Hand pies are just perfect for this time of year. No fork or plate required —a variety of fresh seasonal fruit available — picnics and barbecues happening. Another great thing is that you can make up a big bunch on a cooler day and freeze them. Personally, I would bake them before freezing so they are ready on short notice but nothing says you have to.
Years ago, hand pies were primarily made with reconstituted dried fruit since fresh fruit is often to juicy to encase it with delicate pastry. Now, a blend of dried and fresh fruit with the help of thickeners can yield a balanced mixture of flavors and textures.
There seems to be various successful ways to go with your pastry from the traditional pie crust to a more biscuit-type pastry. One thing I found that helps to avoid having a ‘gummy’ inside is rolling your dough fairly thin.
When it comes to the filling, I always have the urge to overfill pies, be it full or hand size. Getting it right sure helps to keep them from splitting and leaking.
Hand pies have primarily been deep fried in past but my preference is to bake them. I guess I’ll just never be a deep fried lover of anything. These makes such a nice seasonal combo!
Blackberry-Peach Hand Pies
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. With fingertips, cut in cold butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring cup, whisk together water, egg & vinegar. Make a well in dry mixture & pour wet mixture into it all at once. With hands, mix until JUST combined. Roll out pastry & cut 8 - 6-inch circles with a pastry cutter. Lay pastry circles on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to fill.
In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & salt. Stir in blackberries & peaches. Cook over medium heat until mixture has thicken, about 6-8 minutes. Add vanilla & allow to cool COMPLETELY. In a cup, beat egg with water for the egg wash topping. Set aside
Preheat oven to 375 F. When fruit has cooled, remove pastry from fridge & divide filling between pastry circles. Try to keep the filling in the center, away from the outer edges. Brush a line of egg wash over pastry edge then fold hand pie in half. Use a fork to press the pastry layers together forming a seal to keep fruit from leaking. With a sharp knife, cut 3 vents in each pie.
Brush the tops with egg wash & sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
- Frozen puff pastry can easily be substituted for regular pastry if you wish.
- If you wish, use a hand pie cutter for easy assembly.
It’s that wonderful time of year when there is an abundance of fresh fruit available so why not make the most of it?! Peaches are a favorite of mine, not only because of their great taste but they have such versatility in their uses. Just for something different today, I want to take the peach idea in a whole different direction. These beautiful, old fashioned pastries were very popular in the 1980’s. They are known for their unique look that resembles a fresh peach with a flavor that is delicately sweet and buttery. Traditionally served at Italian wedding showers, Pesche (or peach), are now served at any celebration and may be found throughout many countries in Europe.
Peach cookies are two cookie domes, carved on the inside and paired together to hold a dollop of custard. Once assembled, they are dipped in Alchermes, a crimson colored liqueur infused with a blend of anise flowers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, jasmine, mace, nutmeg, orange peel, sugar and vanilla. These ingredients are stepped in alcohol, which is then flavored with rose water. Alchermes gives these pastries a vibrant pink hue and a unique, light alcohol flavor that combines custard and cookie beautifully. To further enhance the peach resemblance, they are rolled in a sanding sugar.
Alchermes is a very ancient liqueur of Arabic origin. It’s main feature is an unmistakable scarlet color, which was originally acquired by adding ‘kermes’, a scale insect that eat oak trees. Modern alchermes liqueurs no longer use the kermes insect. Alchermes was created in the Frati’ Convent at Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy.
These peach cookies are an impressive dessert, perfect for special summer occasions. You can use any filling you choose such as a pastry cream, lemon curd, limoncello or just plain nutella spread. Since it is almost impossible to find the alchermes liqueur in Canada, I’ve listed a few substitutes that can be used instead.
Peach Cookies or Pesche
In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients; stir in reserved crumbs. Spoon into center holes of cookies & press together to form a peach.
In a shallow bowl, combine lemon & peach gelatin powder. Place package of strawberry gelatin in another bowl. Place sugar in a third bowl.
Working with one cookie at a time, spritz cookie with a bit of water. Dip in lemon mixture, then in strawberry gelatin & then in sugar. Spritz with additional water & add more gelatin as needed to create desired 'peach blush' effect. Place on a wire rack to dry for an hour. Attach mint leaves to top of each cookie with additional preserves. Store in refrigerator.
- Alchermes can be substituted for a peach liqueur or Chambord raspberry liqueur. For my peach cookies, I kept it simple & used a combination of jello powders to replicate the traditional idea.
This is a Canadian berry pie, originating from the Maritime provinces that is made up of at least three kinds of berries. Since there is no such thing as a ‘bumble berry’, as the name suggests, its a mixture of berries that are in season (ones that you might bumble upon).
Berries commonly used in this pie may include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Other choices often used are apples, rhubarb, cherries, plums or fresh cranberries.
Most often the pie is made with a top crust of pastry or designs cut out and laid over the fruit. Other ideas would be to use a nice streusal topping or as I have done on mine, grated pastry sprinkled with coarse sugar.
This is such a great summer dessert served, of course, with ice cream!
