Fruit pie season and beach season coincide, but it's not easy to enjoy them simultaneously. To do so, you have to find a place in your beach bag for a pie server, plates and forks. Once you unpack the necessary equipment onto your towel, you must take extra care when slicing, unless you enjoy a sprinkling of sand on your strawberry-rhubarb.
Does that mean you should skip the pie and stick to items like cookies and brownies that can be served straight from a Tupperware container when baking for the beach? Not if you know how to bake the fruit pie's little cousin, the hand pie.
Hand pies are small circles of pie dough, filled with fruit, folded over, and baked so the fruit is completely enclosed. With this shape, there's no need for a server, plates or forks. A bonus: While the bottom crust of a juicy fruit pie gets damp and soggy, the top and bottom crusts of a hand pie stay flaky and crisp due to the favorable crust-to-fruit ratio.
It is easy to adapt your favorite fruit pie recipe to make hand pies. Start with pie dough, enough to make a double-crust pie. Roll it out, and reroll the scraps, and you should be able to get a dozen 5-inch circles of dough. Fill each one with fruit pie filling. I like berries because they're easy. There's no peeling, pitting or chopping. Fold half of the dough over the filling and seal the edges closed with the prongs of a fork to give your pies that adorable, old-fashioned look. Then brush with some heavy cream to give them some shine, and sprinkle with sugar for extra crunch and sweetness. A few slits cut into the tops of the pies allow steam from the filling to escape during baking.
All the rules of working with pie dough apply when making hand pies. Make sure your dough is well chilled so it won't stick to your countertop. Try to roll it out efficiently. The fewer passes with the rolling pin, the more tender the crust. If the dough becomes soft and warm while you are rolling it out, put it back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up before continuing. And be sure to freeze your pies for 15 minutes before putting them in the oven, since chilled dough will bake up flakier than warm dough, which may spread.
One of the best things about hand pies: If you need only four or six for the beach, you can freeze the rest before baking. Place any extra pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, then slide them into a zipper-lock bag and freeze completely for up to two weeks. Bake them straight from the freezer (they may take a few minutes longer than a fresh batch).
BERRY HAND PIES
Use your favorite pie dough recipe. You'll need enough dough for a double-crust pie. Or buy pie dough at the supermarket. You'll need about 1¼ pounds.
2½ cups blueberries and/or raspberries, rinsed and picked over
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch ground cinnamon
1¼ pounds (enough for a double crust) pie dough, chilled
¼ cup heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine berries, vanilla, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and let stand, stirring occasionally and mashing a small number of berries with the back of a spoon, until sugar is dissolved.
2. On a lightly floured countertop, roll out dough to ?-inch thickness. Use a 5-inch round bread-and- butter plate as a guide to cut as many circles as you can from dough, then transfer to prepared baking sheet and lightly sprinkle with flour. Reroll and cut the scraps.
3. Working with one circle at a time, place 2 heaping tablespoons of filling on one half of circle, leaving a ½-inch border. Fold dough over berries. Use tines of fork to seal edges. Repeat with remaining dough circles and filling.
4. Space the pies at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Use a sharp paring knife to cut 3 (½-inch) vents in the top of each one. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Freeze for 15 minutes. (At this point, you can slide the hand pies into a zipper-lock bag and freeze them for up to 2 weeks before proceeding.)
5. Bake the pies until golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 12 hand pies.