Cherry Hand Pies
|Fresh Cherry Pie for One|
Mr. B is supposed to be the strong one, but once I start talking about pies and turnovers, he forgets about his role, and then he starts asking the question, "Is it pie day today?" But he knows as well as I do that we always start talking pie weeks before we start eating pie. I'm not sure why it takes us so long, but I figure it must have something to do with the sheer labor intensity of pitting five pounds of cherries. Yep. Five pounds—for two people. You must be wondering if my pants are ever comfortable, but I assure you, some things just must be done with passionate vigor and I'd say cherry pie is one of those things.
I've said this before, but it's worth saying again. Let me just say that in my heart of hearts, I know that there are really only two kinds of people in this world: pie people and cake people. I definitely, definitely, definitely fall into the cake category. However, when I think about one of those memorable childhood food moments from my life, those little Hostess hand pies (cherry, thank you) with that crazy sweet glaze, stick in my memory. That said, I LOVE cherry pie, oh, and I can easily eat a sweet potato pie, too, but other than that, I'm just not that into pie. It was with this particular childhood memory that I embarked on this year's pie making, which led me straight to these beautiful little hand pies, perfect for tucking in a picnic lunch.
Cherry Hand Pies: The Narrative Recipe
The secret to making cherry pie is a really good cherry pitter and a whole lot of patience. I find that when it comes to baking, I'm often short on the second, which is why I don't love making cookies, at least not more than a dozen or two. Anyhow...buy a good, sturdy cherry pitter, which is also an olive pitter, and expect that it won't last more than a few years. Also, to note, some of the cherries are going to be so fat and plump and at their peak that they will not fit in the pitter. These are meant to be eaten; they are your reward for taking on this momentous task and for subjecting your soon to be red stained finger tips to the scrutiny of cashiers, colleagues, and strangers.
But then the recipe gets really easy--at least until we get to the crust and then, well, I guess it could be easy as pie if you use refrigerated pie crust, if not, then it could be a bit more of a challenge. For now, let's talk easy.
Add 1/4 cup of flour for each pound of cherries (I weighed mine after pitting them) and 1 cup of sugar (this was for five pounds of fruit). I also added a pinch of sea salt for some savory flair, and while most recipes call for only almond extract, I like to add about 2 teaspoons of high quality vanilla extract and, to really pull out the flavor of the cherries, a bit of liqueur—3 tablespoons for the filling and if no one's looking, a swig or two for yourself. Then mix the cherries, flour, sugar, and flavorings together so they can stew and all of the flour and juices can get friendly.
If you're making your own pie dough, then get cracking. Otherwise, roll out your store-bought refrigerator dough and cut the dough into rounds. Place a scoop (I used a 2T scoop) of the filling in the center and then take another dough circle, rolled out just a bit to make it larger and place it on top of the filling. Crimp the edges of the dough circles together with a fork and place the hand pie on a cookie sheet. Gently cut 2-3 seams in the top of the pie. Continue with the remaining dough and filling. Just to note, you would need 2 boxes of pie dough for five pounds of cherries.
Once you've finished making all of the pies, lightly brush them with whole milk or heavy cream and sprinkle them with granulated sugar. Bake in a preheated 350º oven until golden and the filling is bubbling.
If you'd like, you can make a glaze (powdered sugar and a bit of milk to thin) to drizzle over the pies once they cool.