12 Feb Heart-Shaped Strawberry + Marzipan Hand Pies
It shrinks, it crumbles, it gets soggy and/or tough. It’s a baker’s badge of honor and summer fruits’ best friend. All-butter, with shortening, sour cream and sometimes vodka, too. Filled with fruit, cream, custard and meringue – not to mention a variety of savory options as well, but we don’t speak of those here. Friend and foe. The worshiped, the loathed.
I’m talking about pie y’all — more specifically the devil incarnate himself, the bane of my baker’s existence, the crust. No matter what camp you belong to, I think we can all rally around the fact that pie-making can be a total bitch. I’ve shed many a tear while crouched over the still-warm glow from the oven, because while (after much practice) I’m proud to say that I can fairly consistently produce a damn tasty crust, a pretty crust is a whole different animal. It’s the unicorn of the pie universe, hidden away in a fantasy land of glitter and rainbows. You know, the kind of crust that finds it’s way to the top of all of your Pinterest boards. The kind of crust you gaze upon longingly through the fingerprint smeared glass of your local bakery. THAT crust.
BUT, after many frustrating attempts at pie perfection, I’m realizing that maybe pretty pie of the traditional sort just isn’t where my baking talents lie. (At least, for now.) Instead, I think I may have discovered my pie niche. A cozy little place where I can have my handsome pie and eat it too. Enter: Hand pies. (Sound the trumpets!)
If you’re equally as in love and in hate with pie as I am, rejoice! because hand pies are the solution to your fugly crust woes. But Katie, everybody knows it’s not a pie if it’s not baked in a pie dish. FALSE. Crust + fruit + crust = PIE. I’m declaring it fact. Who says pie has to be served in slices anyway?
Perhaps the biggest advantage to the hand pie is that the”free-form” nature allows you to completely avoid dreaded pie shrinkage — the pinnacle of my frustration with pie crust. A little extra chill time in the freezer and hand pies bake up tender, golden and (almost) exactly as you shaped them. Not to mention there is not a speck of pressure to make a fancy lattice top or perfectly braided border. All you need to achieve pie bliss is a cookie cutter and some course sugar,and you’re on your way to the cutest mini-dessert in all the universe.
BONUS: by mini-fying your pie into tiny, five-bite pockets, you’re increasing the ratio of crust to filling, therefore also increasing your general level of happiness. +++ surface area of crust is never a bad thing — it’s where the butter lives, after all.
I made these Heart-Shaped Strawberry + Marzipan Hand Pies for a dear friends’ love-themed couple’s wedding shower. The groom had expressed his adoration for cherry turnovers, which I loosely interpreted into I’ll make strawberry hand pies! Given my pie history, I was a little worried about how they would turn out, but look at these beauties! I proudly displayed them on the dessert buffet and they were a MASSIVE hit with the shower attendees.
The pie dough is my go-to recipe from the queen of baking herself, Dorie Greenspan. It’s a butter and shortening combo, though as you can see in the recipe, there is just a touch of shortening to make the dough tender while butter definitely plays the star role and imparts more than enough coveted buttery richness to satisfy even the most die-hard of all-butter crust aficionados. Since we keep the butter ratio high, it means the resulting crust is super flaky (due to the water content in the butter, steam = flakey dough) and the sugar adds just a touch of sweetness that I love against the acidity of fruit, though you could leave it out completely if you prefer.
One more word of advice: don’t leave the marzipan out. It’s definitely the little somethin’ somethin’ that elevates these hand pies to next-level amazingness. It can be a little pricey, but I think it adds the perfect touch of fancy making these pies fitting for a special occasion, like, oh say, Valentine’s Day.
Oh and LOOK, I MADE YOU A .GIF!! It’s a wee bit special since it’s my first ever stab at it, but hopefully I’ll be incorporating some fun .gif action into future posts. Look at that jam action — BAM!!
P.S. Do you pronounce it GIF with the G sound like gorilla? Or JIF like the peanut butter. Apparently, this is important. I’m a JIF girl, myself. (Which my tech-y coworkers tell me is the proper pronunciation — learn things!)
