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. Giggi

    I made the blueberry hand pies with fresh picked blueberries that I had just frozen the week prior and they came out perfect. I followed the instructions to the letter using grams being careful with sealing the edges. When they cooled I wrapped a few of them in clear wrap and then placed them in a freezer bag and they kept very nicely until we were ready to eat them. (they were baked completely by the way).

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That sounds like a tasty experiment, Cindy! Using only chocolate chips may result in a dryer finished hand pie, not having any juice from fruit, but we’ve heard of great success using Nutella as a filling. Perhaps you could mix some chocolate chips with Nutella or another chocolate spread and give that a go? Annabelle@KAF

  2. sandy

    PJ – Since this was posted I have made these hand pies several times. This was such a helpful post I couldn’t resist trying the new techniques you described. Also it has been so hot in PA that staying in and experimenting in the kitchen is nicer than being outside. I do have a suggestion about the top leakage. I have not had a problem with leakage at all. After I cut the squares, I give a few more light rolls of the rolling pin to just the tops. It makes them a little bigger than the bottoms so I can mound the filling without pushing it through the vents when I put the tops on. Also, because the filling is cooked, I only need to allow for a little steam. I make three smallish cuts very near the center of the top crust, high up on the filling mound. I use the egg wash to seal the edges. My family is all about the filling, so I am making my pies 5×5 square. That also lets me room for more filling. I am now trying Kye’s suggestions for freezing the pies. How great is that for make ahead wonderful dessert.

    Reply
  3. Vickie Damascus,Oregon

    Just made blueberry hand pies. My blueberry bushes are loaded this year I will definitely be making more of these! Thank you KAF for your always delicious recipes! Impressive!

    Reply
  4. Steve S

    Hooray for these delicious hand pies! Your recipe and instructions resulted in a family-favorite, now circulating with friends across state lines. The pastry puffs up like no other… I added two additional cycles of folding and rolling. If the pastry dough appears too dry and disconnected at first, stay with firm hand pressing, and the dough will come together beautifully–smooth rolling ahead, just use plenty of sprinkled flour. Friends liked cookie-cutter openings, providing full color view of the fruity filling. Adding a few uncooked, fresh blueberries to the cooked filling resulted in a moister and fruitier product. Excellent recipe, as always!

    Reply
  5. DEBBIE W

    I made some these blueberry & strawberry hand pies this past weekend. Scrumptious, I tell ya! They were a huge hit at work and I made my own preserves….no leakage! I did the egg seal, fork press and cut/straightened edges! I was so excited and getting ready for work that I forgot to take pictures!!! they turned out soooo pretty! It’s ok, I’ll be making more very shortly!

    Reply
  6. Linda Thompson

    Love these! I followed the directions! The dough is fabulous, although it was a little hard to handle. All were gone quickly. This will be a staple recipe. Thanks, as always, for having stand out recipes.

    Reply
  7. Kathy

    I would like to make these with Meteor Cherries (very tart). I picked them fresh, used half for a slab pie, and froze the rest in 2 cup portions. Do I need to make adjustments for sugar or liquid? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Kathy — it sounds like you’re in for some extra tasty cherry hand pies soon! If you can let the cherries thaw out that will help. Adding a 1/4 teaspoon of extra thickener per cup of fruit will help with the juices. As for the sugar, that really depends on your personal taste. Because the cherries are tart, you could up the sugar from 1/3 cup to 2/3 cup if you prefer a sweeter filling. It could take some trial and error to find the right amount of sugar to suit your tastes, but that’s a good place to start. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  8. GIgi

    I made blueberry hand last night. As usual, your recipes are stellar and always turn out for me. This is the 3rd bake along I’ve done. It will not be the last. I plan on trying apricot (with fresh apricots) and peach (with fresh peaches). When I pick apples from our backyard tree, we’ll have apple hand pies. Thank you for such great recipes.

    Reply
  9. sandy

    As others have said these are great with a savory filling. Our favorite is chopped up caramelized onion, chopped crispy bacon, a few olive pieces, and a smidge of cream cheese or some other mild cheese mixed in.
    When I make a batch of dough, I usually do half savory and half sweet.

    Reply

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