Handling pies of petite proportions

As stone fruits, berries and even apples come into season (their true season), one realizes it is also the dawning of pie season. We tend to link pies to Thanksgiving most often, but it is the heart of summertime that pies, made bursting with fresh fruit in season, are at their zenith of flavor and spirit.

Of recent years, we have seen pies of all proportions on the recipe front — slab pies stretched thin along the length of a jelly roll or sheet pan; mini pies in various incarnations, from tarts to pie lollipops to baby hand pies. The end game here is the same, whether the pie is shallow deep or tiny turnover. We want our pies by the handful now.

Where does this return to a handheld tart come from? Everything goes through phases, where a new shape or flavor becomes the trend, conjuring something new from old. Having grown up in an era where two distinctive hand pie treats reined — the Pop Tart and the Hostess fruit pie, I believe the dream is to re-create homemade, and inevitably better versions of this duo.

fruit01The hand pie brings with it wide appeal for its portability, no need for a pan, serving or eating utensils. Remember the Hostess fruit pie tucked into your sack lunch on field trip day? Bring a batch of hand pies to your next picnic and see if you don’t inspire unspoken yet wistful expressions on your fellow picnickers.

I ran across many recipes for hand pies, but could not get away from one I found in the San Francisco Chronicle article on picnic eats a few years ago. The filling, a nectarine-raspberry, appealed to me so greatly. Why not break way from the standards of apple, peach, cherry or blueberry? The filling seemed simple, nectarines (white and yellow) were in season, and the crust could be one of your own choosing (great news, since I dearly loved and could not depart from my favorite pie pastry recipe…please see my blog entry of 12/10).

cutting01As long as we were breaking from traditions, I thought it might be fun to play with the shape of the hand pies. I had seen circles cut and folded into half moons, heart-shaped pies and even hand pies in the shape of apples (cute). I could not shake the idea of a very literal interpretation — hand pies in the shape…of hands! Well, more mitten-shaped, to be exact. I used a large mitten cookie cutter (I figured the shape would be simple enough to work with) and cut enough from my pastry dough to have a top and bottom for about six pies (the recipe said it would make about eight).

filling01Delicately, I mounded nectarine filling (a delicious mix of chopped yellow and white nectarines, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar) onto each “mitt” then topped with a single raspberry (I was dubious about this, but followed along, anyway). mittins02 I used an egg wash along the edges, then placed a top crust and crimped with the tines of a fork. Little steam cuts made with a knife, then egg wash over all and a sprinkle of sparkling sugar. together01

What fun! What joy in six little hand-shaped hand pies coming golden brown out of my oven, the steam of tart, sweet juices clouding the air. I did not wait long to try one, warm and juicy. One raspberry was more than enough to add ruby to the gold, to add berry to the orchard.bite01

And so, what I believe the first “hand” hand pies are made!

Nectarine- Raspberry Hand Pies
From the San Francisco Chronicle (www.sfgate.com)
Makes 8 pies

These hand-held desserts are great for eating on the go. Use store-bought refrigerated pie dough to save time – or you can make your own crust and roll it out to about 1/8 -inch thick. Any stone fruit or seasonal berry will work well.

2-3 ripe nectarines (about 3/4 pound), pitted and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt
2 refrigerated store-bought 9-inch pie dough rounds
8 raspberries
1 egg
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

In a mixing bowl, toss nectarines with the brown sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt. If needed, add more sugar or lemon juice to taste.

On a lightly floured work surface, unroll or lay out pie dough, and roll lightly with a rolling pin to smooth the dough – it should be about 1/8 -inch thick. Cut out circles about 5 inches in diameter – we used a small mixing bowl as a guide. Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the nectarine filling into the center of each circle, and nest a raspberry in the middle.

Whisk the egg with a little bit of water to form an egg wash, and brush around the edges of the pastry circles. Fold over to make half moons, and press the edges together using the tines of a fork. Make three tiny slits in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for approximately 22-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Blogger’s Note: I used a pastry crust recipe from my blog entry of 12/10. It made 6 pies, which I baked at 375 degrees or about 28 minutes. finalhand2

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