nectarine hand-pies

Dear Howard,

It has become the year of pies and hand-pies. Sure, you might say they’re turnovers or strudels, but hand-pies are so much cuter. Who knew I would churn out more than 50 of these this year only to be gobbled up by the masses? I think the hand-pie obsession is real.

Thank goodness I had extra pie dough lying around that night and decided to make peach-apple hand-pies on a whim. I think that is still my favourite filling combo, but I’m sure we’ll find another soon. These remind me of the McDonald pies, except these are flakier and not as sweet.

Nectarine Hand-Pies
All-butter pie crust recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes about 25 hand-pies

1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ apple cider vinegar
1 cup cold water

  1. As you know, I like to use my trusty food processor for its speed. Plus, it evenly distributes the butter into small specks among the flour, creating a nice marble effect.
  2. Add the sugar and salt into the food processor. Then cut up the cold butter and scatter them around the bowl. Pour in the flour and then pulse until the mixture is grainy and sandy looking.
  3. In a measuring cup, pour in the apple cider vinegar and cold water.
  4. Turn on the food processor again and through the opening, add 10 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar and water mixture.
  5. The dough should come together nicely and feel a little (a tiny bit) tacky or sticky. I prefer the dough this way because additional flour gets added during the rolling process.
  6. Divide the dough into two flat discs and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

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Hand-Pie Filling
Makes enough for about 25 hand-pies

6 to 7 nectarines, diced into small chunks (1 pound or 3 cups)
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons potato starch
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Mix the nectarines, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together. Let it macerate for half an hour to an hour and pour out the excess juices.
  2. Then mix in the potato starch and salt to help thicken the filling.

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Making hand-pies is a lot like making dumplings. I rolled out the dough and used a 4-inch circle cutter to create all the round wrappers. Then scooped about a tablespoon of filling into the middle. Then with a dab of water around the edges, sealed the fruit filling in.

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Using the tines of a fork, I pressed down along the border to further seal the edges.

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Isn’t it cute? A pie that fits in the palm of my hands! Using a knife, I made three small cuts to let the steam vent when it bakes.

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Brush the top of the hand-pies with an egg wash.

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And sprinkle on the brown Demerara sugar. The more you add, the more crunchy it’ll be!

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Preheat the oven to 400°F and place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake for half an hour, the hand-pies should be golden brown.

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Let the pies cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Eat with your hands.

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This is seriously the best baked good we’ve discovered this year. I can’t wait for summer next year to eat all the peaches and nectarines again!

Sincerely,
Syl

nectarine and blueberry pie

Dear Kurt,

It’s been a summer of pies! Sorry to have ruined grocery-store pies for you. But now I know why I never liked pies before, the store bought ones have such awful crusts! This summer was a big turning point for me. I used to pick cake over pie, but now I’m very much in the pie camp as well. Here’s one of the many pies that I managed to document this summer. The nectarines can also be swapped out for peaches in this case.

Nectarine and Blueberry Pie
All-butter pie crust recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes one 9-inch pie (double crust)

1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ apple cider vinegar
1 cup cold water

  1. You can make the pie dough by hand, but I like to use my trusty food processor for its speed. Plus, it evenly distributes the butter into small specks among the flour.
  2. Add the sugar and salt into the food processor. Then cut up the cold butter and scatter them around the bowl. Pour in the flour and then pulse until the mixture is grainy and sandy looking.
  3. In a measuring cup, pour in the apple cider vinegar and cold water.
  4. Turn on the food processor again and through the opening, add 10 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar and water mixture.
  5. The dough should come together nicely and feel a little (a tiny bit) tacky or sticky. I prefer the dough this way because additional flour gets added during the rolling process.
  6. Divide the dough into two flat discs and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

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Pie Filling
Filling recipe from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

7 nectarines, diced (1 pound or 3 cups)
2 cups of blueberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons potato starch
½ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Combine the nectarines, blueberries, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and lemon juice together. I like to let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour for the excess juice to come out. I’ll pour out the majority, but keep a quarter of the juices. Then add the potato starch, ground allspice, ground cloves, and salt. Give it a good mix.

