On the off chance that you're still trying to decide on a dessert for your holiday weekend gatherings, today I've got just the thing for you. It was only last summer that I baked with fresh cherries for the first time, making this cherry pie, and although it's fantastic, it's also a fair amount of work. These cherry hand pies are the perfect shortcut solution - when I saw the recipe in this month's issue of Bon Appetit I could barely wait to get in my kitchen and try them. You can make the pies with store-bought puff pastry, which eliminates the need to make pie dough. And let's face it, buttery, flaky puff pastry is irresistibly delicious. The homemade cherry filling comes together quickly too, and if fresh cherries aren't available, or are still a little pricey (as was the case for me), you can use frozen ones. Perhaps, what I love most about these pies, though, is how easily they can be transported. As much as I enjoy making desserts to share at parties, it can be stressful to transport them without also damaging them in the process. Need another reason to make these? No pie to slice or plates and forks to mess with at your party - grab a napkin and a pie and you're good to go :)
I reconfigured the original instructions just slightly so you could make this recipe using Pepperidge Farm's puff pastry, which I think is probably the most readily available (at least here in the US). If you're feeling adventurous and have some extra time, I do have a few recipes for homemade puff pastry on the blog (here (this one includes a step by step tutorial) and here). I used store-bought puff pastry this time and the pies were terrific - the combination of the fresh and dried cherries is delicious. I thought they were best the day I made them, but still really good on day 2 if you want to make them ahead. Cherries are one of my favorite summer fruits to bake with, so these pies are bound to be a repeat here in the next month or two!
Cherry Hand Pies
adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, July 2011
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted (or 12 oz frozen pitted cherries (don't thaw))
2/3 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lb puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg white (for egg wash)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and water. Add the fresh (or frozen) cherries, dried cherries, sugar, vanilla extract and salt to a large saucepan. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries release some of their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture, stirring to incorporate. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. When it reaches a boil, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally as it does. Meanwhile combine the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl, whisking to break up the egg white.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll one sheet of puff pastry to a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Use a sharp knife (or pizza cutter) to cut the dough into 4 equal rectangles, each measuring 5 x 6-inches. Working with one rectangle at a time, brush the edges with the egg wash. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of the cooled cherry filling on one side of the rectangle and fold the dough over the filling to make a 5x3-inch rectangle. Press to seal the edges then use a fork to crimp and seal. Use a sharp knife to cut a few slits in the top of the pie to vent. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling - you'll be able to make 8 pies total, when you finish the first 4, roll the second sheet of puff pastry and repeat.
Brush the pies with egg wash and sprinkle them with the sugar. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown and the filling is bubbling through the steam vents. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the pies cool for 10 minutes then remove the pies from the sheet to the rack to cool completely.
Makes 8 pies