One of my most favorite things to make (and eat) are blueberry hand pies. The concept of having a piece of pie that you can put in your hand and eat, plate free and utensil free, is the greatest idea since sliced bread.
I have tried many different hand pie recipes. My all time favorite is from King Arthur Flour’s website. The blueberry concoction is similar to most other ones, but it’s the dough that sets this hand pie apart from all others. It is wonderfully buttery and flaky and at the same time tender and downright delish. This is, for sure, my go-to recipe.
When I make King Arthur’s recipe, I usually skip the lemon in the blueberry mixture, add some cinnamon and a touch of cloves. That’s my heaven, and it’s usually how I roll. In fact, that’s the concoction on top of my Cheesecake with Pecan Gingersnap Crust.
However, I have been in a very citrus mood the past few weeks which is a rare occasion for Moi! I decided to embrace it full on.
I stuck with King Arthur’s blueberry mixture. But I decided that the dough needed a lemon boost as a further complement to the blueberries. I initially was going to just add in some lemon zest, but then I decided to go for it: Limoncello!
My thought process went something like this: Several years ago, I believe it was America’s Test Kitchen that put out there that using vodka in a pie dough is a great alternative to water because it is less likely to activate the gluten in the flour (the alcohol burns off as it bakes). After making many pie doughs with and without vodka, I do not believe that vodka really makes a difference, but working with that theme, I figured, why not try Limoncello? I’m glad I did.
The Limoncello added a nice flavor, and my dough was certainly flaky! If you do not have Limoncello, GO BUY SOME! Just kidding! Well…kinda… You can certainly use lemon juice in place of the Limoncello.
The only other change I made to King Arthur’s dough recipe is that I skipped the baking powder. The original recipe calls for ½ teaspoon. I did not see any real significant difference by not adding it. I also did not want my pastries to be super puffy. They were plenty flaky from the butter and folding process.
I almost did a lemon glaze for these, but then I thought that was too obvious and too common. So, I dumped some blueberries in the blender with some confectioners sugar. The sweetness of the blueberry glaze provides a delicious contrast to the lemon dough.
Here are a few tips when making these delish delights!
Do not overwork the dough. While you can use a mixer or food processor, it is best to use your hands. Coat the butter with the dry ingredients. The dough will feel almost too wet and sticky after you incorporate the wet ingredients. That’s quite ok! When you do the letter folds, use a bench scraper to lift the dough from your countertop. When you roll out the dough, plan on popping it into the refrigerator or freezer several times as you roll it out, cut the squares, and shape them. My kitchen runs very warm, so I pop them in the freezer for at least 5 minutes after almost every step. The dough is so much easier to work with when it is cold, and keeping it cold gives you the flaky result you are looking for.
The filling is super straightforward to make. Once the cooked mixture thickens, remove it from the heat. It will cook more in the oven as the pies bake.
If you do not want blueberry skin pieces in the glaze, strain it. (I think the pieces make the glaze stand out.) If the glaze is too thin, add more confectioners sugar until you reach a nice glazing consistency.
I find it best to plan ahead for this recipe. While you can certainly make these hand pies in one day, I find it much easier to make both the dough and the filling the day before. The dough can be made up to two days ahead and stored in pastic wrap in the refrigerator. The filling can be made up to one week ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It is tons easier to assemble the pies when both the dough and the filling are cold.
Limoncello Blueberry Hand Pies
- 241 g. all purpose flour (2 cups)
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 227 g. unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes (16 tbsp. or 2 sticks)
- zest of one medium lemon (about 2-3 tsps.)
- 2 tbsp. cold Limoncello
- 57 g. cold sour cream (¼ cup)
- 1 egg beaten (for egg wash)
- 1 pint blueberries, fresh or frozen (2 cups)
- 14 g. lemon juice (1 tbsp.)
- 14 g. cornstarch (2 tbsp. or 11 g. (1 tbsp.) Instant Clear Jel)
- 67 g. sugar (⅓ cup)
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 200 g. confectioners sugar (1½ cups)
- 38 g. blueberries (¼ cup)
- ½ tsp. lemon juice
- Dough. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the cubes of butter and the lemon zest. Using your hands, toss the butter to coat each piece of butter with the flour mixture. Pinch the pieces of butter to flatten them a bit. Keep working the mixture for a couple of minutes until the mixture resembles coarse sand with most of the clumps of butter the size of peas and some larger pieces the size of walnuts. Make a well in the middle. Add the Limoncello and the sour cream. Using your hands, scoop the flour from the sides and the bottoms towards the Limoncello/sour cream to hydrate the flour. You may need to knead the dough a couple of times, but do not overwork it. The dough will seem wet and slightly sticky. Gather the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle using lightly floured hands and a bench scraper.
- Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to approximately 8 inches by 10 inches. Using a pastry brush, dust off any excess flour. With the longer side facing you vertically, fold the dough into thirds like a letter (fold the top third down, and the bottom third up). Rotate the dough 90°, roll it out again, and fold it again the same way. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Filling. Pour the berries into a 2 quart size saucepan. Pour the lemon juice over. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch (or Clear Jel) and salt. Pour over the blueberries. Over medium-high heat, stir the mixture and cook until the juices on the bottom start to simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and continue stirring until the mixture thickens, which should take 3-5 minuets. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before using. (It is best to make it in advance and refrigerate it before assembling the pies.)
- Assembly. Preheat oven to 350°F. On a piece of lightly floured parchment paper, roll the dough to a 14 inch by 14 inch square. If the dough becomes too sticky and warm, slide it (use the parchment it is on) onto a baking sheet and put it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or the freezer for 5 minutes. Cut the dough into 16 squares, each 3½ inches by 3½ inches. Using a metal spatula dipped in flour, release 8 of the 3½ inch squares and place on two baking sheets, four on each sheet. Place the remaining 8 squares in the refrigerator. With a pastry brush, paint a small border of egg wash along the perimeter of the 8 squares. In the center of each square, place a heaping tablespoon of the filling. Remove the remaining squares from the refrigerator and place each on top of the prepared bottoms. Use your fingers to press the edges of the tops into the bottoms. Use a fork to crimp the edges or roll a pastry cutter along the edges. With a toothpick, poke holes to create vents on the top of the pastry. Alternatively, use a knife to make a few decorative slits. Refrigerate or freeze the prepared pies for 10 minutes.
- Bake. Remove the pies from the refrigerator or freezer. Egg wash the tops and place in oven. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. (If the filling creeps out of the pastry while baking, use a spoon or small metal spatula to insert it back in when the pies come out of the oven.)
- Glaze. Place the blueberries, confectioners sugar, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Blend until fully combined. You can strain out the pieces of blueberry skin, but keeping them makes a very pretty glaze. If the glaze is not holding its shape, stir in a little more confectioners sugar to thicken it.
- It is much easier to make the dough and the filling the day before. Working with both components while they are cold is much easier.
- No Limoncello? No problem! Use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice instead.
- When rolling out the dough into the 14 inch by 14 inch square, it is much easier to roll out slightly more than 14 inches on each side, then run a knife down against a ruler the excess and end up with a straight line on each of the edges of the square.
- The hand pies can be stored in an airtight container for a few days. They also freeze beautifully. You can refresh them by placing them in a cold oven and then setting it to 350°F. By the time the oven reaches 350°F, the hand pies should be warm and flaky.