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Pie Assembly Time

Unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1 large egg
Brown Demerara sugar

  1. Butter the pie pan and let it chill in the fridge. When you’re ready to roll the pie dough, take one out of the fridge and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Remember, you don’t want it too warm, but just pliable enough to roll.
  2. Dust a surface and rolling pin with flour (about 1 tablespoon). Roll the dough out to about a 11 or 12-inch circle to take into account the pan’s height. Having dough hanging off the edge of the pan is okay. At this point, if you think the dough is getting too soft, pop it back in the fridge.
  3. After covering the bottom of your pan with the dough, pour in the nectarines and blueberries. Let it chill in the fridge and take out the second disc of dough to work on the pie lattice. This is also a good time to start preheating your oven to 425°F, make sure to position the oven racks to the bottom and center positions.
  4. Again, dust a flat surface and rolling pin with flour (another 1 tablespoon). Roll the dough out and cut them into strips or whatever shaped design you’d like.
  5. I made a bunch of long rectangle strips and did a simple twist braid going vertically. And no braids going horizontally. Don’t trim off the excess yet!
  6. To make the border, roll in all the excess dough hanging off the edge. You’ll soon have a nice thick circumference that can be crimped into a wave. Again, if the dough starts to feel warm, pop it back in the fridge, especially if your oven hasn’t finished preheating yet!
  7. Once your oven indicates that it’s ready, take the pie out of the fridge. Scramble the egg in a small bowl and brush it over the dough. Careful not to draw out any of the fruit if your lattice top has huge gaps.
  8. Then sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top, it should stick to the egg wash.
  9. Place the pie on a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  10. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F and move the pie on the baking sheet to the center oven rack. Continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The pie is ready when the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
  11. Take the pie out and let it cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours. Serve at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

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Weaving a lattice for the pie.

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Rolling in the excess dough to form a crimp.

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Use your thumb to push out the dough to crimp out the edges.

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Tah-dah!

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Of course, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 😉

Sincerely,
Sylvia

paprika peach pie

Dear Howard,

Another pie! This time, the crust surprised us by being incredibly flaky like puff pastry. Was it the wide lattice? Was it because I added more liquid to the dough than the previous pie? Was it the addition of Demerara sugar? We’ll never know because I’m never consistent! Sorry, but at least each pie we have is a surprise.

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Paprika Peach Pie
All-butter pie crust recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes one 9-inch pie (double crust)

1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ apple cider vinegar
1 cup cold water

  1. Add the sugar and salt into the food processor. Then cube the cold butter and scatter them around the bowl. Pour in the flour and then pulse until the mixture is grainy and sandy looking.
  2. In a measuring cup, pour in the apple cider vinegar and cold water.
  3. Turn on the food processor again and through the opening, add 10 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar and water mixture.
  4. The dough should come together nicely and feel a little (a tiny bit) tacky or sticky. I prefer the dough this way because additional flour gets added during the rolling process.
  5. Divide the dough into two flat discs and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  6. Take one of the discs out to roll out to make the pie shell. Keep refrigerated as you prepare the pie filling.

Pie Filling
Filling recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

2½ pounds peaches (5 cups, which is about 7 peaches)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
⅔ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons potato starch
1 tablespoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt

  1. First thing to note, I omitted the Old Fashion bitters from the original recipe.
  2. Peel the peaches, they’re best when ripe. I made this pie twice and the first time, the peaches were still a bit too firm. Then cut the peaches into cubes or slices (I prefer cubes for pie fillings).
  3. In a bowl, add the peaches, lemon juice, sugar, brown sugar, paprika, white pepper, allspice, ginger, and salt. Let it macerate for an hour.
  4. Remove majority of the excess juice and save about a quarter cup. Add in the potato starch and mix to thicken the filling.

Pie Assembly Time

Unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoon flour
1 large egg, whisked
Brown Demerara sugar

  1. This is also a good time to start preheating your oven to 425°F, make sure to position the oven racks to the bottom and center positions. Butter the pie pan and chill in the fridge.
  2. Dust a flat surface and rolling pin with flour (about a tablespoon). Roll the dough out to about an 11 or 12-inch circle to create the pie shell. Let the excess dough hang off the edge.
  3. Pour the filling in the pie shell and refrigerate.
  4. Dust the surface and rolling pin with flour again (the remaining tablespoon). Cut into strips or shapes depending on your design. Place on top of the filling in the pie shell.
  5. To make the border, roll in all the excess dough hanging off the edge. You’ll soon have a nice thick circumference that can be crimped into a wave. Refrigerate the pie if the oven is still not at the right temperature.
  6. Once your oven indicates that it’s ready, take the pie out of the fridge. Scramble the egg in a small bowl and brush it over the dough. Careful not to draw out any of the peach filling out if your lattice top has huge gaps.
  7. Then sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top, it should stick to the egg wash.
  8. Place the pie on a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F and move the pie on the baking sheet to the center oven rack. Continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The pie is ready when the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
  10. Take the pie out and let it cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours. Serve at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

This is one showstopping pie. I love these unexpected sweet and savoury pie combinations!

