Confession: Every single time I see rosy, plump local strawberries at a market, I will bring them home. And very sadly, my history includes many a soggy berry. Those gorgeous little summer gems only last a day or two in the fridge! But I have discovered a secret to making them last longer. Just mash them with sugar, and not only will they keep a few days more, but they will release beautiful pink juice and be delicious with yogurt, ice cream, cheesecake, or even just on hot buttered toast. The act of sprinkling fruit with sugar causing it to release its juices is called "macerating". Be sure to e-nun-ci-ate carefully on this word if you decide to repeat it... tee hee hee.
Or, alternatively, you could just bake them into a pie. Or several little pies. Perfect for toting to a picnic, sharing with neighbours, or grabbing for breakfast. Yes, pie for breakfast is perfectly acceptable on occasion.
These rustic looking hand pies are made with cream cheese pastry, which is softer than typical pie crust, and tastes quite like a rich sugar cookie. The strawberries bubble up irresistibly through the vents. The result is darling little, buttery sweet pies, perfectly sized for one.
The number of pies you end up with from the recipe depends on how thinly you roll your dough, and how big your circles are. I used a small circular casserole dish, and my dough was probably closer to 1/4 inch thick than the 1/8th inch the recipe calls for. The amount of strawberry filling you can get into each pie depends on how big your circles are, too. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons per pie, but you might use more or less. It's an imperfect science - the results will be delicious no matter what. I got 10 pies from mine, and had a handful of strawberries left over. In retrospect I probably would have forced more berries into the pies (even if the pastry tore a bit), because they melt down in the oven, and hey, we're already calling them rustic.
The dough is quite sticky, and the 1 hour refrigeration prior to rolling out is very important to be able to work with it. If you find the dough becomes sticky or difficult to work with when cutting out rounds and/or transferring them to the baking sheet, simply pop the dough in the freezer for a minute or two to firm up slightly and it will be totally workable again.
Strawberry Hand Pies with Cream Cheese Pastry
Adapted from Martha Stewart
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar, separated
3 oz cream cheese, softened (slightly more than 1/3 cup)*
3 tbsp cream, milk, or buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tbsp sugar (I prefer coarse or raw sugar; it's pretty and gives a nice sparkly crunch - but regular sugar is fine)
1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. In the large bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and 1 cup sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat to combine. Add cream cheese, cream, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until incorporated. Dump dough onto a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the counter. Wrapping parchment around dough (to avoid sticky fingers), form dough into a ball, and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate 1 hour, wrapped in parchment paper.
3. Meanwhile, sprinkle sugar and cornstarch over strawberries in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment (or waxed) paper and set aside.
3. After dough has chilled at least 1 hour, preheat oven to 375 degrees, then dampen a sheet of paper towel and lay it flat on the counter. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment (or waxed paper) on top of the damp paper towel (to prevent it from sliding around on the counter when rolling). Aim for about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out circles using a large (5 inch) circular cookie cutter, or whatever else you have on hand. *At this point I found it necessary to chill the dough, as it became a bit too sticky to work with - I transferred the parchment to a baking sheet and put the whole thing in the freezer for about 2 minutes. Using a metal spatula, lift the dough circles and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheets. Make a new ball from dough scraps, and repeat the rolling out and circle cutting.
3. Mash the strawberries slightly with a fork or a potato-masher. Spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of strawberries onto one half of each circle. Fold dough over filling and pinch to close. Brush each pie with egg white, and sprinkle with sugar. Use scissors to snip a couple of vents in each pie to prevent the steam from popping open the seams. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans once during baking if you have two in at the same time. Cool on a wire rack.
*This is an example of when this is very useful!! The original recipe gave only ounces, which doesn't help someone without a food scale. Converting weight to volume is ingredient specific... which is why this tool rocks my socks!