A Pie in the Hand

I don’t have anything against pie. Really. It’s just that, well, there are so many things that can go wrong when you make a pie—especially the crust, and, honestly, it takes a lot of time and skill. What if the dough is too flaky, not flaky enough, lacking flavor? Who wants to have wasted all that work? You know what I mean?

And there’s also another reason I don’t make pie, a bigger issue, and it’s not pie’s fault in the slightest. This problem is with me. I have a terrible, unconquerable habit of picking things to make at the worst possible moments. From a lengthy long-rise yeast bread to a process-filled batch of cookies, I like to choose the most time-consuming recipes at the latest times of night. Case in point: these hand pies.

homemade hand pies

I saw a recent post over at Smitten Kitchen for Bourbon Peach Hand Pies and thought they were so adorable, a finger-food version of the classic, and I wanted to make them. At 8:30 PM, last Friday night. Now, see, with a lot of desserts, starting at 8:30 PM would be fine. But with hand pies, you really need to give yourself a good chunk of time because there’s a lot of chilling and taking out, chilling and taking out. All told, I finally went to bed at 2:15 AM.

But in this case, it was worth it.

apple pie filling

I wanted apple pie filling, but I didn’t have a recipe for apple pie filling, not for 14 to 24 hand pies. So, basing things on a cookbook ingredient list, I started guessing about what to get (which, for your information, is how I ended up buying two three-pound bags of Gala apples. No, I hadn’t even been to the orchard at this point. Yes, good thing we like apples.)

apple hand pie close

This is a long recipe, but it’s not hard. Essentially, you’re going to create a dough (which involves a few steps), then roll it out and cut circles with a pastry cutter or a cookie cutter or, what I did, the opening to a storage container; these circles will be chilled, then filled* and folded, then chilled again. After that, you just bake and enjoy.**

(*For the filling, you’ll just core, peel and chop 3 or 4 good-sized apples, then mix them with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.)

(**Truthfully, there’s one more small step, so small I actually forgot about it until the pies were already baking: cutting slits into the pies, then brushing the dough with egg and topping with sugar. It’s OK if you make a few mistakes with this recipe, and that’s why I like it.)

Like most made-from-scratch pies, these are best fresh out of the oven, although they’re equally tasty reheated and topped with vanilla ice cream. In fact, now that I think about it, they’re not so bad cold, either. You decide which way is best for you.

Apple Hand Pies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Filling adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook

Ingredients for Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water

Ingredients for Topping:
One egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water
Sugar for sprinkling

Ingredients for Filling:

3 or 4 medium-sized apples
3/8 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

To make the crust: in a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the sliced butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender (forks will work fine as a substitute), cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Note: If preparing ahead of time, the dough can be stored at this point for up to one month in the freezer.)

Divide the refrigerated dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using your desired pastry cutter, cut circles out of the dough and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling, cutting, and chilling process with the remaining half of dough. (I ended up with a total of 18 1/2 circles, but it will vary based on the size of your cutter.)

While circles are chilling, make the filling. Core, peel and chop four or five apples into tiny pieces, much smaller than the chunks for a normal-sized pie. Put these pieces into a large bowl, and add the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss together.

Back to the dough: Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature until just pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon about 1 tablespoons filling (or more, if your circles are larger) onto one half of each circle of dough. Quickly brush a little cold water around the circumference of the dough, and fold it in half so the other side comes down over the filling, creating a semicircle. Seal the hand pie, and make a decorative edge by pressing the edges of the dough together with the back of a fork. Repeat process with remaining dough. Place the hand pies back on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled hand pies from the refrigerator, cut a small slit in each and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash (try really hard to remember to do this now, not after you’ve already put them in the oven). Sprinkle sugar generously over the pies, and place pies in the oven to bake. Bake until the hand pies are golden brown and just slightly cracked, about 20 minutes. Remove the pies from the oven, and let stand to cool slightly before serving.


  1. says

    ok, these look great. but the time factor, 6 hours? sigh. they’re probably worth it and all, based on your results AND they’d make great snack for jab’s lunch… FINE. you talked me into it. i did pick quite a bit of apples this past weekend… and i could possibly freeze most of the dough for later use.

    i like that you found a filling that suited you. i’ll be doing the same. :)

  2. says

    i saw these hand pies on smitten kitchen, as well! and i’ve been curious about them ever since. i’m not a huge pie fan, either (although i can’t wait for pumpkin pie this thanksgiving!), but little pies that fit in your hand?! adorable! i’m not a baker, so i just might have to ask my sister to make these for me. she’s a pie-maniac.

  3. says

    I do the same thing with the starting time-consuming recipes late at night. I’ve gone to bed at 2 because I just decided to bake for work the next day on more than one occasion. One benefit, I guess, is that I don’t eat too much of the finished product (or the batter…) because it’s too late to eat!

  4. says

    Lan: Yeah, and the one consoling factor about the six hours is that a lot of it is down time, which is good. At least you can do other stuff, you know?

    Jacqui:I think, as long a person isn’t into baking, he or she should have a sister who is. :)

    camille: So glad I’m not alone!!

  5. says

    What a great idea for pie. I am bad at pie crust so I think I could handle these. Great for lunches and snacks. Thanks!

  6. says

    RobinSue: YOU are bad at pie crusts?? That makes me feel so much better, I can’t even tell you, lol. Or you could just be being nice. Either way, thanks!

  7. says

    Hi! I love this blog! I plan on making these for thanksgiving, the only thing is that I’m new to making pies and such, so how did you actually make the crust? Did you do it all by hand or did you have a mixer? And what do you mean by the “With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form.” Sorry If it’s obvious, but I’m having trouble visualizing it.

    Again, great blog!

  8. Shannalee says

    Lazarou: I did it all by hand, and this is best so that the dough isn’t overworked. I swear, it’s not hard–just time-consuming, so be prepared for that! :)

    As far as the fingertips: Ok, it’s like playing with play-dough or something. You just use your fingers to mix it all together until it becomes like a bunch of little lumps. Does that help? I’d also say to check out the original post at Smitten Kitchen, where she included more photos. Best wishes, and I’d love to hear how you like it!

  9. says

    THE PASTRY is perfect. An accidental re-roll after the big chill turned it into bakery-worthy puffed-pastry. I almost fell over when I opened the oven door and saw those beauties staring back at me. Tastes scrumptious too. Thank you for passing it along!

  10. Sherree says

    My grandmother made these for my grandpa. He couldn’t have fried foods and these were awesome. Worth the time and effort that it took.

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