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Perfectly Portable Hand Pies

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Perfectly Portable Hand Pies

Portability with a Flaky Twist

I’ll admit it – I’m a pie person through and through. Notwithstanding my nephew’s steadfast belief that my mom’s chocolate-frosted cupcakes reign supreme, if there’s a pie in the house, that’s where my fork is headed. From my classic two-crusted peach-blueberry to more rustic fruit crumbles and galettes, I can’t resist the allure of a perfectly baked pastry shell encasing a gooey, sweet filling.

But as much as I adore a good slice of pie, let’s face it – traditional pie can be a bit unwieldy, especially when you’re aiming for portability. That’s where hand pies come in. These petite pastries pack all the flavor of a full-sized pie into a neat, hand-held package, making them the perfect portable dessert for picnics, potlucks, and packed lunches.

As I discovered a few years back, hand pies offer a world of possibilities when it comes to flavor combinations and baking techniques. With a flaky, buttermilk-enriched crust and a sweet-tart filling of cherries, blueberries, and rhubarb, I was hooked. And the best part? They’re endlessly customizable – any fruit, any filling, any size. The only limit is your imagination (and perhaps the size of your oven).

So if you’re looking to add a little portable pastry perfection to your life, read on. I’m about to share my secrets for crafting the ultimate hand-held pies, from the ideal dough to fool-proof filling methods and beyond. Let’s get baking!

Mastering the Hand Pie Dough

The foundation of any great hand pie is, of course, the dough. And while you can certainly reach for a store-bought crust in a pinch, I highly recommend taking the time to make your own. Not only is it surprisingly simple, but the flavor and texture of a homemade pastry shell will take your hand pies to the next level.

My go-to recipe starts with a classic combination of all-purpose flour, cold butter, and just enough ice water to bring it all together. But to give it that extra something special, I like to add a splash of buttermilk to the mix. As I learned from the team at Joy the Baker, the buttermilk lends a lovely tang and an ever-so-slightly more pliable texture to the dough, making it a breeze to roll, fill, and crimp.

To make the dough, I simply pulse the dry ingredients in the food processor until the butter is broken down into pea-sized pieces. Then it’s just a matter of slowly streaming in the buttermilk until the dough starts to come together. No need to overwork it – in fact, the more you handle the dough, the tougher it will become. A quick chill in the fridge is all it needs before you’re ready to roll.

One thing to keep in mind with hand pie dough: since you’ll be handling it more than you would for a traditional pie, you’ll want to strike a balance between flakiness and pliability. Too delicate, and your pies might fall apart. Too tough, and they’ll be more like hockey pucks than tender pastries. But with a little practice, you’ll find that sweet spot where the dough is easy to work with but still delivers that signature melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Filling the Portable Pastries

Now that you’ve mastered the dough, it’s time to turn your attention to the filling. And let me tell you, the options are endless. From classic cherry to seasonal fruit blends and even savory options like chicken or beef, the sky’s the limit when it comes to hand pie fillings.

Personally, I’m a big fan of fruit-based fillings, especially when they’re made with peak-season produce. For my latest batch, I raided my backyard garden for some fresh rhubarb and coupled it with a bounty of black cherries and blueberries from my CSA. A quick cook on the stovetop helped thicken the juices and intensify the sweet-tart flavors, and a dollop of the vibrant filling was all I needed to transform my tender pastry dough into portable pastry perfection.

But fruit isn’t the only option. If you’re craving something a little more indulgent, try a sweet cheese filling – a spoonful of your favorite ricotta or cream cheese-based mixture adds a creamy counterpoint to the flaky crust. Or for a savory spin, consider chicken salad, beef, or even breakfast-inspired fillings like scrambled eggs and cheese.

No matter what flavor you choose, the key is to not overstuff your hand pies. As I learned the hard way, too much filling can lead to messy, leaky pies that fall apart the moment you try to take a bite. Stick to about 1-2 tablespoons per pie, and be sure to leave enough room around the edges to get a good seal.

Baking for Portable Perfection

With your dough chilled and your fillings prepped, it’s time to assemble and bake those hand pies to portable pastry perfection. And let me tell you, there’s an art to it.

First, you’ll want to decide on your pie size and shape. I like to use a variety of cutters – from fluted rounds to squares and ovals – to add a bit of visual interest. Just be sure to keep the size consistent so your baking times are uniform.

Once you’ve cut out your dough rounds, it’s time to add the filling. Spoon it into the center, being careful not to overfill. Then, simply top each one with another round of dough, crimp the edges with a fork to seal, and give them a quick brush of egg wash and a sprinkle of raw sugar.

For an extra layer of flavor, you can even get creative with your scoring patterns, using a sharp knife to add decorative vents or initials on top of each pie.

Then it’s into a hot oven they go, where they’ll bake up golden brown and crisp in 15-20 minutes. Keep a close eye on them towards the end, as different sizes will cook at varying rates. Once they’re perfect, let them cool for a bit before digging in – the filling will be piping hot, and you’ll want to avoid any tongue-scalding disasters.

And there you have it – your very own batch of perfectly portable hand pies, ready to take on the world (or at least your next picnic or potluck). Whether you opt for classic fruit fillings or get a little more adventurous, these petite pastries are sure to be a hit with family and friends.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your rolling pin and let’s get baking! With a little practice, you’ll be whipping up hand-held pie perfection in no time. And who knows – maybe I’ll even convert a few more members of my family to the pie side. After all, as the saying goes, home cooking rocks – especially when it’s in portable pastry form.


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