Berry Hand Pies

Everything about the Fourth of July screams summer. A) It is exactly at the midpoint of the season, when the days have begun to warm up enough that an ice-cold lemonade feels like a small sip of ambrosia, but before it becomes unbearably oven-like. B) Barbecues and picnics are fiercely encouraged, as is daytime/outdoor drinking, one of my favorite pastimes an activity I enjoy responsibly and with moderation. C) Summer produce could not be more on display: corn blistered from the grill, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers skewered and seared as kabobs, juicy watermelon and sweet cantaloupe mingling together in a fruit salad bowl.

And berries! Fat, luscious, dress-staining berries! Summer minxes, they tempt with their brightly colored, voluptuous shapes and tease with their promises of heaven, then disappear far too suddenly and always leave one wanting more. Sure, you can buy strawberries and blueberries and raspberries and blackberries year-round, but who wants to pay $6 a box for something that bears only a passing resemblance to its summery sibling?

And for the Fourth, for all those picnics and deck parties I didn’t go to, those berries are folded carefully into flaky, buttery pie dough and baked until they become jammy, sweet but slightly tart, and best of all, extremely portable. So while it would have been service journalism to tell you about these berry hand pies a few days ago, before you had celebrated America’s 235th birthday, it’s just as worthwhile for me to tell you about them now. You see, if you make them this weekend, you may not even have to share.

These pies require a bit of work, what with making the dough, then chilling it, then macerating the berries, then rolling out the dough and cutting and filling each pie. I used the same dough that I used for strawberry-rhubarb tartlets, as it was incredibly rich and flaky without being too much effort. This time, I ditched the food processor for some good old elbow grease, and found the dough a little easier to make, though a pastry cutter would really work wonders.

Since I was going for a Fourth of July theme with these berry hand pies, I made two versions: strawberry-raspberry and blueberry-lemon, though you could certainly mix all of the berries together to make mixed berry pies. The blueberry pies were a little on the tart side, so you may want to omit the lemon juice if you’re very sensitive to sour food (my dad didn’t like them). Since I was making two kinds of pies, I made double the amount of pie dough.

All the effort is so worth it, by the way. The finished product could not be a better showcase for summer’s stars. I’m sure you could fill them with other fruits, like cherries or peaches or even apples in the fall. But I guarantee you they’ll never look as pretty as these.

Berry Hand Pies
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 30 pies (using a 4-inch cutter)

For the pie dough:

– 5 cups all-purpose flour

– 2 teaspoons salt

– 2 teaspoons sugar

– 1 pound unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (2 cups or 4 sticks)

– 1/2 to 1 cup ice water

1) In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter to the flour mixture and cut it in (using either a pastry blender or two knives) until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

2) Add the ice water, a little at a time, until the dough comes together without feeling wet or sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it gently a few times so that everything is well incorporated.

3) Divide the dough into two equal-sized balls and flatten them slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. (The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

For the strawberry-raspberry pies:

– 2 cups of strawberries, hulled and quartered

– 1 cup raspberries, halved

– 1/4 cup sugar

– 2 tablespoons cornstarch

1) Combine the strawberries, raspberries, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and set aside.

For the blueberry-lemon pies:

– 3 cups blueberries

– zest and juice of 1 lemon

– 1/4 cup sugar

– 2 tablespoons cornstarch

1) Combine the blueberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Set aside.

To assemble the pies:

– 1 large egg, beaten slightly

– Demerara sugar or sanding sugar, for sprinkling

1) Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) On a floured work surface, roll out the dough, turning clockwise every few minutes, until the dough is 1/8-inch thick. Using a 5-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place them on the lined baking sheets. Reroll the scraps and cut out more rounds.

3) Spoon 2 teaspoons of filling onto each round and fold half of the pie dough over the filling. Brush some of the egg around the edge of the dough that is still on the mat, then tightly close the pie. Crimp the edges using the tines of a fork. Brush the top of the pie with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Using a knife, create two slashes in the top of the pie.

4) Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are golden brown. Cool slightly before serving, or cool completely before packing in an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to 4 days.

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