Meyer Lemon Hand Pies

March  1, 2023
3 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 6 hours
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • makes 8 hand pies
Author Notes

Whether you are in the throes of a seasonal malaise or simply hoping to ward off the germs swirling around you, consider the happy marriage of a hand pie and a hot toddy, joined together in one tidy half moon of pastry.

The hot toddy, a cold weather and common cold kicker go-to, is traditionally a mug of steaming hot water spiked with plenty of lemon and a kick of liquor. Whiskey, brandy, bourbon, and dark rum are all considered soothing for what ails you. And whether your preferred version leans on the coat-your-throat sweetness of honey or a perfectly portioned sugar cube, a warm beverage feels medicinally and psychologically beneficial, probably because it is. Researchers tell us that warm liquids—combined with citrus, fresh ginger, and a modest splash of certain liquors—serve as elixirs, soothing scratchy throats, stuffy noses, and body aches. These are not simply contemporary findings. Generations of cold sufferers have turned to the hot toddy for relief, among them Chicago-Irish humorist Finley Peter Dunne. In pondering the impact of whiskey back in the 1890s, Dunne claimed, “Whiskey doesn’t sustain life, but when taken hot with water, a lump [of] sugar, a piece [of] lemon peel, and just [a] dustin’ [of] a nutmeg-grater, it makes life sustainable.”

Fortunately you needn’t limit yourself to just a “piece of lemon peel” and there are plenty of warming spices to choose from beyond a “dustin’ of a nutmeg-grater.” Braving cold and flu season armed with an abundance of citrus softens the blow of biting temperatures and early sunsets. As you peruse the gravity-defying pyramids gracing your local market, be sure not to overlook the Meyer lemon. Thin-skinned and loaded with vitamin C, it boasts a flavor sunny and bright, but not brazen. Whether the sunshine emitted from the citron/pomelo hybrid is real or imagined, the perky fruit is ideally suited to hand pies, skin and all.

Slices of lemon elevate this handheld treat. Macerating thin slices of Meyer lemon in sugar yields a marmalade-like filling that is pleasantly assertive and made brighter with the addition of fresh ginger. Determined to create a drizzle without relying on a blizzard of powdered sugar took some doing. In the end, a simple reduction of honey with a few pats of butter, fresh lemon and a shot of my preferred tipple—bourbon—did the trick. On a blustery day, these just might soothe your psyche and your sniffles. They would also make a most welcome gift delivered (from a safe distance), to a pal feeling under the weather.
Ellen Gray

Test Kitchen Notes

The pie dough recipe yields two standard, 9-inch pie crustsFood52

What You'll Need
  • For the pie dough:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • 1 large egg
  • For the Meyer lemon filling:
  • 2 Meyer lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • For the sticky honey drizzle:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons whiskey, bourbon, or dark rum
  1. Macerate the lemons: Wash and dry the lemons; trim the ends. Using a sharp knife, slice the lemons paper-thin, (saving the juice) removing all seeds, and place the lemon slices and the juice in a non-reactive bowl with the sugar. Toss gently, cover with plastic wrap and let them sit for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. (There may be a few stray seeds that should float to the top after the sugar and lemons sit. Remove them.)
  2. Make the filling: In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and flour, then whisk that into the lemon/sugar mixture. Add the eggs, pinch of salt and combine thoroughly. Place the lemon filling in the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water. Cook the lemon filling until it becomes very thick- an instant-read thermometer should register 195°F. Transfer the lemon filling to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap pressed directly against the filling, and set the bowl aside to cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to fill the hand pies.
  3. Make the pie pastry: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter pieces to the dry ingredients, working the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal with some pea-size pieces of butter. Combine the lemon juice with the cold water. Drizzle the lemon juice/water over the flour mixture, one tablespoon at a time, tossing to distribute the water. In total you will use no more than ½ cup of liquid, probably less. The dough is ready when it is shaggy and will hold its shape when gently pressed together. Gather the dough together and divide it in half equally. Shape each half into a disc and wrap each disc individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one for at least an hour (and up to two days) before rolling out.
  4. Assemble the hand pies: Place the lemon filling in the freezer while you roll out the dough. (This makes it firmer/easier to portion.) Remove the dough from the fridge and let it soften slightly (about 10 minutes) so it is easier to roll. On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll each piece of the dough in a large circle to a thickness of about ⅛-inch. Use a cookie cutter (or the lid of a plastic container or even an overturned bowl) measuring 4 inches to cut out eight circles. (Scraps can be pieced together if needed.) Place the circles on a parchment-lined sheet tray, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while working with the rest of the dough.
  5. Make the egg wash by whisking together one egg with one teaspoon of water. Retrieve the pastry circles from the fridge and the lemon filling from the freezer. Place one heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of each circle. Brush the edges of each circle with the egg wash. Fold over the top, and pinch the edges together securely. Continue filling and sealing the hand pies. (Any leftover filling should be enjoyed by the baker.) Place each hand pie back on the sheet tray and either crimp the edges decoratively or use a fork to seal them. (Make sure they are well sealed to prevent the filling from leaking out.) Use a small paring knife or a fork to poke three small steam vents in the top of each pie then brush with egg wash. Place the baking sheet with the pies in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before baking or preferably (if you have room) freeze them for 15 minutes.
  6. Bake the hand pies: Heat the oven to 400°F. Retrieve the hand pies from the fridge (or freezer) and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool before transferring to a cooling rack.
  7. Make the sticky honey drizzle: In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add honey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add lemon juice and simmer for 3 minutes, just until thickened. Remove from heat, add spirit of choice and set aside. (If the drizzle gets too solid before using, heat it very briefly over low heat.) Use a fork or a piping bag to apply the sticky honey drizzle. Let the drizzle set before storing them in an airtight container. Hand pies can sit out at room temperature for up to two days. Beyond that, refrigerate or freeze.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Karen Anderson
    Karen Anderson
  • Smaug
  • Ellen Gray
    Ellen Gray

