Savory and Sweet: Hand Pies

(This is part three of a three-part collaboration with Cybelle Codish and Taryn Bickley.  For part one, click here.  For part two, click here.)

As soon as Spring breaks here in Chicago, something amazing happens.  Aside from the trees greening themselves overnight, and the frenzied blooming of flowers, there’s a sea change of a decidedly more human sort.  All at once, your social calendar just blows up.

People crawl out of their Winter hidey-holes, and oh my goodness we should do something!  Dinner plans form on weeknights, not just the obligatory Saturday night outing.  Emails flurry nearly every afternoon, in a back-and-forth of forming plans to go anywhere.  And suddenly, everyone is outside, in that primal need to enjoy the weather while it lasts.

My two collaborators, Taryn and Cybelle, and I are certainly not immune to this need.  Knowing how delightful a meal al fresco can be, we decided on hand pies for our final Savory and Sweet match-up.  Hand pies are perfect for an outdoor gathering: easily portable, and can be eaten with one hand while holding down the picnic blanket in a gust of wind.  Wrap one in parchment for each guest, toss in a bag with some fresh fruit, and you’ve got a party to go.

don't forget beverages

The savory offering here is a chicken and chorizo pie, which might more aptly be called an empanada.  There’s a touch of whole wheat flour in the all-butter crust, which lends a rusticity that befits the unfussy nature of the dish.  The filling is a loose mélange of dark chicken meat and vivacious Spanish chorizo, shot through with fruity green olives and the occasional sweetness of a golden raisin.  If you’re following along at home, the rhubarb chutney from earlier this week was simply fantastic with these, if a touch over the top.  It all depends on how gilded you prefer your lilies.

On the sweet side, we took advantage of the glut of berries in stores at the moment, and decided on mixed-berry pies for dessert.  Brushed with an egg wash for a golden gleam, and dusted with coarse sugar, I can just see these sparkling in the late-afternoon sun, in the park or on the back porch.  The cabernet-colored filling spilling out of the seams might have been avoided by cutting small vents in the tops of the pies, true; but I love the slightly-chewy gummi-fruit texture of those overcooked bits.  And besides, it makes them look positively exuberant.

exuberant, or defiant

For both crusts, I’ve written the recipes to use my favorite technique for cutting butter into flour by hand: mince the butter into as small pieces as possible, freeze, and simply toss with the flour.  Some people prefer to grate frozen butter into flour, which works well in theory, but I’ve always found that my hands melt the butter before I’m done grating.  Whatever method works best for you (including using a food processor, or any other way) is the method you should use.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos and recipes as much as I enjoyed putting it all together!  It was a true pleasure working with Taryn and Cybelle, two extremely talented and delightful ladies, who made the hours spent “working” on this feel like a very exclusive party.  I have an inkling that this won’t be the last time you’ll see the three of us partnering up!


our hosts: taryn and her husband brian

our hosts: taryn and her husband brian

Chicken and Chorizo Hand Pies
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 12 pies

I’m not the biggest raisin fan in the world, but I nevertheless urge you to include them, no matter what you normally think of them.  The pockets of light sweetness they add simply make the dish.  If, while forming the pies, the crust softens, chill the pies for at least 15 minutes before baking for the flakiest possible crust.

For the crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cold
9 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/4 ounces (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, cold
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/3 cup ice-cold water, plus extra as needed

For the filling:
2 whole chicken legs, bone-in, skin-on (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium white onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
4 ounces raw Spanish-style chorizo (about 1 link), removed from casing
1/2 cup light-flavored beer
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup green olives, chopped roughly
1/4 cup golden raisins

To finish pies:
Flour for dusting and rolling out dough
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash

1.  To make the crust, cut the butter into as small pieces as possible.  Pile loosely on a plate, and place in freezer while preparing remaining ingredients, or for about 10 minutes.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  When butter is thoroughly firm, add to flour.  Using fingertips or a pastry cutter, quickly toss and pinch until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Large pea-sized lumps are okay.

3.  Beat egg with vinegar until well blended, and add to flour mixture.  Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water over, and quickly and gently fold in.  Dough may look dry; try squeezing a bit together with fingertips.  If mixture crumbles, add additional ice water by tablespoons, and gently mix together.  If mixture holds together, turn out onto a work surface.  Knead quickly and gently until mixture forms a cohesive ball, just a few turns.  Shape dough into a flat disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

4.  While dough chills, prepare the filling.  Rub chicken legs with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add legs, skin side down, and cook until just golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Flip legs over, and brown other side, about 3 minutes more.  Remove to a plate.

5.  Discard all but two tablespoons fat from pan.  Add onions, stir to coat, and cook until translucent and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, bay leaves, cumin, and paprika, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant.  Add chorizo, breaking up if necessary, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.

6.  Add beer and scrape bottom of pan to deglaze and loosen any flavorful browned bits.  Add chicken stock, olives, and raisins; stir to combine.  Nestle chicken legs, skin side up, into the mixture, reduce heat to medium-low or low to maintain a simmer, and cover pan.

7.  Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken registers 160º F on an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.  Remove legs to a clean plate to cool.  If necessary, continue simmering sauce until thickened and no longer soupy; it should be the consistency of heavy cream.  Remove bay leaves, and let cool to room temperature.  Pull chicken meat from bone, discarding skin, and stir meat into sauce.  Filling may be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before using.

