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

saffron, orange, and honey madeleines

Dear Laura,

It was so good to catch up last night! You picked a great day to come over, I’m sorry I stuffed you with pasta and madeleines and we didn’t have room for some waffles and ice cream. We’ll have to take a snow-check for those.

Howard’s parents gave me the little box of saffron – I remember Howard bringing it home and saying “my parents said you would know.” Because that felt like a challenge, I looked at the little clear box of spices and proudly said, “oh, saffron.” Winner!

I’ve never used saffron before and wasn’t even sure if we’ve ever tasted it out at restaurants, so I don’t know what the flavour profile is, it does smell really strong. I liked how you described it as “plastic-y.” I had these madeleine recipes bookmarked for a long time now, ever since I saw that I could finally use the saffron. The day before my parents gave me some oranges and I had bought pistachios from Costco, so there really was no excuse to not make these.

Saffron, Orange, and Honey Madeleines
Recipe from Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi
Makes about 20-22 large madeleines

90 grams unsalted butter, plus more, melted, for brushing
2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
¼ vanilla bean
2 large eggs
⅓ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2½ tablespoons shelled pistachio kernels

The recipe instructions are also online at Bon Appétit. So I’ll go over this in visuals:

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Combine the butter, saffron threads, and honey in a saucepan.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Cook on low heat until the butter and honey melt together. Give it a swirl or two. Then set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Using a food processor this time, add in the eggs, sugar, orange zest, and vanilla seeds. Pulse until combined. Then add in the dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, and salt.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Once combined, transfer it to a bowl or piping bag. Let the batter chill in the fridge for an hour.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Melt some butter and brush it on the madeleine pans. Then dust it with flour.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

If you saved the batter in a bowl, you can use a spoon to scoop dollops into the pan’s mold. Or you can snip off the tip of the piping bag and start squeezing the batter into the pan.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

The oven temperature in the cookbook asked for 400°F for 10 minutes. However, when I was on Facebook, it was like the algorithms knew I was using the Sweet cookbook. I found out after that it was an error. It should be 375°F for 10 minutes! That’s why my madeleines were such a dark brown on the bottom!! Although Howard really enjoyed that extra crunch.

When they’re done baking, gently nudge the cakes out of the mold and transfer to a cooling rack. Then brush honey on top for that shiny glaze.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

The honey also helps the crushed pistachios stick to them.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

And there you have it! I might have ground the pistachio a bit too much into a crumble compared to the photo in the cookbook. But it’s still delicious. There’s only four left in my kitchen this morning.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

I hope to see you soon and hear more about your house renovations. You know I love hearing about food, homes, and travel!

Sincerely,
Syl

pineapple cookies

Dear Naseem,

You’re back!! I hope you had a great time watching Groundhog Day and hopping all over New York City.

It finally happened, I used those pineapple cake molds with the attempt to make pineapple cakes! About time since I’ve been dreaming about it since February.

Here’s how it went down: I saw pineapples on sale at the grocery store and bought them. I pretended that I knew how to pick the ripe ones because they were all smelling so good. Went home to wash the metal molds again because I couldn’t remember if I cleaned them when they were gifted to me. Then I rolled up my sleeves to get to work.

Pineapple Cookies
Recipe adapted from Sweet
Makes 40 small rectangular tarts and excess pineapple filling

Pineapple Filling
2 pineapples
1¾ granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 whole star anise

Shortcrust Pastry
2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter
Zest from 1 lemon
1 large egg yolk
4 teaspoon water

Pineapple Filling:

  1. Peel, core, and chop the pineapple flesh into 2-inch cubes
  2. Place the cubed pineapples in a food processor and pulse until it becomes a purée.
  3. Pour the purée over a sieve to let our the excess juice. Save the juice to mix with a can of ginger ale – it makes for a great drink while you work!
  4. Place the pineapple purée in a large saucepan and add in the sugar, vanilla extract, and star anise. Turn the stove up to medium-low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium and stir every 3-5 minutes to avoid burning.
  5. Depending on the remaining juice content and heat of your stove, this can take up to 30-40 minutes before the purée starts to thicken and turn a golden colour. You’re not making a jam, so you have to keep cooking until the filling holds it shape when spooned.
  6. When it’s ready, turn off the heat and remove it from the stove top. Let it cool for about half an hour before transferring to an airtight container. Keep this in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the tarts.

Shortcrust Pastry:

  1. Using the food processor again, sift in the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add it in with the lemon zest. Pulse to mix in. Whisk the egg yolk and water together, add it to the mixture and pulse until the dough comes together.
  2. Take the dough out wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Let it chill in the fridge for an hour. Take out the dough half an hour before you’re ready to assemble.

Pineapple Cookies:

  1. Brush the molds with melted unsalted butter.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  3. Scoop the pineapple filling into a piping bag, set aside.
  4. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and roll out the pastry dough. Using the mold, stamp out the shapes and layer it on the bottom of each mold.
  5. Pipe a dollop of pineapple filling onto the center of each rectangle.
  6. Using the leftover pastry dough, repeat by stamping out the shape of the mold. Each sheet will be placed on top of the pineapple filling. Tuck in the sides as best you can so that it seals the filling in.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool before transferring it to a wire rack. Use a tong to pop the tarts out of the metal molds.

Pineapple Tarts

I somehow managed to get Howard to peel, core, and chop all the pineapple for me. I stood around waiting and snapped photos. There’s also something very satisfying about seeing a solid fruit get puréed into a beautiful sauce.

Pineapple Tarts

At this point, I did wonder if I should just pour this pineapple purée over some ice cream. Or look up a recipe for Dole Whip. But I soldiered on with the original plan.

Pineapple Tarts

Here’s the golden colour of the pineapple purée cooked for over half an hour. Wear comfy slippers or have a squishy kitchen mat while you stir this filling past the consistency of jam.

Pineapple Tarts

Alright, the filling is cooling in the fridge. Time to butter those molds so that the cookies pop right out.

Pineapple Tarts

I used one of the molds to cut out 40 rectangles and a bench scraper to help pick them up.

Pineapple Tarts

Here goes the bottom layer.

Pineapple Tarts

I used a piping bag since it would be easier to distribute each pineapple dollop onto the bottom layer of pastry.

Pineapple Tarts

I was pretty conservative as I didn’t want any to leak out – but of course, some did manage to escape after it was baked.

Pineapple Tarts

Okay, this again. Another 40 rectangles for the top layer.

Pineapple Tarts

I placed those gently on top and pushed down around the edges to seal the pineapple filling in.

Pineapple Tarts

When they were ready, I had them cool for a bit and used a tong to pop the cookies out of the hot metal molds. Then ate one while it was still hot – probably tasted the best then because who doesn’t love hot pockets?

They kind of look like Fig Newtons?

Pineapple Tarts

But after various taste-testers, I think the conclusion is that these aren’t pineapple cakes (my heart breaks), but they are amazing pineapple-filled cookies (my heart has hope again).

I think my least favourite part of this recipe is washing the molds after. Luckily, I only had to give them a quick scrub as they survived the dishwasher (just taking risks here and there).

I liked the filling but I’ll just have to find a different dough recipe for a more cake texture. I know we discussed maybe adding baking powder or baking soda? Although when you mentioned winter melon, I am intrigued on how to make the filling.

Also, this made a ton of filling, I could probably cut the recipe in half. Or enjoy the additional pineapple tart I would have to make each time.

Sincerely,
Syl