Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lemon Hand Pies

When I was a kid on road trips with my family, we'd often stop at a rest stop or gas station along the way. A family of seven makes pretty frequent stops, for obvious reasons. Sadly the food options were always pretty bleak. Throughout the years, I've noticed these rest stops (mainly along I-95) haven't really gotten much better. Why is it that all rest stops are dumpy? Is it too much to ask for a brief respite from our travels and some decent grub? Instead, we're stuck with noxious Cinnabon smells and foil wrapped burgers from Roy Rogers. Not saying I don't crave those burgers now and again, but I digress. 

One of the things my dad used to pick up at the gas station would be a Hostess Lemon Fruit Pie. In my opinion, these hand pies were the one shining star in a galaxy of bad food options. Remember these wax-paper-covered, sweet pastries?

Although my dad was the biggest fan, I also loved these little pies. Anytime I see them in the store, I contemplate buying a few. Sadly, Hostess doesn't make these pies the same way anymore. And even if I did buy a few, they wouldn't be as tasty as they were when I was a kid. So, recently I decided it was time to make a variation of them at home. And unlike the questionable "Real Fruit Filling" stated on that wax paper packaging, my pie filling is, in fact, a delicious lemon curd. I also swapped the generic pie crust for a walnut pie crust. If you're more of a traditionalist, however, feel free to omit the walnuts and stick with a basic crust. They're delicious either way.

Walnut Pie Crust
Makes enough dough for about 14 hand pies
1 cup walnuts
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup ice water


1. Use a small food processor or knife to finely chop walnuts then toss in a large bowl. Add the flour, sugar, salt and butter. Use a pastry blender or a large fork to cut the butter cubes into the dry ingredients, working quickly and incorporating all of the flour mixture until the butter pieces are the size of peas. Make sure you don't over-work the butter. Visible chunks of butter = tasty flakiness!

2. Slowly drizzle the ice water into the flour mixture. Mix until the dough just begins to pull together, drizzling more water if needed. (You might not use all of the water.) Pull dough together, divide into 2 disks and wrap each one tightly with a piece of plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight. While the dough chills, make the lemon curd.

Lemon Curd
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

In a saucepan set over medium-low heat, combine the egg yolks and sugar and whisk until incorporated. Add in the lemon zest and juice, stirring constantly until thickened, or about 8 minutes. Strain into a clean bowl and stir in the cubes of butter until completely melted. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on the top, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. 

Assemble the Pies
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Remove one of the pie dough disks from the fridge and roll out to about 1/8" thickness on a floured work surface. Use a large circle cutter (Or an upside down mug) to create circles about 4" wide. Transfer to the baking sheet and repeat until you've used up all the dough.

2. Place a giant spoonful of the lemon curd into the center of half of the circles, then top with another dough circle. Crimp the edges with a fork and cut slits in the top to let them vent. 

3. Create an egg wash by mixing an egg in a small bowl with a teaspoon of water. Use a pastry brush to cover each pie with the egg wash, then sprinkle with a pinch of turbinado sugar.

4. Bake pies for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Let them cool for a few minutes so you don't burn your mouth!

Make sure you strain the curd. It removes any little cooked egg bits and ensures you have a smooth filling.

1 comment:

  1. Making this today! Thank you for the amazing recipe! I have never made lemon curd. If it turns out well I am going to post it on my blog.