Are you a pie crust, or a pie filling person? I am a big fan of a well-filled pie. A solid amount of fruit with each bite. Richard on the other hand, is squarely in the crust camp. His favourite pies of mine are the ones with intricate lattices (and therefore more crust), or individual pies. The heavier the sugar coating on the top, the better.
That is, until I made hand pies. A great measure of how much Rich likes something is how fast it disappears. If it's earl grey flavoured he won't touch it, if it's chocolate chip cookies he will make them himself off the blog if they aren't already in the house. Zucchini and banana bread last less than a day. If only I had his metabolism. Life isn't fair sometimes. Pie he is a bit take it or leave it on, but these bad boys disappeared REAL quick - to the extent that I had to hide some to take to a friend the next day.
We have just started getting fruit from our CSA over the last few weeks. It's been mainly blueberries and sour cherries. This was my first time baking with sour cherries - they are yet another thing we don't really get in New Zealand. I was a little skeptical at first because these ones in particular were VERY sour, but they baked down and gave the filling a lovely brightness, requiring much less sugar than I thought! Much to Richard's delight, these were a little heavier on the crust than most hand pies, because I used a rectangle of dough, then added a lattice on top, unlike the folded over or pocket form that pies usually take. I held back on the filling a little to reduce leakage (they still leaked a little bit, but it was worth it for the pretty lattice!) The blueberries paired beautifully with the sour cherry. I also had some rhubarb in the fridge (I can't resist buying it whenever I see it), so I filled half of them with rhubarb and blueberry. This might be my new favourite way to use up summer fruit - they were a huge hit with everyone who tried them!
A few wee notes:
I didn't purposefully leave the sugar off half of the pies - I just forgot to add it after I egg washed. They are definitely better with a sugary crust, but it was a quick and easy way to tell apart the two flavours!
A good cherry pitter is your friend - I use this one, and it's the best ever.
I used tapioca starch to thicken the filling for these. It works really well for pies that have a juicy filling. You can substitute corn starch in a pinch, but if you make pie often it's really worth picking some up - it will last forever, and is a little less gummy than corn starch or arrowroot.
Halve the recipe if you only want 7 pies - one batch of dough, and one of the fillings. Once you're on a roll though, it's easy to make lots.
If you don't want to muck around with the lattice on the top, just cut out 14 pieces of pastry, and make plain hand pies - place the lid on, seal with a little water, and press down with your fingers.
Fill these with whatever you like! This is just a guide really - I used what we happened to have on hand. You can just all cherries, all blueberries, etc. Just taste your fruit, and adjust the sugar as needed.
The lattice top is very much a quide. Go nuts and make them however you like - re roll scraps to make extra lattice if needed. I did a huge range just to see how they all looked!
Sour Cherry, Blueberry, and Rhubarb hand pies.
- Makes 14 9"x11" hand pies -
Pie crust recipe from four and twenty blackbirds
5 cups cups (620g) Flour
Pinch of Salt
4 tsp (16g) sugar
4 sticks (452g) cold butter, cut into cubes
1 cup (240ml) cold water
1 cup ice
1/4 cup (60ml) Apple cider vinegar
Sour cherry and blueberry filling
150g (5.3oz) sour cherries, pitted
150g (5.3oz) fresh blueberries
1/3 cup (65g) raw sugar
1 1/2 tbsp tapioca starch
Blueberry and rhubarb filling
150g (5.3oz) fresh blueberries
150g (5.3 oz) rhubarb, chopped into approx 1 cm slices
1/3 cup (65g) raw sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp tapioca starch
Egg wash - 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
Extra raw sugar for sprinkling
- PROCESS -
Make the pie dough in two batches - use half the dry ingredients and butter for each batch (2 1/2 cups flour, pinch of salt, 2 tsp sugar, and 2 sticks butter), and use the apple cider vinegar ice water for both batches. Place flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut butter into chunks, and add to the flour. Toss lightly to coat. Working quickly, using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until there are only pea-sized chunks left. You want a few lumps of butter remaining to keep the pastry nice and tender.
Combine ice, water and cider vinegar in a bowl. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the ice water into the flour and butter mixture, and using a stiff spatula or your hands, mix in well. Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time ( I normally need about 8-10 tbsp) until you have a dough that holds together well, but is not too wet. Squeeze together with your fingertips to make a homogenous dough. Shape into two rectangles and wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat the process for the second batch. Rest in the fridge for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
Work with one batch of filling at a time - make all of the hand pies of that flavour, then rest in the fridge while you prepare the next batch of flavour. This reduces the chance of the filling releasing moisture in the bowl, meaning you leave some of the delicious juice behind.
In a medium bowl, toss the cherries and blueberries with the sugar and tapioca starch. Remove two of the rectangles of the dough from the fridge. Roll one rectangle out to 1/4 inch (6mm) thickness. Using a ruler and pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut out 7 rectangles that are 9cm x 11cm (3 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches). Re-roll scraps if necessary to make enough rectangles. Place cut rectangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and rest in the fridge while you roll out the second disc.
Roll out the second rectangle of dough - this is used for the tops of the pies. If you are keeping them plain 'pockets', cut out 7 more rectangles. Otherwise, cut a series of strips in a range of thicknesses to be used for lattices - you can decorate these however you like! I went with a range of lattices, braids, plain tops, and a few cut-outs using pie stamps.
Working with one pie at a time, place 2 Tbsp filling in the centre of a rectangle. Top with your desired lattice or plain top, pressing down with your fingers to seal, then again using the tines of a fork to seal the lattice to the bottom of the pie. Place the hand pies in the fridge.
Repeat the process with the blueberry and rhubarb filling, and the second two rectangles of dough. Rest in the fridge.
While the pies are resting, preheat the oven to 425˚f / 220˚c. Remove the pies from the fridge, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake the pies for 30-40 minutes, checking after about 20 minutes, until they are golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray or on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm, or at room temperature.