The return of hand pies: Best of Bakealong

Blueberry Hand Pies, the subject of our July 2017 Bakealong challenge, inspired great feedback from many readers. You rocked Instagram with your beauty shots, and filled our Facebook feed with comments. Most important, you shared suggestions and questions, here in our blog and in your recipe reviews, thus giving us the opportunity to riff on one of our most popular Bakealong posts.

For example, here’s a comment that sparked one of those “ah-ha!” moments for me. The original hand pie recipe calls for rolling the pastry dough into a 14″ square — but this reader had a better idea:

“I always find it difficult to roll out dough into a large rectangle. I divided my chilled dough into 4 equal pieces. I rolled each section into a 7 x 7 square. This allowed me to keep the rest of the dough in the refrigerator, and it was easy to cut the large square into four 3 1/2 inch squares. — Lisa S.”

Indeed, many of you have found it a challenge to roll this dough into a 14″ square, especially when the heat of summer makes both your kitchen and dough stickier than usual.

Light dawns on Marblehead! Divide the dough into four pieces, working with one piece at a time and letting the other three cool their heels in the fridge. It’s much easier to roll out four 7″ squares rather than one 14″. And since you roll them one at a time, you’re pretty much always working with cool dough: no sticking, no tearing. Thanks, Lisa!

You speak, we listen: Crowd-sourced tips for hand pies, the perfectly portable summertime dessert. Click To Tweet

Here’s another comment that resonated:

“I used strawberry preserves yesterday, and it was wonderful. I’m trying with apricot and raspberry preserves next. — Kathleen Correira”

Smart thinking, Kathleen. I hadn’t considered anything beyond what the recipe suggests — cooking up some blueberry filling — but how easy it is to substitute your homemade preserves, or one of those high-quality store-bought jams? VERY easy. And delicious. Plus you can mix and match: I tried fig jam with a slice of cheddar, as well as raspberry jam with chopped fresh strawberries, both yummy.

Let’s take a quick look at these (and other) suggestions in real time.

Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Hand pies quick tip #1: Divide and conquer

Here’s the Blueberry Hand Pies dough, mixed, rolled, folded, and ready to go into the fridge for 30 minutes.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

For easiest handling, cut the dough into four pieces.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Since you’re going to roll each piece into a square, give yourself a head start by gently shaping them into rough squares.

Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re chilled but not rock hard.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Remove one piece of dough from the fridge, unwrap it, and place it on a floured work surface.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Roll the dough into a rough 7 1/2″ square, then trim it to 7″; trimming off the ragged edges will ensure each resulting pastry square is exactly 3 1/2″ on a side.

Cut the dough into four 3 1/2″ squares.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Hand pies quick tip #2: Fill with your favorite jam or preserves

The Blueberry Hand Pies recipe calls for you to cook up your own filling from fresh blueberries. But your own fruit preserves — or a top-quality store-bought variety — allows you much more leeway in making an assortment of pies with different fillings.

Plop a heaping tablespoon of fruit into the center of two of the four squares you’ve just rolled out; a level tablespoon cookie scoop works well here. I’m using blackberry jam to start. Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Brush the edges of each jam-topped square with beaten egg; this will help the top and bottom crusts adhere to one another.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Cut a decorative vent in the other two pastry squares. Or if you’re not interested in anything fancy, simply make a few parallel cuts with a knife.

Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Press the edges of the top and bottom crusts together with the tines of a fork.

Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Hand pies tip #3: Rise and shine

Numerous readers note that their pies’ edges are flat, rather than thick and puffy like those shown in the recipe photo (above).

“How do you get those puffy edges?” you ask.

Sealing the edges of these hand pies with a fork keeps the filling from leaking out the side, but also squashes the top crust into the bottom, preventing either from rising as high as they might.

After thinking about this for awhile, I end up applying a well-known biscuit tip to these pastries: a sharp cut makes a high rise.

Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

I take a pizza cutter and cut a very thin strip off each of the four sides. Not only does this make the pastries look neater, it helps them puff up all the way around.

Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Finish the job: Fill and seal the remaining hand pies

Assemble the six remaining hand pies using the other three pieces of dough. Have fun with the fillings; here I’m trying raspberry jam with chopped fresh strawberries, and mango-pineapple preserves.

Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Seal the pies, then trim the edges.

Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Brush the pies all over with the remaining beaten egg.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

While not entirely necessary, sprinkling the hand pies with sparkling white sugar will give them a glittery, crunchy crust.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Place the hand pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you don’t have parchment, just put them on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake the pies in a preheated 425°F oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until they’re nice and brown.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Hand pies tip #4: Is there a way to prevent leaks?

Some of you have said that some of your pies leak while they’re baking, emerging from the oven in a puddle of juice.

Why do hand pies sometimes spring a leak?