8.  When ready to make pies, preheat oven to 400º F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature.  (If kitchen is warm, divide dough in half, working with one piece at a time, and refrigerating other half to prevent butter melting.)

9.  Liberally dust a work surface with flour.  Divide dough into 12 even pieces, and form each into a roughly round shape.  Keep unused pieces covered loosely with plastic wrap.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece to a disc about 5 inches in diameter (about 1/8 inch thick), lifting and turning dough and dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking.  The shape need not be perfectly round.

10.  Place 2 generous tablespoons of filling in the center of each round.  Brush the edges of the dough lightly with egg wash, and fold the dough in half over the filling.  Crimp the edges to seal, either with a fork, or by making a series of very small overlapping folds with fingertips, pressing firmly.  Transfer each pie to the prepared baking sheet, lightly dusting off any excess flour.  Repeat with remaining crust and filling.

11.  Gently brush each pie with egg wash.  If dough has softened, refrigerate tray of pies for at least 15 minutes before baking.

12.  Bake at 400º F for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool briefly on trays before before serving, or remove to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before wrapping tightly and freezing.  Frozen, pies may be reheated on a baking sheet in a 350º F oven  for 15 to 20 minutes, or until warmed through.

Mixed Berry Hand Pies
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 12 to 16 small pies

I’ve used blackberries and strawberries here, because that’s what was fresh at my market.  Any berry would work here, or even any cut-up fruit you prefer, such as peaches, plums, cherries, or pears.  The grated apple adds natural pectin, which thickens the filling just enough to shape the crust around.

For the crust:
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
11 1/4 ounces (2 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ice-cold water, plus extra as needed

For the filling:
6 ounces (1 heaped cup) blackberries
6 ounces (1 heaped cup) strawberries
1 Golden Delicious apple
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
6 tablespoons sugar

To finish pies:
Flour for rolling out crusts
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash
Coarse sugar for dusting (such as demerara or turbinado)

1.  To make the crust, cut the butter and shortening into as small pieces as possible.  Pile loosely on a plate, and place in freezer while preparing remaining ingredients, or for about 10 minutes.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.  When butter and shortening are thoroughly firm, add to flour.  Using fingertips or a pastry cutter, quickly toss and pinch until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Large pea-sized lumps are okay.

3.  Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water over the mixture, and quickly and gently fold in.  Dough may look dry; try squeezing a bit together with fingertips.  If mixture crumbles, add additional ice water by tablespoons, and gently mix together.  If mixture holds together, turn out onto a work surface.  Knead quickly and gently until mixture forms a cohesive ball, just a few turns, using heel of hand with a forward pressing motion to help flatten and incorporate lumps of fat.  Shape dough into a flat disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

4.  While dough chills, make filling.  Rinse berries.  Hull strawberries, and cut into halves, or quarters if large.  Place in a medium saucepan.  Peel apple, and grate directly into pan with berries.  Add allspice and sugar, and place over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue cooking until thick, 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.  Remove from heat, and let cool completely.  Filling may be made 1 day ahead, and refrigerated.

5.  When ready to assemble pies, preheat oven to 375º F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand 10 minutes at room temperature.  (If kitchen is warm, divide dough in half, working with one piece at a time, and refrigerating other half to prevent butter melting.)

6.  Liberally dust a work surface with flour.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough to desired thickness (a scant 1/8 inch thick), lifting and turning dough and dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking.  With a rolling cutter (such as a pizza cutter), cut squares of dough, about 4 inches on each side.  Place scrap trimmings to one side, to be re-kneaded and re-rolled only once.

7.  Place 1 generous tablespoon of filling in the center of each square.  Brush the edges of the dough lightly with egg wash, and fold the dough over the filling to make a triangle.  Using a fork, crimp the edges to seal.  Transfer each pie to the prepared baking sheet, lightly dusting off any excess flour.  Repeat with remaining crust and filling.

8.  Gently brush each pie with egg wash, and sprinkle liberally with coarse sugar.  If dough has softened, refrigerate tray of pies for at least 15 minutes before baking.

9.  Bake at 375º F for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool briefly on trays before removing to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

All photos by Cybelle Codish.  All styling by Taryn Bickley.

3 Comments

  1. Elisabeth, Greece
    June 11, 2010 at 2:51 AM

    Ok, I made the Chicken Hand Pies, with the only difference that I had to put bacon instead of chorizo. They were pretty darn good, everyone agreed that it was the best Chicken Pies they had ever had. But I will definitely try them soon with a spanish or italian spicy salami. As for the raisins I was in doubt but I decided to give it a go and I was glad I did because they added taste without being noticeable.
    Regarding the Mixed Berry Hand Pies, there is no such thing as shortening in my whereabouts, so I replaced it with butter. Blackberries are way too expensive as they come from abroad, so I used a combination of bananas and strawberries, a killer combination as it came to be. I just substituted pepper with cinnamon and they were incredibly tasty!
    Thanx so much, that was a lovely series of savory and sweet and the photos are very inspiring!

  2. Mimi
    June 15, 2010 at 5:34 PM

    Both pies sound scrumptious!!

  3. Barbara Duran
    July 23, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    I just found your site for the first time after seeing your link in the comments for Smitten Kitchen.

    I’m having fun reading through your archives and I have never seen more beautiful food photography than this.

    What a treat!

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