Sincerely,
Syl

PS: #NotSponsored I just really love this cookbook! The dough is so easy to use and all the recipes have been delicious.

strawberry balsamic pie

Dear Howard,

I finally joined the Food52 Baking Club on facebook. Why? Because they were using The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book for the month of July and it’s a cookbook that we actually own! It was so nice to see a forum where everyone was baking from the same recipes and sharing success stories and handing out tips where things didn’t work.

With all the strawberries in stores these days, I wanted to give the Strawberry Balsamic Pie a try. I was intrigued by the combination of sweet strawberries with tart balsamic vinegar, plus the book says it’s one of their most popular pies in the shop.

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Strawberry Balsamic Pie
All-butter pie crust recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes one 9-inch pie (double crust)

1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ apple cider vinegar
1 cup cold water

  1. You can make the pie dough by hand, but I like to use my trusty food processor for its speed. Plus, it evenly distributes the butter into small specks among the flour.
  2. Add the sugar and salt into the food processor. Then cut up the cold butter and scatter them around the bowl. Pour in the flour and then pulse until the mixture is grainy and sandy looking.
  3. In a measuring cup, pour in the apple cider vinegar and cold water.
  4. Turn on the food processor again and through the opening, add 10 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar and water mixture.
  5. The dough should come together nicely and feel a little (a tiny bit) tacky or sticky. I prefer the dough this way because additional flour gets added during the rolling process.
  6. Divide the dough into two flat discs and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  7. Take one of the discs out to roll out to make the pie shell. Keep refrigerated as you prepare the pie filling.

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Pie Filling
Filling recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

¼ cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 pounds fresh strawberries, diced (5 to 6 cups)
1 small ambrosia apple
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¾ packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 grinds fresh black pepper
½ teaspoon salt

  1. First thing to note, I omitted the Angostura bitters and ground arrowroot (used cornstarch instead) from the original recipe.
  2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar over the diced strawberries and let it macerate at room temperature. I left it out for 2 hours.
  3. Peel the apple and then grate it it. Drain the strawberries from their excess juices and combine with the shredded apples. Mix in the balsamic vinegar.
  4. In another bowl, mix the ¼ cup of sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, black pepper, and salt together. Add this sugar mixture to the strawberry and apples. Pour it into the pie shell. Refrigerate as you work on the lattice top.

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Pie Assembly Time

Unsalted butter
1 large egg, whisked
Brown Demerara sugar (I didn’t have, so my photos are missing this)

  1. This is also a good time to start preheating your oven to 425°F, make sure to position the oven racks to the bottom and center positions. Butter the pie pan and chill in the fridge.
  2. Again, dust a flat surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out and cut them into strips or whatever shaped design you’d like.
  3. To make the border, roll in all the excess dough hanging off the edge. You’ll soon have a nice thick circumference that can be crimped into a wave. Again, if the dough starts to feel warm, pop it back in the fridge, especially if your oven hasn’t finished preheating yet!
  4. Once your oven indicates that it’s ready, take the pie out of the fridge. Scramble the egg in a small bowl and brush it over the dough. Careful not to draw out any of the strawberry filling if your lattice top has huge gaps.
  5. Then sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top, it should stick to the egg wash.
  6. Place the pie on a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F and move the pie on the baking sheet to the center oven rack. Continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The pie is ready when the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
  8. Take the pie out and let it cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours. Serve at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

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Despite letting the strawberries sit for two hours, a bunch of juice bubbled out of this pie. Luckily the border was high enough that nothing spilled onto the baking sheet or oven. This smelled so good, it was really hard waiting the couple of hours for the pie to cool and set.

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It was of course worth the wait. I served it without mentioning the balsamic to see if anyone would pick up on it. It’s pretty subtle, but I think I like this sweet and savoury combination because it doesn’t scream balsamic vinegar. Looking forward to the next strawberry season when I can buy bushel of strawberries for this pie!

Sincerely,
Syl

totoro pear pie

Dear Steph,

Yay! It’s one of our favourite weeks of the year – Totoro Week! I still remember the first year you hosted it, I was making a big fuss at home (poor Howard couldn’t stop hearing me squee with delight) and showing everyone the photos online: You have to see this! Then again, it happens year round whenever I see Totoro toast, eggs, bento boxes, buns, pancakes, and tarts. I really do love how Totoro translates into food so well.