Well, for those that leak around the edges, the seal simply isn’t strong enough. Be firm with the fork; and make the pressed margin wide enough that even when you trim the edge, there’s enough left to provide a good seal.

As for those pies that leak from the center vent, I don’t have a good answer. I can say that pies made with jam or preserves seem to leak less than those filled with freshly cooked filling. Which makes sense: the preserves have already lost most of their available liquid during processing, while the fresh filling may still have available liquid to give up.

Still, the two pies I made with added fresh strawberries don’t necessarily support this: one leaked, one didn’t.

For now, ’tis a mystery.Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Hand pies tip #5: Make now, bake later

Finally, several readers have asked about saving time by doing at least some of the work ahead. Anonymous Baker writes, “Can these be frozen and baked later?”

Return of Hand Pies via @kingarthurflour

Kye, my fellow blogger, provides the answer to this one. One of our talented bakers and writers, you may have seen “Kye@KAF” responding to your questions and comments via social media, or on our recipe site. Take it away, Kye:

“The Blueberry Hand Pies can be prepared up through step 12 [shaped, filled, and sealed] and then frozen. Let them harden for about 20 to 30 minutes before storing them in an airtight container or ziplock bag.

“When you’re ready to bake, the hand pies can be placed on a baking sheet, brushed with egg wash and topped with sugar (if desired) and baked as directed. You may need to extend the baking time by about 5 minutes to account for them being frozen. The filling should bubble and the crust should be nicely golden brown. Happy baking!”

Any further questions about hand pies? Or if you’ve made them — any suggestions? Please add your feedback in comments, below. Many spoons stirring the pot can sometimes be a good thing!

Interested in more? See our complete collection of Bakealong recipes.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. LynC

    It’s not July but close! I was asked by some next generation folks to teach them some baking. I decided the hand pies were a perfect addition to a cook-along agenda. Yes!
    The suggestion here of dividing the dough worked having 4 students. Make it together, divide it in fourths, one for each. The cutting off of the edges made brilliant puffy sides. August being THE berry month, everyone chose to make the jam filling and universally the ability to taste the fruit and not have it masked with sugar was a big plus.
    Two adjustments may be of interest: first I wanted to make a pick-up, party size that could be frozen for quick bakes when needed, whether savory or sweet. So I shaped each fourth into rectangle pieces and had the students roll a 5″ by 10″ rectangle cut into 2 rows and 4 columns to make four 2 1/2 inch pies. Worked great.
    Since I only owned 1 silicon roll out mat, I made on Word and printed out a rectangle shape 5×10″. Each taped that to the counter as a template. They divided a 1/2 sheet parchment in two and taped one of them over the template. Rolling and cutting on the parchment was then easy to size and trim. It was horrid hot in August so the other half was placed on top of dough for rolling. This really was efficient and effective. One could probably just use tape on the counter to make the rectangle and then taped the first piece of parchment over that.
    Hope some will fine this useful.
    Happy baking.

    Reply
  2. Sandra

    I spent all day yesterday making Rough Puff and Mixed Berry Hand Pies and a few Nutella ones as well. In all I made 75 there are 6 left I ate one the Grandson ate two and my husband and son ate the rest, I would refuse to do it again Because of them Not your recipes,but I’ll be making more for the Grandsons class over the weekend. I did the Nutella in Your pastry but to be honest the rough Puff was faster and easier to work with. It is Hot and Humid in MO so you have to work fast no matter what you use. I actually froze all the fillings before I made the hand pies that way they aren’t leaking as I seal them and I get more filling. The Fruit I cooked down and put into Silicone Ice Cube Molds, the Nutella I refrigerated and scooped out in little balls and froze on Parchment. No Mess and it made it so much faster to assemble them all.

    Reply
  3. Erik Faust

    I made these today for the first time and they were, overall, very good. If I had to nitpick I’d say that I thought the crust was a bit tough and didn’t puff up as much as I thought it would. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about what I might have done wrong. I’m thinking that I might have mixed it too much or didn’t get the butter into small enough pieces.

    I’m fairly new to pastries, so I’m just guessing on what I might have done wrong.

    thanks,
    Erik

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We think your baker’s instincts are dead-on, Erik — over-working the dough is likely the culprit. One resource that may give some helpful visuals is our blog article: Flaky, Tender Pie Crust. It gives you a great technique of mixing dough minimally using parchment paper. The less you can handle your dough, the lighter and flakier your finished crusts will be. Annabelle@KAF

  4. Katrina

    What about lemon curd or puddings as a filling? Is there a better option for these, or will this one do?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Out of those two options you mention, we’d recommend using lemon curd as it tends to hold up better during baking. Pudding is usually cream-based and often breaks down under heat. If you’re looking to explore your lemon curd options, consider borrowing the cream cheese and lemon-sweetened filling from our Braided Lemon Bread recipe. It’s creamy, lemony perfection. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

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