fat free opinions on a food centric life

Sweet Heart Pies

My husband rarely calls me by my given name — a boy’s name my mother decided upon after she heard a woman in a grocery store call her dog.  A big dog.  I’ve always thought it would be a great name for a dog since they’re more like people than animals anyway.  It was going to be Deborah, like so many of the girls born then.  Deborah Ruth, I think, after my mother’s mother.

No, my husband has instead come up with quite a few other loving endearments over the years I’ve been happily attached to him, but none of them come close to sounding like Kelly.  I’ve tried to remember the first one, but getting caught up in the order of it all misses the point:  that I’m deserving of these little jewels of lovey-doveyness from him.

I could have a completely different attitude about them, mind you.  Someone who looked a gift horse in the mouth instead of considering the lovely source that my husband is.

These little somethings usually come with a smile or tone that suggests nothing too important will follow.  He’s just getting my attention.  Sometimes they appear on the cards he gives me instead of the giant heart with a capital “K” filling the inside.  Other times, they appear as greetings in occasional emails sent, reminding me of something I said I’d take care of because he knows that I’m easily lost in my day on most days, so might never quite get around to doing whatever it is I said I’d do.

Sweets.  Can you look around for my checkbook?  It’s not in my car. You know, because doesn’t everyone keep it there?

Or arriving home at the end of a long day, he’ll ask,  How was your day, Pear? Yes, he always asks, and then when I forget to ask about his, he continues to tell me what it was like.  I need better manners.

More recently, I have been Pear Petunia when he’s lounging in his chair on the weekend and caught up in a football-soccer-basketball-hockey game or two on television.  He absent-mindedly extends a hand for me to grasp in passing and squeeze once or twice.  I seize the opportunity to remind him that Petunia was a pig and that being shaped like a pear isn’t exactly ideal, but being a pear-shaped cartoon pig is a bit much.  We laugh.

He’ll disagree, but I think it all started with Pie.  Yes, he called me Pie all those years ago, and I know I’m in good company when it comes to this because pie is always good, isn’t it?  Especially when the crust is oh, so flaky and the filling a perfect combination of tart and sweet.

And so I made him little fruit pies the other day with blueberries and sugar plums I’d frozen.

He liked them with or without the powdered sugar, but you decide.

Perfect as Pie.

Sweet Heart Pies

makes about 18 or so

For the dough...

1/2 lb. unsalted butter, very cold

2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 T sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. ice water

1/2 tsp. Champagne vinegar

For the filling…

1 to 1-1/2 c. frozen blueberries*

5 frozen sugar plums*

1/4 c. brown sugar

For the wash...

1 egg + 1 T cream whisked in a small cup

To prepare the butter, slice it into tablespoons, then cut each of those into 4 cubes. Spread on a metal tray and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Add the flour and sugar to a fine-meshed strainer and sift, then pour into the bowl of a standing mixer.  Add the cold butter cubes and with the paddle attachment, mix on low for about 2 minutes until the mixture looks like unevenly shaped curds of oatmeal.  Pinch the larger pieces of butter into the flour by hand to flatten them and even out the mixture.

Mix the water with a few ice cubes in a small bowl to make sure it’s very cold.  Measure only 1/2 c. of the ice water, then add the Champagne vinegar.  Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture all at once and mix on low just until the dough begins to clump together.

Turn the very coarse looking dough out of the bowl and very lightly press into a ball of sorts.  It will be extremely clumpy and pieces of butter will be clearly visible.  It should not be wet or sticky.  Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour or overnight.

To make the filling, put the fruit and the sugar in a small sauce pan and over very low heat, cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is jam like in consistency.  This will take about 15 – 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, and remove skins and any pits that may be in the mixture.  Allow to cool at room temperature.  It will continue to thicken as it cools.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

After chilling, dust the dough ball lightly with flour and press as little as possible to bring it together.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured cool surface making sure to turn it from time to time to make sure it’s not sticking.  Roll to a 1/4-inch thickness.

Using a 3-1/2 ” cutter, cut out 36 shapes, re-rolling scraps of dough when needed.  Place two silicone or parchment covered baking pans nearby.  Organize the cut outs on the pans and dollop 1-2 tsp. of the filling in the center of every other cut out. Brush the edges with the milk and egg wash, then using a small fork or your fingers, press together the edges.  Using a wooden pick, poke a few holes into the little pies.  If desired, cut additional small shapes from the scraps and after brushing more wash over the surface of the little pies, press the cut out on the top.

Put the trays in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before baking.  Place the racks in the center of your oven, and bake the pies for about 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 350 and switching the racks from top to bottom.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until the crust is layered and a rich golden brown.

Remove to a cooling rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm if you like.

Don’t forget to try one while they’re still warm.

Cook fruit & brown sugar slowly over very low heat
Sugar plum blueberry jam
It will be jam in no time
A butter lumpy ball of pie dough
Look at all that nice butter in that dough
Messy cook
Those cocktail forks are good for something
Egg washed
All baked and ready for dusting
Look at all those flaky layers!
Give ’em a dust and then sample, of course.
Or leave them undusted just like pie

Notes:

  • I made these fruit hand pies not too long ago and have been wanting more ever since, but I had to try a new pie dough recipe I rediscovered and these were the perfect excuse to  use it.
  • I often hear people say they have trouble with pie dough, or can’t make it.  Honestly, it just takes practice, but more importantly, it also takes a great recipe.  I swear by dough made in a food processor now because it’s so quick and incorporates the cold butter so nicely.  On the other hand, I also appreciate being able to make it by hand, pinching all that chilled butter into the dry ingredients.  It always turns out well.
  • This recipe uses a standing mixer, so I thought it strange at first knowing the chunks of butter would thump around in that bowl as the paddle churned.  And it was strange.  After the mixing is finished, the “dough” is probably the most crude I’ve seen.  I really had to resist kneading it and pressing it together into a neat and tidy ball, but I did resist.  This is important!
  • This is Sherry Yard’s “Flaky Pie Dough” recipe and she stresses that the dough cannot be overworked.  She’s right because it turned out beautifully.  Now I can’t wait to try it with a standard sized pie.
  • The fruit filling came from a variety of places.  I’ve made quick and easy microwave fruit “jam” for years when a filling is needed, and it’s easy, but tedious since you have to stand by the microwave turning it on and off, and stirring the fruit until the consistency is achieved.  Then I made these blueberry cupcakes a while back and found that just cooking the fruit slowly down also achieves a very nice sauce.  But I needed something more like jam.  That’s how I discovered Lekvar, a Hungarian recipe traditionally made with prunes or apricots.  Think peroshki, or kolachi, or…evidently it even comes in jars.  It’s a thick jam that sounded like it could be perfect for these, but the recipes I consulted added water, and my frozen fruit was quite soggy and full of liquid, so decided to go with fruit and brown sugar and it worked quite nicely.  It has a pleasant slightly tart, but not overly sweet fruity flavor.
  • *If you don’t have plums and blueberries (or other frozen fruit) , you can make a more traditional lekvar filling with this recipe.
  • Speaking of frozen fruit — I don’t do anything to the fruit — I just pop it in the freezer whole, usually when I can tell I’m not going to get around to using it and want to avoid waste.  The best way to do this is to put the fruit (tomatoes work, too!) on a tray making sure they’re all reasonably separate.  Allow to freeze until hard, then pour into a freezer bag and force out all the air before sealing.  Perfect!  Then you can use as many as you like for a recipe without having to thaw the entire frozen mess!
  • To make these ahead, both the dough and the filling can be made a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge well-sealed.


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