For those of you who have been wondering why you saw so many pictures of pie earlier this week on your social media accounts: March 14 represents the first few numbers of numerical Pi—3.14. So a national holiday is born, a day devoted (in the food world) especially for Pie! This year, I was going out of town the following day (as I am writing to you now from Boston), and I really should have been packing and cleaning our apartment; but how could I pass up this wonderful, yearly excuse to make pie?
I had several granny smith apples hanging around the fruit bowl that needed to be eaten before our trip, but the idea of apple pie just didn’t really excite me. Once again I was inspired by my mom and particularly her “spicy raisin dessert,” and I decided to try these rum raisin and apple hand pies.
*Disclaimer: I made enough filling here for a whole pie, but really, much less filling fits into these hand pies as would into a whole pie. I thought about adapting the measurements, but the leftover filling is so great. I ended up giving my leftover filling to my mom to use, and she sautéed it and served it with latkes—yes, I know, it’s not December and latke season is past. Oh well.
This was my first experiment making hand pies, and boy were they a success! The crust here is so incredibly flaky (due to the combo of shortening and butter), yet they are wonderfully durable (successfully tested in our early morning travels to Boston). Let’s just say I won’t be waiting until next Pi[e] day to make these little toasty babies again!
Pastry Dough (yields 2 full pie crusts)
adapted from The Joy of Cooking
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
9 tbsp chilled shortening
6 tbsp cup cold unsalted butter
Cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry blender (or 2 knives) or work it in lightly with the tips of your fingers until the dough has the consistency of small peas. Sprinkle the dough with:
6 tbsp ice-cold water
Blend the water gently into the dough until it just holds together. Note: You may not use all the water, or you may need more depending on the temp. of your butter/shortening or the humidity.
Divide the dough in half, shape each into a disk collecting all the pieces together. Note: Dough can be made a day ahead and kept wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator or kept in the freezer for up to two weeks. If frozen, take out of the freezer to thaw before using.
On a floured surface, roll the dough from the center out in all directions. To keep the dough in a circular shape, each stroke should be a quarter-turn or so from the one that preceded it. Flip the disk over every few passes and re-flour the surface to keep from sticking to the surface or tearing. As if you were making a pie crust, roll the dough into a circle roughly 3 to 4 inches larger than your pan. This is the desired thickness.
Using a round cutter of about 6 inches (I used a Tupperware lid), cut out as many circles as you can out of the dough. You should get at least 4 cutouts from your first roll. Roll out your dough again and repeat until you have worked through both disks of dough. You should get at least 14 disks, enough to make 7 hand pies of this size.
Filling: (yields enough filling for 1 pie)
1 cup raisins
Dark spiced rum
6 medium apples (Use firm apples, good for baking. I prefer granny smith)
¾ cup sugar
1 lemon juiced
½ tsp cinnamon
2 ½ tbsp flour
In a small bowl, submerge the raisins in rum until just covering the tops of the raisins. Let soak for 1-1 ½ hours.
After about an hour of letting the raisins soak, peel and core apples. Dice into small pieces.
In a large bowl, toss apples with sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Add the raisins to the apple mixture with about 2 tablespoons of the leftover rum liquid. Mix until well dispersed. Add the flour and coat evenly.
1 egg + 1 tbsp water beaten
Preheat oven to 375. Roll half of the cut-out circles out a little bit thinner. These will be the “tops” for you hand pies, and they should be larger so they can fit around the filling.
Place a heaping spoonful of filing in the center of the “bottom,” smaller crusts. You may need to use your fingers to help arrange the filling. Using your finger or a pastry brush, brush the edge of the bottom crust, around the filling, with water. Place a larger “top” crust over the filling. Press the edge of the top crust gently around the edges into the bottom crust until sealed all the way around. Using a fork, go around the edge once more pressing the tip of the fork around the edge to “crimp” the edges.
Once all your pies are assembled, transfer to lined baking sheets. Lightly egg coat each pie with egg wash using a pastry brush. Using a sharp knife, cut a ventilation hole into the top crust. You can be creative with your design. If desired, sprinkle the tops lightly with raw sugar for a crunchy and pretty topping.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and the liquid is bubbling out of the top vents of the pies. (If for some reason your pies turn golden before the filling is cooked, cover the sheet lightly with aluminum foil to keep the crust from getting too dark.)