Before I get into these strawberry hand pies I have to apologize for using a gadget. I don’t want to use gadgets on the blog because I don’t want anyone to think they need a special piece of equipment to make something I post. So don’t think you need a star-shaped pocket pie mold in order to make these little pies. They look, and taste,good no matter what their shape. These happen to be star-shaped because the Fourth of July is next week and I thought they would be a great addition to a picnic or barbecue celebrating Independence Day.
I had made these little hand-held versions of a pie a few years ago while celebrating Easter at my dad’s house in North Carolina. We’d just finished dinner and after a brief break, I started to put together these hand pies. I had made the strawberry filling and pie dough the night before so I had some extra time as I waited for the oil to come to temperature. In the refrigerator was left over candied yams so I mashed a few to make a sweet potato version.
My dad passed through the kitchen as I was putting small piles of mashed sweet potato on the tiny dough rounds. He told me how my grandmother used to make little pies just like that. At that moment I felt such a connection to my grandmother. My father stood by and watched as I used a fork to seal and crimp the dough edges and said my grandmother used to do it exactly like that. I was dead tired from two days of food prep and cooking for Easter dinner but at that moment I would have made a hundred of those little pies because I was able to give my dad that memory of his mother and he was able to give it to me. I love that about food-that a certain kind of food or smell or taste can conjure up a memory from years before.
Summer reminds me of sun-ripened berries and berries remind me of pie. There is nothing like eating bursting with juice berries straight out of hand. But when you want a little something extra-go for berries cooked down, hot and bubbling until their juices are thickened and concentrated and then piled high atop a pie dough that will soon become buttery and flaky from intense heat.
A pie is the perfect ending for warm weather, outdoor entertaining and not just because it can be made ahead. Late spring and into summer is overflowing with berries and all sorts of stone fruits that make perfect fillings for pies. I make things easy for myself by making a few batches of a double crust pie dough recipe and storing them in the freezer. They’ll keep for at least three months. That way all I have to do is decide what fruit I’m going to fill them with.
Recipe: Strawberry hand pies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks cold butter cut into small cubes
6-8 tablespoons ice-cold water
1 small egg beaten together with 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk (this is the egg wash)
For the filling:
3 1/2 cups fresh strawberries,hulled and sliced
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Make the filling. Gently toss the strawberries and sugar together in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning remove from refrigerator. Combine the cornstarch with the lemon juice in a large saucepan and stir until there are no lumps. Add the strawberries and juice to the saucepan.
Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes, stirring often.
Remove from heat and let cool completely.
While filling cools make the dough. Combine flour,salt and sugar in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or 2 forks work in the 2 sticks of cubed butter.
The mixture should be crumbly with some tiny round pieces throughout.
Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time into the flour/butter mixture stopping at 6 tablespoons. Try to squeeze a small amount of the dough together if it comes together you won’t need the remaining 2 tablespoons of iced water. If it doesn’t come together add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Form the dough into 2 even disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the pies remove 1 dough disk from the fridge and divide into 6 equal pieces.
On a lightly floured counter with a floured rolling-pin roll out each piece of dough into a circle about 1/8 inches thick.
Brush each circle with the egg wash. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of filling on one half of each circle. Fold over the other half of the circle and seal by crimping with the tines of a fork.
Refrigerate on a parchment line baking sheet while you roll out the remaining disk.
Repeat the above steps with the remaining pie disk. You should have 12 small hand pies.Keep refrigerated while you heat the oil.
In a large heavy frying pan, heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil until hot but not smoking. Fry a few hand pies at a time until golden brown, 3-5 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Continue until all pies are fried.
Sprinkle with confectionery sugar and serve while still warm with ice cream.