Hand pies are more an American confection than a European one, and I haven’t really come across them too much. I can now see why hand pies are so ingenious though. Everyone gets an even portion, so no fighting over the biggest slice. It’s also a lot less messy, with none of that precious sticky filling oozing all over the place. They are perfect and portable, and way more fun than a big pie. I recently went to High 5 Pie in Seattle and was wowed by a most delicious cherry hand pie. It was not too sweet, tart even with the flakiest butter pastry imaginable. So, I decided to make my own version of this cherry hand pie with a little twist. I decided to make mine smaller, as I like the idea of them being almost bite size. I wanted to add something in with the cherries, some flavor to complement them. I did a flavor test and mixed the cherry filling with a couple of different spices – first cinnamon, then I tried it with nutmeg and finally some fennel. The cinnamon was predictably delicious. The nutmeg was surprising and reminded me of mince pie filling and Christmas. The fennel however was a revelation. It made the cherries taste extra cherry like. That aniseed flavor managed to inject something special into the cherries. It was the clear winner, so I made my cherry hand pies with fennel. When they came out of the oven, I devoured one whole. The pastry, cherry and fennel tasted like a cherry frangipane pie. For some reason cherry and fennel tastes of almond! If you can’t eat nuts but crave that almond flavor, these pies are perfect for you. They are incredibly moreish and one is never enough.
• 200g of all purpose flour
• 100g of butter, cut into cubes
• 2 / 3 tablespoons of water
• 200g of fresh cherries – pitted and halved
• 2 tablespoons of water
• 3 tablespoons of sugar
• ½ tablespoon of cornstarch
• Lemon juice, to taste
• 1 teaspoon of finely ground fennel
• 1 tablespoon of sugar
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. For the pastry, sieve the flour into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add just enough water to bring the crumbs into pastry dough. Gather the pastry into a ball with your hand. Wrap the ball of pastry in cling wrap and leave in the fridge to rest for at least an hour. Meanwhile, put the pitted and halved cherries into a medium saucepan with the water, sugar and cornstarch. Cook for a few minutes over a medium heat, until the cherries soften and release their juices. Add lemon juice to taste and the ground fennel. Cook for a few seconds and take off the heat. Allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 F/ 200 C. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface until it as about 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out circles of pastry using a cookie cutter that is about 4 inches in diameter. Place the circles of pastry onto the sheet of parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pastry circles with egg wash. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of the cherry compote into the center of each pastry circle. Fold the pastry circles in half and gently squeeze the edges together. Once you have made all the mini hand pies, gently press a fork around the edges of the pies to seal them. Brush the pies with more egg wash and sprinkle some sugar on top. Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce a small vent in the center of each of the pies. Place the pies in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. They should be golden brown, on top and bottom when they are fully cooked. Serve with some crème fraiche. I like them best, when they are warm and straight from the oven.