Now, that it’s cherry season (finally), I’ve been eating sweet cherries like it’s going out of style. But besides snacking incessantly on the somewhat ridiculous amount of Door County sweet cherries currently residing in my kitchen, last weekend I picked up some beautiful, bright red sour cherries. I figured some pie making was in order. And not just regular old pie. Hand pies. Because there’s something super awesome about having your own tiny pie all to yourself. Something very awesome indeed.
And a tiny pie bursting with sour cherry goodness is about as good as it gets. You could probably even get away with eating one of these for breakfast (it’s full of fruit, so it’s basically healthy, right?). But I still haven’t gotten to the best part yet. The part that has to do with my latest pie crust epiphany. Are you ready? Okay here goes.
Let me explain a couple of things about pie crust. I realize you all are probably nowhere near as big of a food nerd as I am, but bear with me. The thing about a good pie crust is that you want it to be as tender and flaky as possible. I think that’s something we can all agree on. The enemy of a tender, flaky crust is gluten. Gluten is the product of two partial proteins present in wheat flour, which forms when water is added to the flour. Gluten is what makes that nice loaf of bread you’re eating deliciously chewy, but in pie crust we want to avoid gluten to keep things nice and tender. Somewhat recently, some genius discovered that if you replace some of the water in your pie crust with vodka, you end up with a more tender crust. It makes perfect sense - less water, less hydration, less gluten formation, and the alcohol bakes off in the oven, leaving you with one deliciously tender crust. Genius.
Well, obviously I had to give this a try. Also obviously, I decided to take it a step further. Vodka is a great choice to add to your dough if you’re looking for a nice, neutral flavor. But if we were to add, say, brandy instead, well what then? Not only would it have the same wonderful effect as vodka, but now we’d have an extra delicious brandy-flavored crust; a perfect compliment to that delightful cherry filling. So there you go. As if you needed a reason to make sour cherry hand pies even more awesome. You’re welcome.
Sour Cherry Hand Pies with Brandy Crust
makes 6 pies
Yes, pitting cherries is a huge pain. I usually don’t recommend buying single use kitchen gadgets, but a cherry pitter is going to save you loads of time and energy here. You’ll be thankful you have one.
- 1 ¼ cups flour
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, very cold
- 1 oz very cold water
- 1 oz brandy
filling and assembly:
- 1 heaping pint sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ Tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water
1. Measure flour and salt into a bowl. Being careful to handle the butter as little as possible, cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the flour. Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until the pieces are small (about the size of a pea) and the mixture has a grainy texture.
2. Add the water and brandy, mixing until the dough is all incorporated into a ball. If dough is still very sticky, add a bit more flour a little at a time, until dough is workable. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15-20 minutes before working with it further.
3. Mix cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in bowl until cherries are evenly coated.
4. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. On a floured surface, roll out your dough into an approximately 12 x 15 inch rectangle. Cut into six 5 x 6 inch rectangles. Brush edges of each piece of dough with water.
6. Divide cherry mixture evenly between the six dough pieces, fold dough over, and seal edges tightly by crimping with a fork. Transfer pies to parchment lined baking sheet.
7. Cut a couple of small slits in the top of each pie with a very sharp knife. Brush the top of each pie with beaten egg/water mixture, then sprinkle with sugar (raw or turbinado sugar works great for this).
8. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until pies are golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool slightly, then devour.