Two Years Ago: Grilled Cheese with Pesto, Spinach and Avocado
It's still fresh cherry season so I wanted to post one more way to use them besides chicken with fresh cherry salsa, or wild rice salad. I've always been a fan of hand pies because although normal people probably view them as individual desserts, I view them as breakfast pastries. Since I do eat breakfast and typically don't eat dessert, that line of reasoning puts them squarely in my wheelhouse. (That line of reasoning also could be called the height of rationalization, but we won't mention that part.)
Although stemming and pitting fresh cherries takes a few minutes, I actually find it sort of soothing. While I was pitting the cherries I thought about the giant community garden The Lawyer and I used to rent on a yearly basis and how much work it was, but how much it taught me to respect fresh and beautiful fruits and vegetables in all their forms. (Growing up as a city kid I took it for granted that produce just magically appeared in the grocery store without any thought regarding the process up to that point.) I thought about the fact that some grower in Washington state went to all the work not only to grow these gorgeous cherries for me (well, along with a few other people I'm sure) but took the time and effort to become organically certified. Taking the time and effort to use these fresh cherries is one way of honoring the grower and the fruit. (Gag, did I really say that? Too much pitting time, obviously.)
Anyway, the process thereafter is simplified by using premade pie crusts. (If you have strong feelings about homemade pie crusts, by all means have at it.) There are a few refrigerator chilling interludes, however, so you might want to think about when to start the hand pies if you want them for breakfast. I would suggest assembling them the day prior, then covering and refrigerating them overnight. Then all you have to do is bake them the next morning.
First you make the cherry filling.
Then you roll each pie crust out to make it slightly larger, cut the crusts into four wedges each, and assemble the hand pies (there's a 30 minute refrigerator stop in there also).
After assembling, they sit in the refrigerator 10 more minutes before brushing with egg, sprinkling with sugar, and baking. After assembly you could either refrigerator or freeze the hand pies to bake later.
They're not too sweet and the whole cherries in the filling make them special.
Cherry Hand Pies
4 cups pitted fresh cherries (from 1 ¼ lb whole cherries)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Juice of ½ lemon
2 refrigerated pie crusts, thawed according to directions
1 large egg yolk
Coarse (sparkling) sugar for garnish, optional
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, sugar and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolved and liquid begins to simmer, about 8 minutes. Remove a few spoonfuls of liquid and place in a small bowl, then whisk in cornstarch and lemon juice. Pour cornstarch mixture back in saucepan and continue cooking and stirring until thickened, about 8 minutes more. Pour into a heat-proof bowl and let stand until cool, about 1 hour. (Note: the filling may be made a day in advance and refrigerated covered until ready to use.)
On a lightly floured surface, unroll pie dough and roll out to a 14” round; repeat with remaining dough. Quarter each round to make 8 equal wedges total. Stack wedges between sheets of parchment paper and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375d.
Preheat oven to 375d.
Arrange 1 wedge of dough on a work surface next to a small bowl of water. Spoon ¼ cup of cherry filling (drained of most juices) into the center of the wedge, leaving a 1 ½ inch border all around. Run a damp finger around the border, then carefully fold dough in half, lining up edges and pressing gently to seal. Crimp edges with a fork, then transfer to a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining wedges and filling. Transfer baking sheet to refrigerator; chill about 10 minutes.
Beat egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pies with the egg mixture, then make two ¾” slits in each. Sprinkle pies with coarse sugar and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.
Note: after brushing with egg mixture and sprinkling with sugar, the assembled pies may be refrigerated or frozen prior to baking. Baking time may need to be increased slightly. If frozen, thawing before baking tends to produce more even browning.