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the fruits of spring

Recipe: strawberry hand pies

You might have thought I had been sucked down the rabbit hole of foraging for morels the past few weeks and you’d be half right. The other half of the story involves Jeremy’s family and some serious medical procedures in Denver. The good news is that I found plenty of morels (but is plenty ever enough?) AND that my in-laws get to return home this week! We also celebrated Neva’s three year anniversary from the day we brought our little screwball into our lives. And two days after that, our dear neighbors welcomed their sweet rescue pup to Colorado.

relishing those lovely spring aspens

finding the hidden treasures of the forest

not bad for a couple of hours’ work

neva got a new toy and a plate of beef, cheese, apple, and treats

making friends with minnie (her temp name) with a homemade treat

At the start of May, I was itching to make some strawberry recipes, but most of the strawberries in our markets sat pale and dejected, picked too early. Such a waste. I waited impatiently until I could get my hands on the sweetly-perfumed, deep red, juicy ripe gems of spring. I knew exactly what I wanted to make: strawberry hand pies. I like pies, but I have issues with fruit pies because the structural integrity makes for an aesthetic nightmare the moment you cut into one. Hand pies not only alleviate that problem, but you can actually cradle a single serving in your arms unlike a slice of pie. I started with my now go-to pie crust (from Kenji, of course).

ice water, flour, sugar, salt, butter

mix dry ingredients in a food processor

spread the butter over the dry ingredients

pulse the dough until it clumps

add the rest of the flour and cut it into the dough

sprinkle ice water over the dough

fold and press the dough into a ball

form two disks and chill

I toyed with the idea of using a fresh strawberry filling for all of two seconds. I knew I wanted to fry the pies and thought it was too risky having juices leaking out and causing a splattering hot oil mess during frying. A cooked filling would be better behaved if it were more like a jam in consistency. To make this filling, it’s best to start early in the day or the night before so the berries have several hours to macerate.

orange, cornstarch, vanilla extract, strawberries, grand marnier, water, butter, salt, sugar

to macerate: sugar, strawberries, orange juice, grand marnier, orange zest, vanilla extract

stir it together and refrigerate overnight

macerating draws out the juices

stir the cornstarch, water, and a tablespoon of grand marnier together

stir the cornstarch mix, butter, and salt into the cooked berries

simmer until it is thick like jam

While the filling cools, roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. I cut out ten 6-inch diameter dough rounds with the intention of folding them in half into semi-circles. I chose circles over squares (which would become triangles) because the filling has a hard time getting into the corners. For deep fried hand pies, it’s really important to seal the edges well or else the filling will bubble out into the oil instead of staying in the delicious hand pie. I crimped my edges, but learned that frying the dough erases any decorative touches.

cut out the dough circles

egg wash the edges of the dough

place 2-3 tablespoons of filling in the center

seal the edges (but don’t bother making them pretty)

fry in hot oil

super flaky pies

The fried pies were CRAZY flaky and delicate. They were so delicate that layers of pastry flaked off anytime I touched them or even looked at them! And they were rich because I had basically fried an all-butter pie crust. All of my test subjects gave them an A+ rating and I couldn’t wait to share the recipe on the blog! But over the course of a few days I began to wonder how different the pies would be if I baked them. That’s what I tried next instead of writing up the fried strawberry pies. I made the baked versions 3-inch round pies. The main differences between making the baked and fried pies were that I brushed the tops of the baked pies with egg wash, cut vents in the tops, and finished them with coarse sugar.

brush with egg wash

cutting vents in the tops

baked pies definitely come out cuter

How did they turn out? Both versions are super fruity flaky pastry deliciousness. The baked pie crust is as flaky as any pie crust out there and they are far more forgiving when being handled. That’s because the baked pies aren’t nearly as flaky and fragile as the fried ones. See for yourself.

cross section of the fried pie

cross section of the baked pie

The fried treats are so decadent, you might go blind after eating one. Considering the effort and mess that goes into frying the hand pies, I’d probably only fry those for the most special of occasions when they can be consumed fresh and hot. The baked pies make for an easy substitution and they will travel well compared to their fried counterparts. They are also more accommodating if you wanted to pretty them up with decorative edges, vents, and finishing sugar. Both reheat well in a moderate oven and are absolute perfection when served with good quality vanilla ice cream. In fact, the vanilla ice cream is mandatory with the fried strawberry hand pie as it helps to cut the richness!

fried strawberry hand pie à la mode

baked strawberry hand pies display nicely

baked strawberry hand pie à la mode

Strawberry Hand Pies
[print recipe]
filling adapted from Garden and Gun, pie dough from Serious Eats

pie dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsps sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
10 oz. (280g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch pats
6 tbsps ice cold water

strawberry filling
3 cups strawberries, washed, trimmed, and quartered
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsps Grand Marnier, divided (2 tbsps + 1 tbsp)
zest of 1 medium organic orange, grated
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsps water
2 tbsps + 1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt

egg wash
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp water
sanding sugar (for baked pies)

Macerate the strawberries: Gently mix the strawberries, sugar, 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours to overnight.