Bumble Berry Pie
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a measuring cup, place the egg & vinegar then add enough COLD water to make 1 cup; whisk together. Make a well in center of flour & pour ALL liquid in. With hands combine quickly but do NOT over mix. This recipe will should give you enough for about 3 - double crust 10-inch pies. Whatever you don't use, freeze for later use. This is so handy when time is short & dessert is needed. At this time, roll out a 10-inch bottom pie shell, place in pie pan & refrigerate until ready to fill. Take the same amount of pastry, form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap & place it in the freezer. When you are ready for the top pastry on your bumble berry pie, remove the ball from the freezer & GRATE it over the top of the fruit.
In a large bowl, combine fruit. In another dish, whisk together sugar, flour, cornstarch & cinnamon. Gently toss into fruit mixture along with lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place filling into chilled pie shell, using the large holes on a box grater, grate the ball of pastry (from freezer) directly over the fruit, as you would a block of cheese. Using a fork, gently move the gratings here & there for an even covering. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake pie on center rack for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F. rotating pie for even baking. Bake about 25-30 minutes more or until to is golden brown & juices are bubbly & thick around the edge. Remove from oven. Serve warm with ice cream.
- Never hesitate to vary the fruit you choose for this pie. Remember, its whatever you 'bumble' upon!
Grinding pepper over our savory meals is very much the ‘norm’, but when you add it to sweet desserts it preforms a strange chemistry, especially against a mellow backdrop of vanilla.
Adding flavor to cuisines of all nations, black pepper is the most widely produced and popular spice in the world. Pound for pound, it is also the least expensive spice.
Contrary to popular belief, pepper is not intended to be used like salt. Although, it holds a special spot right beside the salt on our dinner tables, it is not a flavor enhancer but rather a spice.
There is a distinct and undeniable earthiness to the flavor of black pepper, one that is biting, hot, piney, pungent, woody and sharp all at the same time.
Using pepper in baked goods or sprinkling it on fresh fruit is not exactly a new idea. Gingerbread and pfeffernuse have long been spiced with pepper. No matter how you use black pepper, its a spice of grand proportions.
These ‘pepper’ cookies are real handy since you can freeze them and ‘slice & bake’ when needed. The flavor combo is exceptional.
Lemon Pepper Shortbread Cookies
In a bowl, cream butter, sugar & vanilla until light & creamy.
In another bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, lemon zest & spices.
Add the dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Combine only until incorporated. Turn dough out onto a work surface & divide in half. Roll each portion into a log about 1 1/2-inch in diameter. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap & refrigerate until firm ... at least 2 hours or freeze until needed.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the plastic wrap & slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Place on baking sheet & bake for 6 minutes, rotate pan & continue baking for an additional 6 minutes. The edges of the cookies will be firm, but the tops will be soft. Cool on a wire rack.
This fruited bread is unlike any other oatmeal bread. It has the sweet tartness of kumquats, healthy oatmeal and flax, dried fruit, nuts, honey and applesauce all in one loaf.
Oatmeal bread is very nostalgic for me. Although it wasn’t one of the breads in my mother’s weekly rotation, when she did make it, it was heavenly. I’m not sure if her recipe was one she had developed or if it came from another source.
Often when it comes to choosing a recipe, we find inspiration on the packaging of our basic pantry staples. One of the most iconic brands to feature recipes like this was Quaker Oats. Their first recipe for oatmeal bread appeared in 1886. It made two loaves of sandwich bread. Somewhere along the way, they kicked it up a notch, featuring a ‘fruited oatmeal bread’ recipe.
This kumquat oatmeal bread uses baking powder as opposed to yeast for anyone with a yeast intolerance. I think you will agree, it has an amazing flavor if you get a chance to make some.
Kumquat Oatmeal Bread
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan & set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, flax meal & oats. Add kumquat puree, honey, applesauce, eggs, vanilla, nuts & fruit. Pour into greased loaf pan.
Bake for 40 - 45 minutes; don't over bake. Cool in pan for 5 minutes on cooling rack. Loosen around edges; remove from pan & cool a bit more.
Barley has always been a grain I have enjoyed. I love the nutty flavor as well as the texture. Not only a good choice in soups and entrees, but perfect when ground into flour for baked goods. Barley has a weaker gluten than wheat flour, however, so it may not rise as well as recipes made with wheat flour. As a result, barley flour is usually mixed with wheat flour when baking yeast breads.
Italian prune plums have a prolific but short season. In early fall, about the same time as we see the first yellow leaves arrive on the trees, prune plums appear in the grocery stores. Then, just like that, they disappear when the pumpkins arrive. Because prune plums are firmer and less juicy than other plums, they keep their shape when used in tarts, pies or cakes. Roasting them in coconut oil for this recipe brought out their intense flavor and beautiful rich burgundy color.
Thanks to its neutral flavor, refined coconut oil makes a fantastic replacement for shortening, butter, margarine or vegetable oil. It produced a rich, tender scone that was complimented by the use of barley flour and the Italian prune plums.
