If there were a most perfect food, it would be some form of finger food. In all aspects, finger food is perfect. While with silverware one avoids a little mess here like stained fingers and surprise stains found later long after that laundry detergent or aggressive super bleach can do anything about it, and maybe silverware is a bit more civilized, there is something very remote about using a knife and fork. One can’t shove French fries into their mouth with a fork and, after all, isn’t part of potato chip induced joy the greasy-salt residue left on the fingers?
Cookies are finger food, as are burgers, ribs, dumplings, dips, nachos (the real stuff), brownies, ice cream sandwiches—obviously there is a pattern here. The best foods are the kind eaten with hands.
And the best 4th of July fare? Pie. Specifically, pies. Apple and cherry.
The cherry pies were more of a result of having cherries around at the time of pie filling, unlike the premeditated apple filling. These apple handpies are unique because the filling is grated, not sliced or chunked. Long ago—‘long ago’ is a relative term when you’re 19 years old—there was a corner bakery Grace Baking where the most delicious apple turnovers and blueberry tartlets were baked. These turnovers weren’t like other turnovers found in lesser bakeries—these had a real pie dough crust and deliciously soft grated apple filling. They were handpies, and better for it.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
3 ¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons kosher or coarse salt
¼ cup white sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
½ cup ice water, plus more if needed
1. Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until well blended. Cube the butter into the flour mixture and pulse until just barely combined. Be sure not to over pulse—there should be nice chunks of butter still visible which ensure the flakiness of the pastry. Mixture should resemble coarse crumbs. Add water in a little bit at a time, pulsing slowly until dough just holds together when squeezed. Separate into four discs and refrigerate covered in plastic wrap for at least one hour.
Apple Handpie Filling
5 large Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and quartered
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour
1. Grate the apples using the grating attachment of a food processor, (yes, this is a food processor reliant recipe as the best recipes are….), or a box grater. Mix in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Either refrigerate until use or use after 15 minutes of resting.
Sweet Cherry Handpie Filling
2 ½ cup Bing cherries, pitted
½ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup water
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon water
1. Mix the first seven ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir and bring to a boil, boil for 10 minutes then reduce to a simmer stirring occasionally. Mix the cornstarch and remaining water in a separate bowl in slurry. Add a little bit of the slurry at a time to the cherry filling until all the slurry is used. Simmer until the mixture is a deep crimson color and there is no floury texture to the filling. When mixture has thickened and reduced, approximately after 10 minutes, remove from heat. Cool before use.
Yields eight six-inch diameter handpies
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Flour a large flat surface and let the dough discs warm a bit. This dough is hard to handle fresh from the refrigerator. Work the dough one or two time and then roll out to about ¼ inch in thickness. Each dough disc should result in two six-inch handpie rounds. I used a medium soup bowl as my dough cutter.
2. Spoon about a ¼ cup of filling onto one half of the dough round, leaving an edge for crimping. Fold the other half of the dough round over the filling and press close, being sure to leave no cracks in the edge. The filling amounts above yielded 5 apple handpies and 3 cherry handpies, as well as two delicious little ramekins filled with apple and cherry crumble. Baking leftovers..mmmm.
3. Crimps the edges of the handpies with a fork and then slice air vents in the top of each handpie to avoid explosion. Brush with heavy whipping cream and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or sanding sugar. (Or both). Bake for 50-50 minutes or until till golden brown and bubbly.