8 Reviews

Karen A. April 9, 2023
Looks great but when does the ginger go in? With the egg and salt?
Ellen G. April 9, 2023
Yes, Karen- add the fresh ginger with the eggs and salt to the filling. Thanks!
Smaug March 27, 2023
Anything for science- I made another batch of these, and tried a couple of things. I found that they bake very well right out of the freezer- useful since, like all pastries, they're best very fresh. I preheated to 425, dropped to 375 when I put the pies in and baked for 25 min. I used a countertop convection oven, which is a bit individualistic in how it bakes, but something along these lines should work; probably add 25 deg. in a standard oven.
One pie I bollixed completely when I folded it over, and got filling out near the edge; I didn't think it would seal properly so I opened it out and repurposed it as a tiny galette (as noted below I was making them a bit larger and trimming after I filled them, so I had about a 5 1/2" circle). I was a bit leery of having the filling exposed in the oven, but it came out very well.
Smaug March 5, 2023
This is a good recipe. I liked the crust recipe for this purpose, but eggs being in short supply I rolled my own (sour cream, rum, nutmeg). I'm a recent convert to cooking citrus curds stovetop; it's a little nerve racking, but much faster than a double boiler.
This one came together well; whether you like the bitter pith or not (I'm kind of on the fence) I don't think it would set solid enough for this without it. I rolled the dough a bit larger (around 5" circles); there was plenty of filling for that. I finished with a simple brush on glaze of confectioner's sugar (about 1 tsp. per pie) moistened with lemon juice.
Smaug March 10, 2023
ps- I weighed a few Meyer lemons at the store and they were around 4oz., and I used that as a standard; homegrown lemons are pretty variable. It might be a good idea to chop up the lemon slices some- long strands of peel can pull quite a bit of filling out of the pies when eating.
Ellen G. March 10, 2023
Thanks so much for the update, Smaug. Yes, about the lemon slices, they are more substantial than chopped lemons. Truth is the recipe was tested both ways and in the end, I opted for slices over pieces because I love finding an entire slice of lemon in the hand pie. It's like a little prize amidst the curd and pastry. Either way, either size, Meyer lemons are such a treat.
Smaug March 10, 2023
Actually I have a bit of an overbite that can make biting through thin things difficult; it might just be my problem with the long strands.
Smaug March 1, 2023
Obviously derived from Shaker lemon pie, which I could never get close to; maybe the Meyer lemons would work better for flavor, though less pectin. I'd stick with nutmeg or mace over ginger, by the way, just as a matter of taste. Citrus ancestry is complex and mostly unrecorded, but this is the first I've heard of citron/pomelo as the parents for Meyer lemons- they're usually regarded as a lemon/mandarin cross.