Make the pie dough: Place 1 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5 times to combine. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture in the food processor. Pulse until the dough clumps (I pulsed about 25 times and then ran it 15 seconds at a time until it clumped). Sprinkle the rest of the flour over the dough and cut it into the dough by pulsing about 5-10 times until the dough has broken into small chunks. Empty the dough into a large bowl and sprinkle the cold water over the dough. Fold the water into the dough with a soft spatula (don’t use your hands, the heat will melt the butter)until the dough comes together into a ball. Cut the dough into two halves and shape them into 3-inch diameter discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to three days. If not using within three days, freeze the dough for up to 3 months.

Cook the strawberry filling: Pour the chilled contents into a medium saucepan and heat on medium high until the liquid begins to simmer. Reduce heat to maintain the simmer and let cook for 5 minutes or until the berries are tender. Mix the water, cornstarch, and remaining 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier together. Stir the cornstarch mixture, butter, and salt into the strawberries and cook for 7-10 minutes until the whole thing has a jam-like consistency. Allow the filling to cool completely.

Egg wash: Mix the egg and water together.

If baking: Preheat oven to 375°F.

If frying: Heat 3 inches of vegetable oil to 350°F in a large pot.

Assemble the pies: Roll the pie dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. For crescent pies, cut the dough into 6-inch circles (I got 10 circles) or for round pies, cut out 3-inch circles (I cut 32 with re-rolling scraps). Reuse the scraps to make more circles as needed. For crescent pies, brush egg wash on the edge of half the dough circle. For round pies, brush egg wash around the edge of the whole circle. Place 2-3 tablespoons of strawberry filling in the center of the dough circle. Fold the circle in half for crescent pies or place a second circle on top of the base dough for round pies. Press the edges together to seal (you don’t want any leaks – especially if frying). Crimp the edges with fork tines or your fingers. Repeat for the remaining dough and filling.

For baked pies: Arrange pies 1-2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash. Cut a vent in the top of each pie and sprinkle turbinado or other coarse sugar over the tops. Bake 20-40 minutes (mine took 40 minutes) until the pies are golden and the filling is bubbling. Remove from heat and cool. Makes 16 3-inch round pies.

For fried pies: Fry a few of the pies at a time in the oil. When the bottoms are golden, flip the pies over to brown the other sides. Fry until the pies are lightly browned, then remove to a paper towel-lined cooling rack or plate. Repeat for the remaining pies. Let the pies cool. Makes 10 6-inch half-moon pies.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

strawberry cinnamon rolls strawberry brown butter tarts bourbon peach hand pies blueberry hand pies

7 nibbles at “the fruits of spring”

  1. Kristin says:

    So glad that your in-laws get to head home. I can’t imagine having to go through what they have and not being near home while doing it. Your pies are gorgeous! Glad to read that the fried ones might make you go blind, so that I am not tempted! It doesn’t seem possible that Neva has been with you for three years already.

  2. jill hyde says:

    I’ve missed you! And I’m glad you didn’t need Nurse Ratched and the Good Doctor! Hope all is well. Happy Homecoming Neva girl…
    Now on to Strawberry Pies! I’m still drooling about these with a great cup of coffee. WOW. Beautiful vents!
    xo, jill

  3. Mary Karen says:

    So good to hear from you, though am sorry about your in-law’s health issue! You had me at the mention of “morels”, but then those pies…sigh! What a sight to behold!

  4. Lisa says:

    Welcome back! I missed you. I’m glad your in-laws are on their way home and the medical procedures went well.

  5. jenyu says:

    Kristin – It’s definitely a tough slog and I know they were thrilled to get home! The fried pies are amazing, but I’m not sure I’d be tempted to make them again any time soon. The baked ones, however… I had already make a second batch to give to our neighbors’ daughter for her college graduation :) And yes, I cannot believe we’ve had Neva for 3 years, but also it feels like she’s been a permanent fixture here forever ;)

    jill – Aw! xoxo Thank you for the consultation early on. We love you both xoxo

    MK – I think spring is full of so many good things. First morels, and then strawberries! :)

    Lisa – Thank you! They are finally home and now we wait and hope everything goes well <3 xoxo

  6. sarah says:

    Oh my gosh,
    This post is the best. I love how you tried the pies too ways and reported back to save us the effort! I will be making the baked ones. will be interesting to try to Grand Marnier with the stawberries. Thank you

  7. Nancy Perine says:

    Oh, yum, yum, yum! Baked Strawberry Pies with Grand Marnier in the filling. Marinate the strawberries, inebriate the cook!! I can hardly wait to try this recipe. I like being able to marinate the strawberries overnight. Making the recipe in two sessions makes it seem like less work. They are so cute with the cutout heart on the top. Any idea where I can get the heart cutter?

    Thanks so much for sharing all your adventures and your recipes. Your site makes me feel so good!!!

    Aloha ~~ Nancy On Maui

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