Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And We're Back - Strawberry Hand Pies

Hello, hello. I know, it's been awhile. I could regale you with tales of computers lost and new ones delivered, BBQ's attended the new episode of Mad Men, and a strange case of food poisoning. Plenty of reasons for my absence. But here I am, I'm back, and while I haven't cooked for several days, I have a backlog of tasty recipes just waiting to be shared.

In the meantime, I can't tell you how distressing it is that it's already August 18th. Summer is flying by and I feel like I barely have time to blink. Will it stay like this? Will it just keep going faster and faster with no time to catch up? Soon enough, it will be time for sweaters and hot apple cider again. At least I have my pie crust perfected, something to look forward to. Apple, Pumpkin, preserved cherry....

I've been receiving "trip-texts" from Ilsa this week. She and Matt just completed their drive to Minnesota. This was Monday's text: "Nebraska-the loudest longest roll of thunder I've ever heard, bacon fried noodles at the breakfast buffet, and fields of corn." Maybe she'll send along some pictures from the trip to post as well.

Back to pie crust. Butter makes all the difference. I think I've found the ultimate Pate Brisee. And I'm somewhat sorry to say that Martha Stewart gets the credit for that. But hey, I guess she knows what she's doing. And you can't argue with the flakiest, tastiest pie crust around. And I'm not even a crust person! But the thumbs up was given by all at the office, and by several friends as well. Lucky them, eh?

I stumbled across this recipe in Smitten Kitchen and didn't have to adapt it much at all. What could be better than individual, personal sized pies? So delightfully handy!

Strawberry Hand Pies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen & Martha Stewart

Pate Brisee
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice water

I gave up using the food processor for pate brisee awhile ago. Instead, I whisk the flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl, cut the butter into cubes, and combine by adding the butter to the flour mixture, and continually pinching everything together with my hands. Eventually, the mixture combines into a shaggy mess, with the butter breaking down into pieces no bigger than a pea. At that point, I add the water and combine gently into a loose ball. I then turn out the dough onto a silpat or lightly floured surface, break it into two balls, and smear each across the surface to distribute the butter and gently form it back into a ball. I flatten each ball into a disk, wrap each in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour. When ready to roll out the dough, I let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes to bring it back to temperature.

You could use the food processor of course, but it can easily be done without it, leaving less to clean!

Strawberry Filling
makes 12 individual pies

3 cups strawberries (hulled and cut into quarters)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 egg (for brushing the surface of your dough)
1 tsp sugar (for the dough)

Roll out the first disk of your pate brisee on a lightly floured surface until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 5 inch round cookie cutter, cut out 6 pieces for your pies. You'll need to set the finished ones aside, recombine the dough and roll out again. Once you've finished the first disk, move on to the 2nd. Place the finished pieces on two baking sheets lined with parchment or silpats. Heat the oven to 425.

Combine the strawberries, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp of the strawberry mixture into the center of each individual pie round. Lightly brush the edges of each pie round with the beaten egg and fold the top of the dough over to enclose, forming a half circle. Gently press the edges together to seal (you don't want the juice to run out) and brush the whole thing with beaten egg. With a pairing knife, slash the top of the dough in the center twice, to create steam vents for the pie. Sprinkle the pie with sugar. Repeat with each.

Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Let cool before serving.

Of course you can use any filling you like. I made blackberry as well, which was delicious. Depending on how sweet your fruit is, you might use less sugar as well.

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