Sunday, July 02, 2017

Hand Pies

The summer after I met Sweetie, while we were still living in the East Bay, we decided to go down to the Berkeley pier for the 4th of July fireworks. It was a long time ago, so I don't really remember all the details, but I believe that we were planning on watching the distant fireworks at Crissy Field in San Francisco. At any rate, we didn't actually see any fireworks because the fog rolled in, a pretty heavy fog at that, which meant that you could only see the occasional glow in the fog.

Still, we had a good time. We were newly in love and that puts a shine on almost everything. As part of our picnic I made peach hand pies. They are perfect for picnics because you don't need anything other than your hand and your mouth to eat them...and maybe a napkin to catch any dripping juices.

Yesterday I made hand pies in a slightly smaller size for a dinner party in Healdsburg. There are so many ripe fruits available right now that it was difficult to only make two flavors, but that seemed like the right thing to do so that everyone could have one of each flavor. I made peach-blackberry little pies, which were the favorite, and raspberry pies which were a bit too tart. Next time I will add just a little sugar to the cornstarch mixture and I think I'll make larger hand pies, too. These leaned too heavily in the direction of crust with not enough room for enough fruit. That works if crust is your main delight in pies, but I love the fillings.

These take some time to make, as do most things that have a lot of hand work. Use your favorite pie crust recipe or just buy some already made pie crust sheets.

Use the season's ripe fruit. If the fruit is tart, add some sugar to the cornstarch-flour-bread crumb mixture...about 2 tablespoons unless the fruit is very tart. Make sure the fruit is in fairly small pieces so that you can fit a little more in. Large pieces of fruit leave a lot of empty holes in the filling.

Most fruit will release juices when they cook, which is why we use the cornstarch mixture. It helps turn the juices into a thick sauce. If you prefer pies which spurt juice when bitten into, you can skip the cornstarch mixture. In the photo above, the raspberries have been shaken with the cornstarch mixture. They still released a little juice, but no too much.

There are at least two shaping methods. I used the 'fill half, then fold and seal' method, but you can also use the 'fill the middle and top with another piece of dough' method. In both methods, the dough edge is moistened with a thin sheen of water before the sealing. Both also use the tines of a fork to seal the edges further, and to give a nice finish to the hand pie. As you can see in the photo above, I used the fold and seal method.

For the best looking hand pies, glaze with beaten egg, then sprinkle with sparkling sugar right before baking. Don't forget to cut a short slash in the middle to allow steam and excess juices to escape during baking.

Maybe you'll decide to make these for your own 4th of July party or picnic or dinner and to keep the tradition going that way. Happy Baking!

Fruit Hand Pies
Elle's recipe
makes 12 small hand pies

Two-crust pie crust recipe or box of pre-rolled pie crusts like Pillsbury Ready Crust
3-4 cups fresh fruit, peeled, seeded, cut into small pieces as needed
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup dry plain breadcrumbs (not seasoned)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
sugar to taste - depends on the tartness of your fruit
1 egg for egg wash
Sparkling sugar if desired, for top

Roll out the pie crust dough to 1/8 inch thick and then cut out 3 /12 to 4-inch circles. Put the scraps together and knead once or twice, then roll out again as needed so that you have six circles of dough from each half of the pie crust dough.

In a small bowl mix together the flour, breadcrumbs, cornstarch and salt. Add sugar to taste.

Place six circles of dough on a piece of baking parchment or foil. Mix about half of the cornstarch mixture into half the fruit in a medium bowl, then place a tablespoon or two of the fruit on half the dough circle. Leave about 1/2 inch around the edge with no filling.

Using a wet, clean finger, coat the edge of the dough with a thin film of water, all the way around the circle. Fold the unfilled half over the filled half and press down to seal the edge. Use the tines of a fork to seal the half-circle edge (see photo above to see how they look baked and sealed that way).

Repeat with the remaining six dough circles and more fruit. There may be leftover fruit, which can be used in other recipes.

Place the hand pies, still on the parchment or foil, on one or two baking sheets. Glaze with an egg wash consisting of the egg whisked with one tablespoon of water. Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze, then sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sparkling sugar over the tops of the hand pies.Slash the tops with a small sharp knife (slash is about 1/8-inch and lets steam and juices escape as pies bake).

Bake in a preheated 400 degrees F oven for 10-12 minutes. Crusts should be golden brown and juices may be leaking from the slash in the top. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Can be stored at room temperature for 1 day. Refrigerate any leftovers in a sealed container.


  1. Oh, my GOSH these are beautiful. You're very good about only putting a few fruit into them; I'm always overstuffing mine, with obvious results. ::sigh:: We had surprise guests on the 4th, so ended up making pizza, but since we're having houseguests for a week, this is now on my agenda! And putting in only three or four berries this time!!! Maybe!!!

  2. Ah, Tanita, but if I were to do it again, I'd make the circles larger and then I could put in more fruit...which would be tastier by far.