strawberry hand pies

We surprised my husband with a picnic dinner at one of our favorite parks the other night, which was a total blast and Kat had such a great time preparing for the “big surprise.”  We’d been texting back and forth with him late in the day to get an idea when he’d be home.  When he gave us the 20 minute warning, we taped a clue note to the laundry room door and set off for the park.  Once there, we tucked another clue note under my windshield wiper (presupposing he’d find the car with the clues we provided).  Fortunately, he’s a pretty bright guy.  Had he been a little slower on the uptake, he might have missed these little lovelies I’d baked for dessert!

I had a really busy day on Wednesday, so I didn’t have time to shoot the entire prep of the pies.  Needless to say, there was some finger licking and cursing – inwardly, of course, because working with any kind of pastry dough turns me into a bit of a lunatic.  You could use any berry you’d like, but since strawberries are coming in to season, I stuck with those.

The pies turned out beautifully and made the perfect picnic dessert.  No dishes or cutlery required.  Enjoy!!

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In spite of my cursing, they were a hit.

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Strawberry Hand Pies (recipe courtesy Country Living)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cup(s) (plus more for dusting) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 stick(s) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 3/4 pound(s) fresh strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup(s) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoon(s) strawberry jam (I used Smucker’s Simply Fruit)
  • 1 tablespoon(s) sanding sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse sand. Add 1 egg yolk, 1/2 cup chilled water, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and mix until just combined. (If dough is dry or crumbly and doesn’t stay together, add up to 3 tablespoons more chilled water.) Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead 2 to 3 times, just until dough comes together. Return dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make filling: In a medium bowl, combine strawberries, confectioners’ sugar, and jam, plus remaining flour, vanilla, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, beat remaining yolk and 1 tablespoon water for egg wash; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut dough into 6 rounds.
  • Roll 1 round into a 6-inch circle. Spoon a heaping 2 tablespoons filling onto half of circle, leaving 1/2-inch border. Brush the edges with egg wash, then fold dough over filling. Using a fork, crimp the edges to seal hand pie. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking pan. Repeat with remaining dough rounds and filling.
  • Using a toothpick, poke a few holes in the top of each pie. Brush with remaining egg wash and sprinkle each pie with 1/2 teaspoon sanding sugar. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Baker’s Notes:  The berry mixture only makes enough for six pies, but I had pastry dough enough to re-roll and make five more.  Adapt the berry recipe accordingly if you want to make more pies.  I froze my dough for another day.  Also, the recipe instructs you to make the berry mixture ahead and then set aside.  Because I had so much to do that day, I made the berry mixture too far ahead, which caused the berries to create a lot more juice.  So make it ahead, but only as long as it takes you to mix and roll the dough, otherwise you end up with a lot of fruit juice loss in the baking.  Lastly, as with any pastry, make sure your water is icy cold!

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sparkling raspberry muffins

No question, the best way to eat berries is right out of hand – freshly washed, unadulterated, straight-up berry deliciousness!  There’s just nothing else so pure or which speaks so clearly of summer.  I’m a blueberry addict, myself, but raspberries are a close second, so when I saw this recipe over at Real Simple, I thought it sounded like a tasty alternative to raw berries.  These make a nice breakfast muffin, or midday snack, and the sparkling sugar sprinkled on top before baking gives them a little bit of fancy!

We all like fancy, don’t we?  (Well, at least we moms of 7 year old girls).  Freeze what you either don’t eat or give away.  Enjoy!

Sparkling Raspberry Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4  cups  all-purpose flour, plus 1/8 cup for dredging berries
  • 3/4  cup  granulated sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4  cup  whole milk
  • 1  large egg
  • 1/4  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2  cups  fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried
  • sanding sugar for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or coat it with cooking spray, vegetable oil, or butter.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and combine. In a second bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. Gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined; the batter will be lumpy. Toss the berries with the remaining flour in a bowl. Gently fold the berry mixture into the batter.
  3. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Sprinkle the batter with the remaining sugar. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

simple summer fruit salad

One of the best things about summer is the availability of good berries.  These days you can pretty much get berries all year ’round, if you’re willing to pay for them.  But the high price doesn’t guarantee a good, quality berry.  In fact, if you’re even a little bit of a berry fan, you can taste the difference between berries purchased in December, and berries purchased in the summer – when they naturally come in to season.  Lately it seems every grocery store, specialty or otherwise, is selling berries at pretty decent prices – although, I admit to paying too much other times a year because we eat berries like candy around here.

We had some friends for over for dinner and swimming this weekend when temps finally spiked well in to the triple digits.  Triple digits have a way of altering a lot of things about menu planning.  Gone are comfort foods and starchy sides.  No more soups or stews.  So long root vegetables.  Hello salads with champagne vinaigrettes, grilled fish, and fruit.  Lots of fruit.  This particular salad doesn’t even have a “recipe.”  Just hang out in the produce aisle at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or Trader Joe’s and get inspired.  Blend your bite sized pieces of fruit (I use peaches, plums, red grapes, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries) with a simple concoction of organic vanilla yogurt (I like Wallaby’s), and about a tablespoon of fresh orange juice.  But, if you need more specific instructions, see below.  Enjoy!

Simple Summer Fruit Salad (subject to interpretation)

Ingredients:

6 oz blueberries

6 oz blackberries

8 oz strawberries, hulled and sliced

3 medium peaches, sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces

3 red plums, sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 6 oz container organic vanilla yogurt (I like Wallaby’s)

1 Tbsp fresh orange juice

Preparation:

Peel and slice peaches and plums, slice strawberries.  Combine sliced fruit with blueberries and blackberries.  In a separate bowl, mix yogurt with 1 Tbsp fresh orange juice until well combined.  Dress fruit with yogurt and orange juice mixture, being careful not to bruise or crush the fruit.  Garnish with sprig of fresh mint and serve.