(Savory hand pies, made of a quick and easy crust (recipe in post) and thanksgiving leftovers!)
Whew… still recovering from a long, long weekend. Curse you, Monday! Alas, life must resume.
The Boyfriend and I were on dessert duty over the holidays, due to his famously good pumpkin pies and my crazy pie crust skills. It’s good to be good at one thing, because not much else was expected of us.
Prep work started on Wednesday, making the fixings for four pumpkin pies. Because we were driving to Chicago for his side of the family, then coming back to celebrate with my side, I prepared as much as I could before we left.
I used the same pie crust recipe explained in my post on Pie Crust – I use a different recipe for these hand pies, but Thanksgiving seemed like no time to go messing around outside of my comfort zone. I stuck with what I knew was good, and went with it.
I made four separate crusts (two for Chicago and two for back home), and rolled each one to the appropriate size using my handy measurement-lined fondant matt as a guide.
Once rolled, I dusted very lightly with flour (because it’s a fairly sticky dough) then rolled in parchment paper and kept chilled.
Then I made the fillings for four pies, sealing them in sterilized mason jars (apparently, one quart plus one cup is about how much liquid a 9.5” pie pan holds).
I packed the jars, the crusts, plus some heavy cream and vanilla for whipping into a cooler with plenty of ice packs. This made the trip to Chicago pretty easy, and meant that Thursday all that had to be done was throw the pies in the oven. After letting the crusts thaw for a few minutes, just soft enough to unroll into the pie pans, and thoroughly shaking up the jars, we were graced with some very beautiful pies!
(I’ll say again – the biggest tip I can give for a good pumpkin pie is fresh, home-made pumpkin puree and, as The Boyfriend points out, the freshest spices you can find. He stocks up on holiday spices no more than a month before the holidays. I opened a fresh bag of Ceylon Cinnamon for these pies, and the difference between the new container and the last of the old one were huge.)
Unfortunately, this is basically the extent of my photos from either of the family dinners. Too busy eating to be bothered with the camera, I suppose. But, like anyone who goes to a feast of that size, I was sent home with plenty of leftovers.
In the past I’ve hosted Thanksgiving with my family, and with the ‘big’ leftovers there would be soups, sandwiches, and other mixings, but with just a couple take-home containers full I wanted to come up with a smaller scale, more creative use for them.
The basics of this recipe are simple: Pie crust, cut into circles or other shapes, stuffed with leftovers and a bit of gravy, and baked.
Making these, I decided it was finally time to try a new crust recipe. Although I love the recipe I’ve been using for pies, I find it’s a little buttery for use outside of a pie pan – plus, being a little sticky makes it tough to work with.
Making a complete left turn from my usual ways, I decided that I’ve read enough crust recipes to know the basics of what I’m doing, and figured I’d just wing it this time. I did take some measurements, but I made everything up as I went along.
My Off-The-Cuff Pie Crust:
(Makes one 9.5” pie crust, or about 4-5 hand pies)
5.5 oz. (about 1 1/4 cups) whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (I used 1 C. pastry and 1/4 C. all-purpose) plus more for dusting
6 TBSP (or about 3 oz.) unsalted butter, thoroughly chilled and cut into cubes
1 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. sea salt) – note: if making a sweet crust, reduce salt by half and add 1 tsp. sugar
2-4 TBSP cold water
1 egg white
1 tsp. water
In a bowl, mix flour(s), salt, and sugar if using.
With a pastry cutter, back of a fork, or your hands, cut butter into dough until it resembles coarse crumbs – it should be almost sandy, with no lumps bigger than a pea left.
Once the dough is blended, add 2 TBSP water and mix with one hand, squeezing the dough occasionally. Add additional water 1 TBSP at a time, just until the dough barely holds together when pressed. I only needed about 3 TBSP total, but the amount will change depending on your flour and the level of humidity.
As soon as the dough holds together loosely, form a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight (I presume it would do fine for up to a few days) or toss it in the freezer for ten/fifteen minutes.
When ready to use, lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin, and whisk together the egg white and water – set aside. Preheat oven to 350f.
Roll dough to 1/8th-1/4 inch thickness, and cut into desired shapes. My dough was able to make about five 7inch circles. I suggest making fairly large shapes, or else you won’t be able to fit much filling.
Fill each circle with some leftovers – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes – then top with a little gravy. I was only able to fit maybe 1/4 cup inside each one.
Brush the edges of the dough with water to help it seal, and fold the circle in half over itself, or lay another circle over the top. Press the edges together tightly, then crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.
Brush each one with the egg white/water mixture, and lay the not-yet-hot hot pockets on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown on top. If you’re oven doesn’t heat evenly, rotate the pan halfway through baking.
Let cool slightly before serving, and enjoy!
Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I think these turned out pretty snappy. The crust has some flake, but it holds together. It’s got some chew, but it isn’t tough. Had I intended it for use in a sweet application, I easily could’ve added a bit of sugar and filled them with jam or fresh fruit. Who knew pie was so easy? Sure, everyone says ‘easy as pie’ but that’s supposed to refer to the eating, not the making.
Well, these are pretty easy to eat, too. My only complaint is that they’re a little dry on their own – could use a bit more gravy. A minor problem, and easily solved.
This was a wonderfully easy way to cap off Thanksgiving – no fuss, no pressure, just easy and delicious. I was beginning to feel a little burnt out after traveling to and from Chicago and two family gatherings in between, but now that I’ve settled back in I can look back and see just how much I have to be thankful for – not only one, but two wonderful families to celebrate, and celebrate with. I can’t say enough how lucky I am.
What are you most thankful for this holiday season / what are some of your favorite uses for leftovers? Let me know in the comments!