I maintain that hand pies are the best dessert you can bring to a summer gathering. They’re portable, fit in the palm of your hand, don’t require plates or cutlery and are of course, delicious. They also have a solid crust to filling ratio for the pie crust fiends among us, which is just another point to add on the list of hand pie merits.
I’ve had a bag of five spice lingering in my cupboard since making my five spice carrot mini-bundts, and I had a small revelation while debating how to turn rhubarb into handheld deliciousness. Five spice is essentially a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns (with some powders containing ginger and/or nutmeg). Basically half or more of these spices find their way into my pies, so why not try all in one? In this recipe, I kept the five spice at a 1/2 teaspoon to let the tart rhubarb shine through, but you could go up to a teaspoon if you’re feeling spicy.
There’s a hint of cardamom in these as well, because to me rhubarb and cardamom go hand in hand.
So now that this sweltering summer is in full swing – expect to see many more hand pie posts coming up, because there’s nothing better than a glass of rosé in one hand with a hand pie in the other.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup butter (straight from the fridge, cut into 1 inch pieces)
- 1 cup cold water
- 1/4 cup vinegar (I use cider vinegar, mix it in the water)
- 5 cups chopped rhubarb (small enough to easily fit in hand pie)
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- Egg Wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tsp water)
- Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
To make the crust, mix together flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, “cut” in the butter. This means you’re almost mashing the butter into the flour with the blender, ensuring all butter is covered in flour until the butter pieces are about the size of peas or a bit bigger.
Then, splash in a bit of your water mixture (2-3 tablespoons) and mix it around with your hand. Continue to add a little at a time and mix and squish with your hand until a large dough ball forms. If you need to get a bit more binding, add a bit of water to your fingers to help it along. Don’t feel compelled to use all the water, mix it in until just combined and the dough is holding together. Cut the dough ball into two halves and flatten into disks. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Remove from fridge and let sit for 5-10 minutes so the dough doesn’t crack. Roll out each disk on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick (it will be about 12-13 inches in diameter).
Once rolled, use a 4 inch round cutter to cut dough into small rounds. I recommend re-rolling scraps once, and using the rest for dough cookies (side note: to make the cookies, sprinkle scraps with sugar and cinnamon and place in a 400F oven until golden, about 20 minutes). Refrigerate cut rounds for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Stir chopped rhubarb with sugar, spices, salt and arrowroot until evenly covered. Add lemon juice, vanilla and one egg and stir to combine.
To assemble, take a chilled dough round and brush the edge with egg wash. Using a fork (to avoid excess liquid), place about 2 tbsp of filling into the middle of the round (more or less could work, essentially it’s how much can fit while still easily sealing edges) and fold the round in half, gently sealing the edges. Once sealed, use a fork to crimp around the edge. You can also cut small vents in the middle if you like.
Place finished hand pies on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes to set. Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.