This was supposed to be a simple recipe. But let’s be real, when do I ever make things simple? Simple was supposed to be a quick recipe to use up some leftover pastry I had in the freezer. Leftover from July 4, of course. What, you don’t have pastry dough sitting in your freezer?
Plus I had some tiny succulent strawberries I picked up for the market – shipped over from South Africa, I’m sure, but sometimes a girl’s gotta live on the edge. There was the recipe right there! Fresh strawberries, sugar, easy-peasy pastry, boom.
But then, I thought, I’ll just add a bit of orange zest, because that always helps. And then I looked over at my kitchen shelves, which were supposed to be a temporary solution but now seems very much permanent (er, as permanent as two years can be) and I saw grapefruit bitters. Interesting. And then I saw a little vanilla bean leftover from this recipe, and shoot I couldn’t just leave that lil’bean there all by its lonesome, you know? Oh, the woes of open shelving, they lure me in to no end. There is a resason why the DiploMan exercises such caution when we near any kitchen goods store.
So before you know it, a simple recipe for hand pies was a kitchen experiment in full effect. Baking to me, is a lot like exercising. I put it off a lot, I’m always making excuses not to do it, but when I’m ultimately in it, I’m SO in the zone.
STRAWBERRY HAND PIES
Makes 8 small pies
- 1.5 lb strawberries, about 3-4 cups, hulled
- 1/4 cup sugar, + 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top
- Juice from one orange, approximately 1/4 cup
- Zest from one orange, roughly 1 tsp.
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 tsp citrus bitters
- Pastry Dough*
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 Tbsp. Butter, melted
- *I’m not providing the recipe for pastry dough, but I suggest you check out Smitten Kitchen’s advice on how to make an awesomely flaky dough. Though, store-bought wouldn’t be terrible, nor would using filo dough.
- Heat oven to 425 F. Grease a large baking sheet with butter and set aside, in the fridge or freezer (you’ll put your pastries on this later).
- Clean and hull berries, cutting them in half or quarters if they are too big. Feel free to slice them down, but I like to keep them pretty chunky.
- Combine strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice, and orange zest into a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil.
- Turn heat to low and simmer. Cut vanilla bean in half, and using the back of a small paring knife, run the knife along both halves. The small inner seeds should slide off easily. Add vanilla seeds and bitters to strawberry liquid, simmer for an additional 10 minutes on low. Take off heat, strain through a sieve, and set aside to cool. Reserve strawberry syrup for another use (I used mine in a strawberry-chamomile tea, WOWZA).
- Working with cold pastry dough, roll dough out on a well-floured surface. Use LOTS of flour – I used to think using too much flour would dry out the dough, but pastry dough can take a lot of flour. Flouring liberally will prevent the dough from sticking to your counter. Every time I roll I throw a bit of flour under the dough, and onto the rolling pin.
- You’ll want your dough in the shape of a rectangle, approximately 15×20 inches, and as thin as you can, about 1/8 inch. Working quickly, use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut pastry into eight rectangles – four on top, four on bottom. I found another use for the pizza cutter, hooray!
- Brush edges of each rectangle with an egg wash. Spoon a couple tablespoons of strawberry filling into the center of the bottom half of each rectangle, leaving about an half an inch to an inch from the sides.
- Fold pastries over and gently press edges together with your fingers. Using a large spatula, transfer to your greased baking sheet and place in the fridge (or freezer, if you have room!) for 10 minutes.
- After ten minutes, remove from fridge. Seal hand pies securely by crimping edges with a knife or other tool. Brush top with melted butter. Score a couple slits on each pie to allow for heat to escape (this will prevent your mini pies from bursting at the seams). I like to score an “x” in my pies, for no other reason than it looks pretty.
- Bake in center rack. After 10 minutes, take pies and sprinkle a good amount of sugar on top of each one. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until pastries are golden brown and juices are bubbling. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.