This year I was looking back on your posts to see what the exact week would be when you sent us a little reminder. I quickly told Howard to purchase me a Totoro cookie cutter using his PayPal account and proceeded to bug him for two weeks: Has it shipped? Is it here yet? Will it arrive by Friday?

Alas, it did not arrive last Friday so I am without Totoro cookies. I did try making your Totoro-in-a-hole with a pairing knife. But it’s just not the same.

My next attempt were Totoro Pineapple Buns or bo lo bao. But I totally screwed up the cookie topping. Using measuring cups versus a scale makes such a big difference. I knew there was too much flour . . . but I’ll try them again as the buns were deliciously fluffy.

So my last minute attempt are these Totoro Pies. I had purchased a box of large pears against Howard’s advice and still haven’t made any pear tarts or cakes with them yet. So this seemed like the perfect opportunity to pair my determination to create something for Totoro week.

Totoro Pie

Pie Crust

For three 4″ double-crust pies and one 8″ pie shell

500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
4 ml (3/4 teaspoons) salt
250 ml (1 cup) all-vegetable shortening
1 egg
30ml (2 tablespoons) cold water
15 ml (1 tablespoon) white vinegar

  1. Place the flour, salt, and shortening in a food processor and pulse until the flour is course and resembles a coarse crumb.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water, and vinegar. Pour into the flour mixture and pulse until the dough is combined.
  3. Divide the dough in half and flatten both into a disc. Cover the two discs of dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour (or overnight).

Totoro Pie

Pear Filling
Makes enough for three 4″ double-crust pies and one 8″ pie shell

5 Bosc pears
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon lemon zest

  1. Peel and dice the pears into small chunks, place in mixing bowl.
  2. Add in the sugar, salt, flour, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Mix well with the pear.

Totoro Pie

Pear Pie Assembly

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 egg yolk

  1. Take out one of the pie dough discs out of the fridge and roll out so that it’s one inch bigger than your pie tin. Carefully transfer the dough into the pie tins, pat the dough down to fit along the edges, and trim off any excess dough. When making multiple pies, keep the ones that are done in the fridge to keep the dough cold at all times.
  2. Prick the base of the pie dough with a fork.
  3. Scoop in the pear filling until it reaches the top.
  4. Place tiny bits of butter on top of the pear filling.
  5. Take out the second pie dough disc from the fridge.
  6. For Catbus pie: roll out the dough and use a large cookie cutter to trim the dough for the top (if you’re making mini pies). Knead the dough scraps together and roll out flat again and use cookie cutters or a knife to cut out the eyes, mouth, and nose.
  7. For Soot spirit pie: roll out the dough and use a knife to cut out long strips. Trim to about an inch long and start laying them on top of the pear filling. Continue until the entire top is covered. Take the remaining dough scraps and roll it together again and use a cookie cutter to create the eyes.
  8. For Totoro pie: roll out the dough and use a large circle cookie cutter that will cover the top of your pie. Trim out the circle. Then about halfway on the circle, use that same cookie cutter to divide it into two pieces. Place the top half over the pie filling. Using a knife, cut out upside down V-shapes on the bottom half. Remove the excess dough and then place Totoro’s belly over the remaining pie filling. Gather up the leftover dough scraps and roll it together again and when flattened, use a cookie cutter to create the eyes and nose.
  9. Brush the top of the pies with the egg yolk.
  10. Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake for 20 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the pies cool in the remaining heat for another 15 minutes before taking them out.

Totoro Pie
If you like apple pie, chances are you’ll like pear pie! You can also use nutmeg instead of cinnamon if you prefer.

Totoro Pie
Normally when working with larger pies, I roll the dough on a silicone mat or plastic wrap to help make the transfer to the pie tin easier. But since these were mini pies, a spatula was able to get under there and help lift the dough and prevent tears.

Totoro Pie
Giving the mini pies a good seal.

Totoro Pie
Catbus! I used a knife to cut in some whiskers and for steam to escape when the pie bakes.

Totoro Pie
My lil soot spirit pie!

Totoro Pie
Before they go in the oven, brush the dough with egg yolk.

Totoro Pie

Totoro Pie

Totoro Pie

I was lucky enough to go to the Donguri Republic store in Hong Kong earlier this year. I got that cute lil soot spirit, a watering can, and the fork (which is part of a utensil set that includes a spoon and chop sticks). AND I got my photo taken in the Catbus, it was the happiest day of my trip!

Sincerely,
Syl