• 200g of all purpose flour
• 100g of butter, cut into cubes
• 2 / 3 tablespoons of water
• 200g of fresh cherries – pitted and halved
• 2 tablespoons of water
• 3 tablespoons of sugar
• ½ tablespoon of cornstarch
• 1 tablespoon of sugar
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• Lemon juice, to taste
• 1 tsp of finely ground fennel (or cinnamon or nutmeg or any other flavour)
1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. For the pastry, sieve the flour into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add just enough water to bring the crumbs into pastry dough. Gather the pastry into a ball with your hand.
3. Wrap the ball of pastry in cling wrap and leave in the fridge to rest for at least an hour. Meanwhile, put the pitted and halved cherries into a medium saucepan with the water, sugar and cornstarch. Cook for a few minutes over a medium heat, until the cherries soften and release their juices. Add lemon juice to taste and the ground fennel. Cook for a few seconds and take off the heat. Allow to cool.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 F/ 200 C. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface until it as about 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out circles of pastry using a cookie cutter that is about 4 inches in diameter. Place the circles of pastry onto the sheet of parchment paper.
5. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pastry circles with egg wash. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of the cherry compote into the center of each pastry circle. Fold the pastry circles in half and gently squeeze the edges together. Once you have made all the mini hand pies, gently press a fork around the edges of the pies to seal them. Brush the pies with more egg wash and sprinkle some sugar on top.
6. Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce a small vent in the center of each of the pies. Place the pies in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. They should be golden brown, on top and bottom when they are fully cooked. Serve with some crème fraiche.
To start with, most recipes are based on just four ingredients: flour, fat, salt, and water. Which fat you choose and how you manipulate it will play a huge role in the finished product -- so let’s break it down.
First, it’s important to know how to handle the fat. It should be chilled (read: very cold). When it’s especially warm (outside or in your kitchen), it’s a good idea to pop it in the freezer so it doesn’t melt as easily. Also, know your hands -- if they run hot (chocolate melts as quickly there as it does in your mouth), then keep the butter on the colder side. If you have those cool pastry hands, just the fridge will work for you.
Next, identify the type of crust you want. Flaky crusts are best for fruit pies. For cream or custard pies, a mealy crust is best (it won’t get soggy as the pie sits). Flaky crusts are made by leaving larger pieces of fat in the crust – the size of walnut halves or smaller. These large pieces of fat begin to evaporate moisture when the pie goes into the oven. This evaporation creates steam, and this steam forms air pockets in the crust, creating a flaky final texture. Mealy crusts are made by mixing the butter into smaller pieces -- the size of peas or smaller. Less evaporation occurs, making a tighter, firmer crust.
Remember that warm ingredients, over-mixing, and not enough chilling/resting time are the enemies of excellent crust. Taking your time with those three components will almost always ensure a good result.
Choosing your fat:
Lard: If it doesn’t make you squeamish, lard makes an incredible pastry crust. It chills nicely and doesn’t break down under heat as quickly as butter. This makes for a relatively flaky crust if handled properly. While it’s not as tasty as butter, it’s flavour is still less bland than shortening or oil.
Shortening: The fat of choice for pie baking in the fifties and sixties, shortening has a very high melting point, which makes it very easy to mix into pie crust. With less chance of over-mixing and/or melting the fat, you’re better ensured flaky layers in your crust. However, while it’s the ideal ingredient from a texture perspective, it lacks the flavour of butter.
Butter: I try to be unbiased -- all pie is good pie. But for me, butter has always been the way to go. The flavour can’t be beat, and if you know how to handle it properly it can make a supremely flaky crust. Because butter has a higher melting point, it also melts nicely in your mouth. The milkfats present in the butter also allow the crust to brown more than shortening, lard, or oil-based versions.
Oil: Oil has one major benefit -- as a fat in liquid form, it can’t be melted and is easy to incorporate into dough. However, this same feature also keeps it from making a truly flaky crust. That being said, vegetable oil, coconut oil, or even olive oil can make a fine mealy crust for quiches or other custard pies. I also like using oil-based crusts for savoury tarts.
Combo: My grandma swore by a combination of fats. Once upon a time, it was half lard, half shortening. Then it became half butter, half shortening. Either way, she liked mixing the sure result of shortening with the better flavour of other fats.