There is something inordinately pleasureable about summer food. It is the simplest food, I think, and that is perhaps why it is so intensely good. I wonder, given its simplicity, if it's the food itself that is so wonderful, or the way we eat it. Is a popsicle at its sweetest when it is savored on the front stoop by a barefooted, sun-freckled child? Are tomatoes ever better than when they are first plucked warm off the vine? Why is a lowly hot dog such a treat when it is cooked over a campfire?
Summer food, like the eating of it, demands a sort of leisure little enjoyed the rest of the year. It should be simple, quick, and portable.
Hand pies fit the bill.
These are made with strawberries, basil, and a little honey, and they are amazing. They require very little actual work time, and what they do require is simple and straightforward. Their crust is forgiving, their filling is easy to make, and because they are small, they take no time at all to bake.
P.S. If you think twelve hand pies are too many, I have it on good authority (mine) that they make an excellent breakfast.
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1 t. kosher salt
- 1 T. granulated sugar
- 1/2 c. cold shortening
- 1/2 c. cold, unsalted butter
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3-5 T. ice water
- 3 c. fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 2 T. granulated sugar
- 1 T. cornstarch
- 1 T. honey
- 1/2 t. minced fresh basil
you also need:
- 1 egg
- sanding sugar
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Cut butter and shortening into small pieces and add to flour mixture. Cut in with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add the beaten egg and toss into flour mixture with a fork.
Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork after each addition. Add enough water so that dough sticks together without being crumbly. This dough should be slightly wetter than regular pie dough.
Divide dough into two pieces, flatten into disks about one inch thick, wrap well and refrigerate for about two hours.
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine all filling ingredients and stir to mix well.
Place over medium heat and cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring periodically in the beginning, and constantly for the last few minutes. The filling should take 5-10 minutes to thicken.
Remove from heat, cover and chill along with dough.
assemble and bake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove dough from refrigerator one disk at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface a few times.
Roll out, using a little flour to prevent sticking, to about a 1/4" thickness. Cut into 3 1/2" rounds with a large biscuit cutter. You should be able to get five or six rounds out of each disk of dough.
Roll each small round out to about 6" in diameter and about 1/8" thick. (In case you are wondering: NO, you do not have to use an exact 3 1/2" biscuit cutter, and YES, you can just roll the dough out to 1/8" thick and cut 6" rounds from it. I suggest the smaller cutter because that is what most people have. Do whatever works for you.)
In a small bowl, beat one egg. Using a pastry brush or your finger, run a line of egg wash along the edge of each piece of dough, going only halfway around.
Mound one generous tablespoonful of filling in the center of each piece of dough. Fold dough in half over the filling, making sure that each pie is "glued" closed by egg wash all the way around. Press with your fingers to seal and then crimp edges with the tines of a fork.
Transfer pies to parchment-lined baking sheets.* Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Poke a few holes in the top of each pie with a toothpick or the tip of a sharp knife.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. The filling will ooze out of the vent holes a little bit. That's okay!
*I recommend making half the pies first, and making the second half while the first batch bakes. These pies are best baked one pan at a time.
Makes about one dozen.