As the year winds down, gift-giving season arrives. There is nothing better than homemade treats made with love, packaged beautifully, and given to dear ones to ooh and ahh over. Perhaps most importantly, to also gleefully devour. This year feels especially relevant to drop off love-you-can-eat to your dears. These glittery hand pies are perfect: They are darling and structured, timeless yet still surprising. They're like the myriad jolly cookies of the season, but with a bit extra to offer. They're fruit-filled, similar to the festive sufganiyot, but which travel slightly easier.
As for the filling: If like me, you have a few jars of beautiful but yet-unused preserves staring at you from the pantry or fridge, this is the way to give them their best life. I make compotes and preserves during warmer months, but often when I make them, I want to do more than simply spread them onto toast. You can make these hand pies using any preserves, but I recommend that you choose a kind that isn’t too sweet, such as these made with sour cherry, or blueberry, blackberry, lingonberry, or cranberry.
Added to the sour cherry preserves is orange zest and Contratto, to deepen the overall flavor. Contratto is Aperol’s grown-up, earthier sister. It's composed of a blend of herbs, spices, fruits, roots, and seeds, all infused into a brandy base spirit. It is equally great for holiday tipples as it is added to these treats.
In the end, you’ll have a tough time figuring out which the star here is: the flaky, sparkly-sugared pastry, or the just-sweet preserve filling. If you can't decide, give them to friends to help you. If you plan to mail the pies, send them priority, wrapped in paper (not plastic) the day you bake, so the buttery layers retain their flaky crumb. —Melina Hammer
- Prep time 5 hours 10 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- makes 18 to 20 hand pies
- For the dough
1 1/4 cups
1 1/4 cups
sticks unsalted butter, cubed and freezer-cold
apple cider vinegar
- For the filling and to finish the pies
1 1/2 cups
cherry compote or preserves
Contratto or other earthy orange liqueur
freshly grated nutmeg
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
large egg, beaten and mixed with 1 tablespoon water or milk for egg wash
- In a glass measuring cup, combine water and vinegar together, and add a few ice cubes.
- To a large mixing bowl, add the all-purpose flour, rye flour, salt, and sugar and stir to combine. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter, just until pea-sized bits remain. Add the egg and cut in to incorporate. Drizzle the vinegar-water mixture a little at a time, cutting the liquid into the dough, pausing to check and see if dough holds together when squeezed between your fingers. Use only as much liquid as is needed for the dough to come together without crumbling.
- Alternatively, pulse together dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor to combine. Add the butter and pulse at intervals, until pea-sized bits form. Add the egg and pulse. Run the processor at intervals while drizzling the vinegar-water mixture, until a cohesive dough forms. As you would in the pastry blender method, test by squeezing a clump between your fingers.
- Divide dough evenly onto two segments of plastic or bees wrap. Use the wrap as a barrier to limit how much you handle the dough: Hold opposite ends and press to form the dough into a mass. Flatten it into a disc, wrap securely, and repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate pastry for at least 20 minutes to allow the dough to relax. This step can be done up to 3 days in advance.
- In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for the filling and stir until uniform.
- Remove pastry from the refrigerator 15 minutes before attempting to work it. Roll pastry to 1/8-inch thick. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut discs into the pastry, dipping the cutter into flour in between and tapping off any excess flour as you go. Combine scraps and re-roll until you’re left with no more dough (you should get about 40 rounds).
- Spoon tablespoons of the fruit mixture into the center of half the pastry discs (about 20).
- Working one at a time, wet the periphery of each un-filled disk with your index finger, then secure onto the preserve-topped base. Work from opposite sides to gently seal the entire edge, using the flat of your fingers.
- With a fork, crimp the edge of each hand pie, overlapping one tine as you work around the circumference. It helps to dip the tines into flour between each round so they don’t stick as you work. If the pastry drags at any point, chill for 10 minutes in the refrigerator and then continue where you left off.
- Chill the filled and crimped pies for 20 minutes. With a sharp paring knife, score an “X” into the center of each pie for venting. Paint each pie with eggwash and sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Freeze the pies for 4 hours and as long as overnight.
- When you're ready to bake the hand pies, heat oven to 400ºF.
- Arrange hand pies on two parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pans and swap racks for the last 5 to 10 minutes, or until pies are deeply golden. It is okay if preserves leak—think of it as a fruit leather cook’s treat.
- Once the pies are baked, cool them on wire racks for 15 to 20 minutes. They'll be ready to eat or wrap for gifting.