Monday, February 2, 2015

Make-Ahead Hand Pies

Yes, I know that I could buy frozen puff pastry - or pie crust in a box. Lots of people do. What if I want a homemade all-butter laminated dough that I could just pull out of the fridge to use in all kinds of creative ways?

Donna Currie showed me how in her book Make-Ahead-Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt in Your Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day. It's not just about breads (though the ones in there are absolutely fantastic!) - no, Donna ventures into pizza, English muffins, and, yes, all-butter laminated pastry that's actually easy to do.

I took Donna's cherry turnovers in a different direction, making little hand pies with homemade jam. Use a jam or fruit spread that's full of fruit, preferably homemade and not super-sweet, and you'll be very happy with the result.

Make-Ahead Hand Pies
by Maurita
Adapted from Cherry Turnovers in Make-Ahead-Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt in Your Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day by Donna Currie
Will make 18 little hand pies

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk, plus more as needed
1 large egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
1/2 cup (2 ounces) almond meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks butter, cold (1 salted, 1 unsalted)
Jam - about half a jar in your choice of flavour, best if homemade and not too sweet
Egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water)
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

On prep day 1 - mix it all together:

Put the yeast, milk, egg, sugar, and extracts in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, then set aside.

Put the flour, almond meal, and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to distribute the salt. Cut the butter into a few pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse until the butter pieces are no larger than a lima bean. It’s fine if some pieces (or most of them) are smaller.

Add the flour-butter mixture to the bowl with the liquid. Stir gently until combined. The mixture should be wet, so don’t worry if it seems loose. If it’s not a wet mixture or if you see dry spots in the flour, drizzle in more milk, 1 Tablespoon at a time, to moisten the dough. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

On prep day 2 - roll and fold, then back in the fridge:

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. It will still be sticky. Flour the top of the dough, then pat it into a rough square. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to about 18 inches square, though the shape doesn't matter so much. The point is to flatten the bits of butter that will make the buttery, flaky layers, but you don’t want the butter to soften so much that it starts to mix with the flour, so work as quickly as possible. Flour your work surface and the top of the dough as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

Take the left third of the dough and fold it over the middle, then fold the right side over the middle, like you would fold a letter. Use a dough scraper under the dough to help lift it and fold it over. It’s fine if the dough is sloppy and wants to break apart. Now, fold the top third down over the middle, then fold the bottom third up. You should have a fat square of dough.

Roll this fat square of dough to about 16 inches square, then fold following the same process as above. This time the dough should be easier to roll and fold.

Roll out the dough to 16 inches square one more time and fold as before. If at any time during the roll-and-fold process you feel that the butter is getting soft and squishy, put the dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so to firm up the butter—you don’t want it to mix with the flour.

After three repeats of rolling and folding, flour the fat dough square, wrap it in plastic, and put it in a clean zip-top plastic bag. Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

On baking day - roll the dough, bake the pies:

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, divide it in half, and re-wrap half and return to the refrigerator – you will work with only half the dough at a time.

Flour your work surface and roll the dough to 12 inches square. Cut the dough into three 4-inch rows, both horizontally and vertically, so you end up with 9 even squares (each about 4 x 4 inches.)

Spoon a generous teaspoon of the jam into the center of each square. Put some water in a small bowl and use your finger or a pastry brush to lightly moisten the edges of the squares. Fold each square into a triangle—you’ll need to stretch the dough a bit to cover the filling. Press a fork along the joined edges of the pastry to help seal it. Place the filled pastries on the prepared baking sheet, leaving an inch or so of space between them to rise. Continue making hand pies with the second half of the dough and the rest of the pie filling, or leave the dough refrigerated for another day.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400°F. After 20 to 30 minutes, the dough won’t seem to have risen, but it should feel puffy rather than firm.

Remove the plastic, brush the top of the turnovers with egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Use a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears to snip a few slits in the top of the pastries. Bake the hand pies until they’re nicely browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful with hot little pies - that jam can burn your mouth! Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.

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