Barley Scones with Roasted Prune Plums
Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss the plum wedges with the coconut oil, maple syrup & spices. Lay them out on a parchment lined baking sheet & roast until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Adjust oven heat to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt & spices. Add maple syrup (agave nectar), coconut oil, vanilla & syrup from roasted plums. Stir until a dry batter forms; add the hot water & stir ONLY until flour is absorbed. Gently form into a disk shape.
Place dough onto the parchment paper & press out into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 6 wedges. Divide roasted plums among the wedges, placing on top & slightly pressing into dough. Drizzle with any remaining syrup. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar if you wish.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they test done. Remove from oven & re-cut wedges. Cool scones slightly on a wire rack before serving.
Created on the island of Jamaica, hummingbird cake was named after the islands national bird, the Red-billed Streamer-tail. These birds are members of the hummingbird family and are only found in Jamaica.
The cake typically has two or three layers with pecans, bananas, crushed pineapple, cinnamon and a cream cheese frosting. Most probably both cake and its name originated as a Jamaican marketing ploy. After Air Jamaica was established in October 1968, the new company chose this beloved hummingbird as its logo. Shortly thereafter, the Jamaica Tourist Board distributed ‘press kits’ to the foreign media. They showcased various ‘local’ dishes, focusing on American consumers, and was intended to attract American visitors to the island.
There are several theories about the origin of the cake’s name. One is that the cake is so delicious it makes you hum with happiness while another is that it is sweet enough for hummingbirds. Yet another theory is that people hover around the cake similar to the way hummingbirds hover around flowers. Foodtimeline.org notes that perhaps it was named after the way the cake draws people in and is eaten quickly similar to the eating pattern of those energetic little fliers.
Unlike traditional banana cakes, the bananas in hummingbird cake are usually left in pieces rather than mashed, providing texture and bursts of flavor along with the pineapple and nuts.
I am making an adaption of the hummingbird cake but using zucchini instead of bananas and drizzling it with a lemon glaze. I’ve also noticed a few other variations that sound real good. One was with grated sweet potato and roasted bananas as well as a rhubarb one — Yum!
Zucchini 'Hummingbird' Squares with Lemon Drizzle
Shred zucchini into a bowl & add 2 Tbsp sugar; stir to combine. Scrape zucchini into a mesh strainer, set over bowl, allowing zucchini to drain for about half an hour. Press to squeeze out excess juice, then place mixture onto paper towels & squeeze to get out as much moisture as you can.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter & flour a loaf pan ( or mini squares pan); set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Toss in walnuts & candied peel. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, eggs, yogurt, butter, lemon juice, vanilla, drained pineapple & zucchini. Fold the wet mixture into dry ingredients, just until moistened. Scrape the batter into loaf pan, making sure to smooth the top of batter.
Bake for about 50-55 minutes for loaf (25-30 for minis), or until batter tests done when toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool slightly before drizzling with glaze.
In a bowl, combine powdered sugar & lemon juice, mixing until smooth. Spoon over warm squares allowing drizzle to set up before (cutting &) serving.
A wide variety of fruit has be used to make pie, from crisp apples to juicy berries or tender stone fruit. Tropical fruit, not as commonly used, can make amazing additions to pie filling creations. One such combo is papaya and mango.
Once considered exotic, papaya can now be purchased pretty much throughout the year. A very versatile fruit which contains enzymes that help in tenderizing meat as well as using it in salads, puddings, yogurt, chutney etc. For the sweetest flavor, select a papaya with a yellowish-orange skin that yields to the touch. Green papaya can be peeled like a carrot. It is similar to winter squash and can be baked or barbecued in the same fashion.
Mangoes have a rich sweetness with an aromatic floral note that isn’t present in many other fruits. As well as holding their shape during baking, mangoes become extremely tender, which makes them an excellent choice for pie filling.
Regardless of what type of pie your eating, the general consensus is that it should have a base made of some kind of pastry. When people first began cooking food in ovens there was little to protect the filling from searing heat. As a result, juices would fizzle out and everything would burn rather quickly. As a solution, dough was used to protect the filling. The dough or pastry absorbed the juices, making the entire case and filling a dish in itself. Since then, many complex forms and fillings have evolved in the world of pie making.
My objective today, was to create a ‘tropical’ pie. I had picked up a papaya as well as a couple of pears on my last shopping trip. I already had some mango chunks in the freezer. I thought pears would compliment the papaya and mango well. Between the fruit and spice combos, the flavor was just incredible. I think I ‘nailed it’!
Papaya, Mango & Pear Pie
Prepare pastry if making from 'scratch'. Line a 8-9-inch pie pan.
Peel & core papaya, mango & pear. Cut & dice into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine fruit with lemon zest & juice. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch, sugar, spices & salt. Carefully mix 3/4 of dry mixture with fruit reserving remainder for later.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Pour filling into pastry lined pie dish. Sprinkle with the rest of dry mixture & dot with butter. Roll out pastry for top crust. Make into design of choice or just place over pie; pinch top & bottom together to form a seal & cut 'vents'. Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with sugar.
Place in oven & bake for about 10-15 minutes to bake bottom crust somewhat then reduce heat to 375 F. & bake another 30 minutes or until golden brown & filling is bubbling.