High Altitude Baking: Strawberry hand pies (recipe)
Editor’s note: High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Forget the plates and silverware; these little cuties can be eaten straight out of the hand. They are perfect for a picnic or for a large group. They’re all about the tender, flaky, buttery crust; the strawberries hidden within it provide a surprise, but it’s the crust that’s the star.
Too much sour cream will make the dough difficult to work with, so measure it precisely. Feel free to substitute your favorite single-crust pie dough for the one in the recipe. If you’re serving a crowd, the recipe can be doubled or even tripled; just be sure your food processor has sufficient capacity to hold all of the crust ingredients.
Strawberry hand pies
Yields 7 three-inch pies.
1 cup bleached, all-purpose flour, spoon and level
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), very cold
3½ level tablespoons cold sour cream
2 teaspoons superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
½ teaspoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons creme de cassis or water
Generous ½ cup cleaned, hulled and chopped ripe, fresh strawberries
Coarse granulated sugar
Make the crust: Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into 16 pieces, add them and pulse until the pieces are the size of peas. Add the sour cream and use long pulses to blend it until the dough is in large, moist clumps. Dump it on a sheet of waxed paper, and gently knead it into a disc. Don’t overwork the dough or it will lose its tender texture. Wrap and refrigerate until cold and firm or up to a day before using.
Make the filling: Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan and whisk or stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and creme de cassis or water and stir until blended. Add the strawberries and stir to coat. Place over low-medium heat and stir until the mixture thickens to a jam-like consistence. If it seems too thick, stir in more creme de cassis or water. Remove from heat, taste and add more sugar if desired. Cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it’s too firm to roll, let it rest until it’s able to be rolled. Roll to 1⁄8-inch thickness (do this between two sheets of waxed paper, lifting the dough off each of the sheets occasionally as you roll). Cut into circles that are 3 inches in diameter. If at any point the dough gets soft, return it to the freezer; it’s much easier to work with when it’s cold. Gather, chill and roll the dough scraps again to get 14 circles. Return them to the refrigerator to firm up before filling.
Place seven of the dough circles at least an inch apart on the parchment-lined pan. Beat the egg until yolk and white are blended, and brush it in a ½-inch stripe on the outside edges of the dough circles. Spoon a generous teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each dough circle. Center the remaining seven dough circles on top of those with filling, and use the tines of a fork to press the two edges together so they’re sealed. Use a sharp knife to cut two vents in the top of each pie. Brush a thin coating of the beaten egg on each pie and sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar.
Place the cookie sheet, with the pies on it, in the freezer or refrigerator until the dough is quite firm.
Remove the sheet from the fridge. Put the pan in the oven and bake until the pies are light golden brown, about 18- to-24 minutes, depending on their temperature when placed in the oven.
Remove to a rack to cool completely. They can be stored, covered, at cool room temperature for a day. If they’ll be eaten out of hand, serve at room temperature. If serving them on plates — I like two to a dessert plate — reheat them in a 325-degree oven until warm to the touch. I accompany the plated pies with a drizzle of strawberry sauce.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks “Baking Above It All” and “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Next Page in Frisco) is a chef instructor with Colorado Mountain College’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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