Blueberry Hand Pies
I am starting to wonder if, when I started this blog, I should have just made it all about pie. I would bet I could find at least a few years worth of pie recipes and I’ll bet I would be a supreme master of piecrusts by the time I decided I didn’t want to write about, think about, or ever eat pie again. In my head right now I’m laughing a little because I can’t fathom that I would ever not want to eat pie again, no matter how many I ate. David and I have had discussions like this a number of times before. I once said that I could eat ice cream every day of my life and not ever get sick of it. He claimed that if I were to get a job in an ice cream store, that eventually I would never want to eat ice cream again, and I claim that’s just utter nonsense. How could that be possible, me not liking ice cream anymore? It is an unimaginable thought. In that situation I think that the only reason I would not want to eat ice cream again is that I would have eaten so much of it that I would be as big as a house, and probably have a fair amount of very serious health concerns… even then…. come on, it’s ice cream.
I have a similar theory about pie, how is it possible to stop liking pie? I could probably come up with answers to questions about string theory before I can come up with an answer to that. Making pie is also one of those things that I think I could do all the time too, even if I didn’t eat it myself. For as long as I can remember I have always thought that it would be cool to own a little bakery down in some busy theatre district somewhere that I would call (yes, unoriginally) “Just Desserts” and I would just offer pies, cakes, cookies, you know… just desserts. I would stay open late for the “after theater” crowd and I would open early for the “I’m depressed and need a piece of cake” crowd. In this little world of mine I would have my living space right above the bakery so that my travel time would be minimal and just in case I ever felt like a piece of pie at night, all I would have to do was walk downstairs.
I definitely think I could work in a bakery and never get sick of baked items, especially with so many options to choose from. Except for the total lack of nutritional value and the irreparable damage it would have on my body, I think I could eat desserts of some kind or another, every day of my life. I think we all have something in our lives we believe we could eat all the time. When I was younger, I thought that was pizza. Pizza for dinner, leftover pizza for breakfast and lunch the next day, cold pizza right out of the refrigerator, pizza slices heated in the microwave, pizza made on tortillas, pizza made on bagels, pizza, pizza, pizza. Nowadays if I eat too much pizza, heartburn will set in… so I have to cut back, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it anymore, it just means I’ll suffer a bit when I eat too much of it. David has a few things he puts in this category, (one of them is cheeseburgers), and I have to admit those make my list as well. Thinking about what foods we thought we could eat all the time got us to talking about what our top five foods would be… you know sort of like that desert islands discs game… David’s “desert island foods” list would be: cheeseburgers, french fries, chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and short ribs, which is a fantastic list of foods. I think I have a better list… the first item on the list would be cheeseburgers… with grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, served on a whole grain bun and placed atop a single rack of heavily barbeque sauced baby back ribs, which have been garnished with a health portion of tangy coleslaw, onion rings, and grilled corn on the cob, which has been slathered with a compound parsley and chive butter, all of which, is served on a big bed of spaghetti and meatballs which acts as a separation device between the ribs above and the chicken tikka masala that is underneath. You can image what items number two through five contain… suffice it to say that depending on how you word things you can fit a whole lot of food in your top five favorites.
This got me to thinking what other people would put in their top five so I decided that I would try to find out, so I did a small impromptu survey. I was interested to see that pie (in some form or another) did make the list, but that it didn’t rank as high as cheeseburgers, chocolate chip cookies, and mac and cheese. I was also surprised that while there were a few folks who picked some healthy veggies, most of the responses tended toward things that were on the sweet side. Ice cream ranked high, which does make me happy, and I was also glad to see that various types of burritos were on the list. Overall I was happy to see that I would be able to visit any of my friends deserted islands and not have to worry about going hungry.
