2013-12-13 / Columns

Cooking on Purpose

Hand pies burst back on the scene
By Connie Wendell
Special contributor

Hand Pies are all the rage now on the cooking scene. It’s a bit ironic as hand pies were very popular in “Merry ol’ England,” if fact all of the British Isles and Australia.

Hand pies are little pies that you hold in your hand and eat. They are delicious and very convenient. Great for a takealong quick lunch or a snack. Kids love them. They can be savory or sweet.

I found several recipes in my grandmother’s collection and I have included some for you to try.

Cherry cheese hand pies

Two cups all-purpose flour; ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks; ½ teaspoon salt; 1 tablespoon sugar; 4-5 tablespoons water; 2 cups or about 10 ounces cherries, pitted and halved; ¼ cup sugar; 1 tablespoon cornstarch; 1 ½ tablespoons water; 8 ounces cream cheese; 1/3 cup powdered sugar; ¼ teaspoon almond extract; and ¼ cup decorative or large crystal sugar.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse flour, butter, salt and sugar 10-12 times or until butter is the consistency of small peas. Add water and pulse 5-7 times or until dough starts to come together. Turn out on a floured surface and shape into 2 round discs. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In medium saucepan, bring water, cornstarch, sugar and cherries to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

With a handheld mixer, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and almond extract until smooth.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out dough to 1/4–inch thick and using a 5-inch biscuit cutter, cut round discs for pies. Layer each round with a slather of cream cheese mixture and mound with about ¼ cup cherry mixture. Lightly brush edges of circles with egg, fold in half and crimp edges.

Place pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash and sprinkles of decorative sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is golden. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Makes 12-15 pies.

Tomato hand pies

Pastryfora2crustpie;2½pounds medium tomatoes, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick crosswise; 1 medium onion, quarter lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise; ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil; coarse salt and freshly ground pepper; 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano plus small sprigs for serving (optional); 1/3 cup chopped pitted oil-cured black olives; 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup); and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 1/8 inch thick. Using a paring knife, cut out twelve 4 1/2 –inch squares, and fit in cups of a standard muffin tin, leaving an overhang. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide tomato and onion slices between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and roast, switching positions of sheets halfway through, until tomatoes begin to shrivel and onion slices are golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to bowl.

Divide half the chopped oregano, olives and feta among the dough lined tins. Top with tomato-onion mixture. Sprinkle remaining oregano, olives and feta on top. Fold corners of dough toward centers. Brush with egg wash. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake pies until top crusts are golden brown and middles are bubbling, 50-60 minutes. Let cool completely in tin on wire rack. Tuck oregano sprigs into hand pies if desired.

Makes one dozen.

Chicken and kale hand pies with cheddar crust

Pastry for a two crust pie; 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese; 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; 1 tablespoon unsalted butter; 1 leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise ¼ inch thick and rinsed well; a small bunch black (Tuscan) kale, tough stems removed, coarsely chopped; 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves; coarse salt and ground pepper; 1 cup low sodium chicken broth; and 1 cup cooked chicken, torn into bite-size pieces (about 5 ounces); 1 large egg, lightly beaten.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out dough to a 14-inch round. With a knife or biscuit cutter, cut out six 4 ¼-inch circles (rerolling dough once if necessary) and transfer, on parchment to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, cutting out six larger 4 ½-inch rounds. Chill rounds on sheet until ready to use.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add leek and cook stirring until soft, 3 minutes. Add kale and thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook until kale wilts, 3 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cook stirring often, until mixture thickens, 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir in chicken. Let cool slightly.

Add 1 tablespoon cheddar on top of each of the smaller dough round and then place a heaping ¼ cup chicken mixture, leaving a ½-inch border. Brush edges with egg and top with larger dough rounds, using fingers, press edges firmly to seal. Cut a small vent in each pie. Bake until browned and crisp, 30 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let cool on sheets on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves six.

So now you can be a part of this rage for hand pies. Enjoy and keep Cooking on Purpose.

Connie Wendell can be reached at conniewendell27@gmail.com.

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