Today is a special day: Julia’s birthday!
Julia has been my best friend since freshman year of college and has probably been the biggest culinary influence on me over these past 11 years. We initially bonded over sharing our closets but soon discovered our mutual love of food (which is really the key to any lasting relationship). Over the years we have made some incredible meals together and gone on many great foodie adventures both locally and abroad (most recently to Bimini). We know how to push each other’s buttons and may occasionally fight like an old married couple, but in the kitchen we are a harmonious team. While I do help out with cooking dinner, my main task is usually dessert. This year for her birthday, I decided to stray from the usual cupcake/cake route and instead came up with a new original recipe.
I have had a fascination with miniature things ever since I was younger. I remember, as a child, going to our yearly local fair “Longmeadow Days”, and enviously eyeing the doll houses and miniature accessories. I never did get a doll house but my fascination with things in miniature form persisted, especially when it comes to food! For some reason mini cupcakes or even baby brussel sprouts or zucchini just taste better than their regular sized counterparts, not to mention that they are super cute. So this weekend, when I spied the first of the local strawberries at my neighborhood Whole Paycheck (I mean Whole Foods), I decided to create mini strawberry pies aka strawberry hand pies! These adorable little hand pies have a slightly higher crust to filling ratio than regular pie, which I actually prefer (I seem to remember a mini food fight at a restaurant with Julia over pie crust). Paired with Julia’s homemade vanilla custard ice cream (made with eggs from her chickens, aka “chicky boos”), it was the perfect birthday celebration dessert. Happy birthday Julia!
Click below for the recipe.
Strawberry Hand Pies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water
Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.
3 cups hulled strawberries, cut into fourths
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch
1 1/2 tablespoon water
Add strawberries, sugar and lemon to a medium saucepan. Scrape vanilla seeds into the strawberries and then add the bean. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture breaks down and starts to liquefy, about 7-10 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean. Mix corn starch and water together and then add to the strawberry mixture. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool completely (may be done in the refrigerator).
1 egg, beaten
Sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one ball of dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well floured surface. Use a 2.5-3 inch cookie cutter to cut out circles for the pie. You should have about 10 circles depending on the size of the cookie cutter. Place these, evenly spaced, on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spoon some of the strawberry mixture into the center of the circle. Be careful not to place too much strawberry filling or the pies will overflow when the top is placed.
Brush the beaten egg around the edges. Roll out the second ball of dough and cut out the same number of pie circles. Cut a hole in the middle and then make several slits in the pie circle to vent the pie while cooking. Place this circle of dough over the strawberry filling and use a fork to crimp the pie edges together. Brush the tops with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking racks. Enjoy!