I love French pastries. I also love the American classic: the hand pie. There is something completely accessible and imperfectly noble about a pie you can grab in one hand, ready to go for a road trip, picnic, teddy bear tea party, or adventuresome hike. We expect little of the hand pie other than that it be tasty.
This recipe is based off a more sophisticated classic tart, below we'll go over how to make the cozy hand pie version, and then also the dressed up one.
7oz Almond Paste (this is unsweetened, if using Marzipan - or sweetened almond paste, omit the sugar completely)
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons softened butter
3 eggs (1 egg and 1 yolk for the almond cream, 1 egg saved for an egg wash)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
zest of one lemon
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
add ons: apricot or cherry jam (I love the fruit only jams by Crofter's, they're not cloyingly sweet and super flavorful), fresh fruit (apricots, strawberries, pitted cherries etc..), bittersweet dark chocolate - if you are into chocolate covered marzipans, you'll want to go here.
* For the Hand Pies
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Toss all the ingredients except for the pastry and add-ons into your food processor and wiz until smooth.
Roll out your puff pastry sheet into an 11 1/2-inch square on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, then brush off excess flour from both sides. Cut out small circles or squares, about the size of your hand for the hand pies. I use our crumpet circle, yet a large biscuit cutter would work, as does a large mason jar lid (as seen in the above picture). Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
You'll want enough circles or squares to have even tops and bottoms, about 10 give or take the size. If you have an odd number though, these are hand pies, simple is key. You can just make a half circle one, or an open face tart, no one will mind.
Place a small mound of the almond cream in the center of each bottom portion and then your toppings: either cut up fruit, or a small dollop of jam, or bit of chocolate.
Beat remaining egg with a fork and use as glue to bind the top to the bottom and to brush some over top for a shiny top.
Bake in the lower third of oven until puffed and pale golden, about 15 minutes. You'll want to allow them to cool a bit as the filling becomes quite hot. They are delicious served warm with a cup of tea, or tucked into container as a picnic snack.
*To make the fancier version, you'll only need 1/2 the almond cream. You can either halve the recipe for the almond cream, or make it as is and then store the almond cream in the fridge and use it to stuff french toast with or as a filling for crepes. It will need to be filled then baked off in the over for either use at 350 for about 10-15 min as if does have raw egg in it.
Make the almond cream (1/2 or full portion) as above. Roll out one sheet of pastry into a large circle. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Mound the almond cream in the center - traditionally its plain, just the almond cream for the filling, although if you wanted to scatter some fresh pitted cherries or bits of apricot that would be lovely. Leave about a 1/2 in border for the binding. Roll out the second sheet of puff pastry to a large circle, I just use a large tart pan circle for the guide. Brush this with the egg wash and then you get to become a decorator. Usually the top crust is detailed with knife work, scoring the pastry with wispy whimsical lines, using the scraps to cut out flowers or leaves or hearts or birds, whatever your pleasure. Chill the fancy top once decorated for 20 min, this just helps the pastry become one again after being fiddled with. Using the remaining egg wash bind the top to the bottom. Bake in a preheated oven (450) for 15-20 min, until it is puffed up and golden brown. Allow to cool for 20 min, slice and serve. This is excellent as a brunch "dessert," tea treat, or a not too sweet dinner dessert too.
This hand pie was inspired by my mother and my best friend. My mom spent a bit of time in France growing up and her favorite dessert is a simple apricot tart: puff pastry, rolled thin, with apricots sliced on top, barely a dusting of sugar over them, into a hot over until the pastry was browned, then finished with an apricot jam glaze. We'd make puff pastry by the pounds at the start of the season and tuck it into our freezer just so that throughout the summer we could pull out a block, defrost it, and make a classic fresh fruit tart. Here, we use store bought freezer pastry, yet puff pastry isn't hard to make. It requires time, a day of time and patience, otherwise its only flour and butter. If you have the time I encourage you to try it someday. When I was about 7/8 yrs old I started, at that age it was magically fun. Whenever I have a fresh apricot or apricot jam and puff pastry I think of my mom.
My best friend, Amanda, and I arrived in Laramie, WY from different parts of the country, both energetic, passionate teachers, each starting anew. As such we went to bucket loads of trainings together and although we are kindred spirits at heart, in truth I think our friendship at times is a credit to simply the fact that we spent LOTS of time together, engaged with work that we both completely loved. Whatever differences we had, became helpful and light, treasured almost for they helped the other one out, whatever commonalities, became our glue, and we reached a point of just understanding and loving and deeply respecting the other through all the intensities and happy joys. I think about with people, how many of us, if we simply were given a task we both loved, and oodles of time together engaging in that common goal ... we'd realize we likely have far more in common than not, and we'd see how much we grow by simply being fully present, giving and taking, together. That and sharing in food.
When you're a teacher and used to inhaling your lunch while prepping and returning phone calls during a five minute period, one of the most exciting parts of any professional development day is your actual lunch break. After almost of decade of doing this together, we had our's down. We'd go to Jeffrey's and split a black bean cheddar burger with extra avocado, then we'd hop down to the Chocolate Cellar and get a few chocolate covered apricots, chocolate covered marzipans, and her favorite: honeycomb. Then a few shops further down we'd grab a coffee as extra insurance for whatever the afternoon had in store. If you ever find yourself in Laramie, WY I highly recommend following suit. Jeffery's is on the corner of Ivinson St and 2nd, start there, and yes, order that burger, it's exceptional, then make your way from 2nd to 1st street along Ivinson, the coffee shop is also a fabulous used book store: Night Heron.