A Few Notes About This Recipe:
To make this recipe super simple and “semi-homemade” you can use 2X store bought pie crusts and your favorite jam. You’ll still need to keep the dough very cold, and follow the instructions for assembly (including freezing) but you’ll cut the prep time way down. Easy-peasy!
Since strawberries aren’t in season, I used frozen for this recipe. You could also use frozen blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, apples — almost any fruit will work!
You’ll notice that the recipe will instruct you to chill the dough (overnight is HIGHLY recommended) and freeze it before and after assembling the pies. This is EXTREMELY important, do not skimp on these steps. Without the freezing time, I cannot guarantee your hearts will look like hearts after baking. Also, if you’re making your dough from scratch the butter and shortening should be ICE cold before you cut them into the flour — I recommend freezing both for a few hours before using.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup + 7 tablespoons butter, very cold
- 4 tablespoons shortening, very cold
- about 6 tablespoons ice water
- 8 oz. strawberries (frozen is fine)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (adjust based on the sweetness of your strawberries)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3-inch roll of marzipan (enough to roll out into about 24 1-inch circles)
- 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water
- turbinado sugar
- Put the flour, sugar and salt into a food processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse a few times to combine the ingredients.
- Drop in the flour and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flours — there should be some pieces the size of large peas and others the size of barley.
- Pulsing the machine, add in about 5 tablespoons of water, a tablespoon at a time with a single pulse in between each. Once added, give the dough a few longer pulses to help moisten the flour. If the dough does not begin to come together into soft curds that hold together when pinched, add the last tablespoon (maybe a few drops more) and give it a good final pulse until you get a dough that sticks together when pinched but still has some visible chunks of butter in it.
- Pour out the dough onto a floured work surface — it’s okay if it’s crumbly and larger chunks of fat are still visible. Divide the dough into two discs (this will make it easier to roll out later), wrap well and refrigerate for AT LEAST three hours, preferably overnight. The colder the dough, the better the pie.
- Combine the strawberries, brown sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- As the strawberries heat they will release moisture and the mixture will become soupy. Continue to simmer the mixture for about 15-20 minutes or until it thickens and becomes jam-like. Keep in mind that it will continue to thick some as it cools. While the mixture is cooking, use a fork or whisk to break up and large chunks of strawberry. Once thickened, remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- On a very well floured work surface, roll out the first disk of dough to be about 1/4 inch thick, turning the dough frequently and adding more flour as needed. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter cut out dough and place the hearts on the parchment lined cookie sheet. Once the sheet is full (I fit six hearts), add another layer of parchment and cut out another six hearts. Place the first cookie sheet in the freezer and then repeat this process with the second disk of dough. When you’re done, you should have about twelve hearts per cookie sheet, two laters of six hearts on both. Place both cookie sheets in the freezer for about an hour.
- When you’re ready to assemble, remove one cookie sheet and let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. This will let the frozen dough soften up just enough to work with.
- While the dough is thawing, roll out the marzipan into a thin layer (think American cheese) and cut out 1-inch circles (or if you have a small heart-shaped cookie cutter that would work too) — the shape of the marzipan isn’t really important, you could even just use a knife to cut rough circles. You’ll just need enough to cover the center of the heart.
- To assemble, place two small circles of marzipan into the center of a heart. Add about 1-2 teaspoons of jam filling, directly in the center of the heart, being careful to stay away from the edges. Brush the edges of the heart with egg wash, then place another dough heart on top and very gently press the edges together. Use the tines of a fork to seal the edges all the way around.
- Repeat until all pies are made. Now it’s time to freeze the pies again. I know — it’s a process — but this will help the pies to hold their shape when baking. Freeze the assembled pies for another 30 minutes.
- While the pies are freezing, preheat the oven to 425F. Remove the first tray from the freezer, brush each pie with more egg wash and sprinkle liberally with turbinado sugar. Use a knife or fork to poke a couple holes in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until pies are a deep golden brown. Let the pies cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Repeat with the second tray.
- Pies are best eaten the same day but can be stored up to two days in an airtight container.