during baking.
Into the oven they went. Pre-cooking the filling allowed me to bake the pies until the crusts were perfect and not worry about the consistency of the filling.
And masterpieces they were as they came out of the oven…now the taste test. Yummy, they were great.
The next morning, looking a bit like little red riding hood, my husband toted the pies to work in a handmade basket woven by yours truly. He was the hit of the staff meeting! I will be sure to make those again!