September 21, 2012

Mini Hand Pies

If I were to name one dessert that I adore to make time and time again, it would have to be pie. Finding a recipe, sticking with it for a couple of months, and then moving on to the next. New techniques, the addition of buttermilk. Vodka being a bit of a revelation - evaporating while baked, not contributing significantly to gluten development. I've tried Crisco, and then butter. Crisco and butter, but never lard. That is completely out of my territory. The ultimate goal, to create a rich, flaky pastry dough. Normally, when making bread, we want that gluten to work and stretch, forming a structure that can hold tiny pockets of air while being baked. Creating a nice chewy loaf, perfect for dipping. On the contrary, we work hard to prevent those features in pie dough. We strive for as little gluten development as possible, adding only enough water to moisten the dough, and gently piling together, kneading very lightly. The addition of buttermilk, also plays an important role. The acid helps inhibit the gluten formation. 

I think the best pie crust that I have made, was in Paris. This recipe. I'm not sure if it was the flour I used. The delicious Parisian butter. My frame of mind, the air. Something special in Paris led to a wonderfully delightful crust. Upon reflection, it could have been the relatively quick knead. I was pressed for time, and made it in a rush. I skipped the freezing all together. I know that freezing chills the butter, so that it can stay evenly layered throughout the crust, contributing to the rich flakes. But, the colder my dough, the harder I have to work it out, leading to over-kneading in the later phase. So now, I resort to a quick chill in the fridge, cooling the butter enough to prevent it from melting over the counter, but not to hard to knead. I do it all within a short time frame. I found this new technique, whilst browsing on a lazy afternoon. A Completely Delicious technique, rolling the butter into the dough instead of chopping in with a pastry cutter. Also, the addition of buttermilk, which is a new strategy for me. I wanted to create some mini pies, perfect for a quick breakfast. I like a bit of variety, therefore choosing 3 flavors. One savory for my Mr., and the rest sweet. The crust is delightful, flaky and full of flavor. There is a bit of a fuss involved with folding the sweet pies. Cherry juice running through the seems. But, the savory were dreamy to fold. Mashed potato, cheese, and broccoli, created a perfect filling, easy to handle. They have turned out to be quite a perfect little snack and a great way to get some fuel on the go!

makes 10 mini pies
pie crust adapted from Completely Delicious
notes: It will be much easier to scrape the dough from the counter and rolling pin between rolls, if you have a dough scraper. 

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup cold buttermilk
1 egg yolk + 1 tsp water for brushing

1 1/2 cups rhubarb, diced
2 1/2 cups strawberries, diced
2 tbsp minute tapioca
1 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
raw sugar crystals for topping

2 cups dark Morello cherries
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp white sugar
sliced almonds for topping

1 potato, peeled, boiled, and mashed
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped finely
1 tbsp butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cold chopped butter cubes, and mix together with a wooden spoon. Dump the flour and butter onto a work surface, and with your rolling pin, roll the butter into the flour creating long sheets of butter. This will contribute to extra flakiness. Use the dough scraper to remove the butter from the rolling pin, and work surface between rolls. Continue in this manner, until all of the butter has been rolled flat. Place the flour and butter back into the bowl and place into the freezer for 15 minutes to re-chill.

Remove the bowl from the freezer. Slowly add the cold buttermilk to to the flour mixture and incorporate with a spoon. Plop the dough  onto the counter and begin to gently knead with your hands. The dough should start to stick together quickly. If it does not come together within 7 or 8 kneads, slowly add one tbsp of cold water at a time. You want to knead as few times as possible, and limit the amount of water that you add. Kneading will form gluten, as will adding more water. Gluten contributes to elasticity, which is not a desired characteristic in crust. Once kneaded, divide in two and roll into disks. Wrap in Saran and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will help relax the gluten and make it easier to roll out. 

While the dough is chilling, start by peeling, cubing and boiling the potatoes. Once the potatoes have become soft, add the broccoli and boil for 2 more minutes. Drain the water and mash the two together, still leaving a few large chunks of potato. Add the butter, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix with a spoon and set to the side. 

While the potatoes are boiling chop the rhubarb and strawberries. Place into a bowl with tapioca, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Set to the side.

In a small bowl, add the cherries with a few tbsp of their own juice. Add the vanilla and white sugar and let sit.

Preheat the oven to 400 ºF.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Take some flour and dust the counter. Start by rolling out one piece of dough until it's 1/8 inch thick. Using a small-medium bowl, cut out a round circular shape. Place 3 - 4 tbsp of filling into one half of the dough circle. Dip your finger into a bowl of water and pat the edge of the pastry. Fold it in half and press together with your fingers. With a fork, press down the outside edge to create a tighter seal and add a bit of a design. You will likely have a bit of each filling left over. Place the pies onto a baking sheet and place back into the freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and brush with the egg + water mixture. Make 3 small slits into each pie. Sprinkle the almonds onto the cherry pies, and raw sugar crystals onto the strawberry rhubarb. Place into the oven and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and the filling should start to bubble through the tops of the pie. Remove from the oven and let cool. 

You can freeze for a later day or store in the fridge for up to a week. 


  1. Wow, your hand pies and the photos look gorgeous! I'm tempted to make these over the weekend!

  2. Beautiful and delicious! I'm looking foward to make some of these :)

  3. I have a pie crust recipe on my blog that I love so much I dedicated a whole page to it. It is so tender and flaky every time. Pie is one of my favorite things. Those cherry ones look great!

  4. Hi! I use your flaky pie crust a lot and we make these hand pies often. :) I just tried to use the crust for a pumpkin pie and the pie crust did not stay up the sides. :( My pie is now about 1/2 in tall. Any thoughts on using this recipe for a regular crust? Maybe it sank because it is all butter? I'll do some reading myself, but any thoughts would be welcomed! Thanks for working hard to make your recipes delicious and your photos amazing.