I will say that when it comes to pie, I am mostly a traditionalist, which is to say I make them round, in a 9-inch pie plate. However, I remembered an episode of the television show “Raising Hope” where Jimmy is trying to figure out the area of a circle. Maw Maw (his grandmother) tells him the formula is pi r-squared, to which Virginia (his mom) says “But pies are round… now cobbler, that’s square…” and that got me to start digging through my folders of recipes, because I knew that somewhere in there was a recipe (or two) for square pies… hand pies, if you will. Sure enough I was able to find this recipe for blueberry hand pies and I decided to give it a try. Now, I like blueberry pie, don’t get me wrong, but the filling has to be just right… It can’t be too thick or the pie feels like you’re eating thick, rubbery, jelly and if it’s too thin it will just pool out on the plate when you cut it, which makes for a great ice cream topping but not a great pie. These hand pies take away some of the fuss of getting the filling just right since were not dealing with seven to eight cups of blueberries and we don’t have to worry about the proper ratio of cornstarch to juice since we are not using cornstarch at all. Can these really be classified as pie, though? Certainly you’re not going to get the filling quantity that you would in a normal pie, since we’re only putting in a few tablespoons of blueberries into each one. But, hey, one of the best things about food is that it comes in different shapes and sizes. And let’s face it, these are just fun. I also liked this recipe because it makes just six little “pies” which means that overall, I’ll be taking in far less calories from these, than a full 9-inch pie and that’s a good thing, right?
The recipe itself comes from Bon Appetit magazine back in 2013 and you can see their online version of that here. These are simple to make and you don’t need anything fancy to make them. If you don’t have kosher salt just substitute regular salt for that and if you don’t have any raw or turbinado sugar, you can just dust the tops of the pies with regular sugar. You can make the crust by hand but a food processor will make things much easier and you’ll need a baking sheet and some parchment paper (don’t skip this) to line the pan with. Oh, a pastry brush for brushing the tops of the pies is really handy as well.
So here is how these come together.
For the crust
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup (or more) ice water
For the Filling
2 cups (about 10 ounces) blueberries
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
small bowl of water (for sealing the edges of the dough)
1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon of water
1 tablespoon raw, or turbinado sugar
Start with the crust, as it will need to be refrigerated for a couple of hours before rolling and filling.
For the crust
Into your food processer bowl put the flour, the sugar, and the salt and pulse those together a few times to get them combined.
Add in the cold butter pieces and pulse until you have a texture like a very course meal.
Add in ¼ cup of the ice water and again pulse the machine until the dough starts to clump together. If the dough is too dry add more ice water, in very small amounts until the dough clumps.
Press the dough together and form it into a square, wrap it up in some plastic wrap, and refrigerate until it’s firm, which can take about 2 hours.
When the crust has chilled your ready to continue…
Start by preheating the oven to 375°F with the rack in the center position. Take the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up for about 15 minutes before trying to roll it out.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured board and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 15 x 12-inch rectangle. It helps if the edges are fairly straight but if they’re not exactly perfect don’t worry, they’ll be fine when you fold them up.
Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 6 equal sized rectangles – basically cut the dough in half down the long side and then cut each side into three equal pieces.
Now grab a bowl and toss the blueberries, the lemon zest, the sugar, and the salt together to combine.
Use your finger or a small pastry brush to lightly dampen the edges of each dough rectangle with the water, which will help them seal together after you fold them.
Divide the blueberries equally among the dough pieces mounding them into the center of each piece as best you can, then fold the dough over and pinch the edges together well, to seal them up. or use a fork to crimp the edges. If the dough becomes too warm or soft to handle pop everything in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to re-chill.
Place each pie on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Be sure to use the parchment paper!
Brush the tops of each pie with some of the egg wash and sprinkle the tops with the raw sugar.
Cut three small slits in the tops of each pie to allow steam to escape.
Bake those bad boys for about 35-40 minutes or until they are golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Note that some juice will inevitably run out onto the parchment as they bake – you did use parchment paper, didn’t you?
Put the pies on a wire rack and allow them to cool to room temperature (or slightly warmer than room temperature) before serving.
I really like these little pies and I am sure with just a little imagination you can make these into any flavor you like. Could I eat these every day of my life? … … Well … I’m certainly willing to try.