There are so many wonderful things that one can do with puff pastry! You can wrap your favorite sausage with it and have a gourmet “pig in a blanket”; you can stuff them with all sorts of savory fillings, like pizza-type filling, etc. In fact, on my to do list ever since I made a batch of instant puff pastry (which I used for these hand pies) are salted caramel apple hand pies, and chocolate pastry cream hand pies! Woohoo! I can hardly wait!!
Inspired by a bag of freshly picked lemons my friend M, gave to me (she has an awesome lemon tree in her backyard), I decided to make these Lemon Hand Pies Sprinkled with Vanilla Sugar, using my recently made instant puff pastry.
The filling for these pies is a tart, but sweetly balanced, lemon curd. And, the curd is actually pretty easy to make, and doesn’t take up too much time either. Something I need out of recipes right now as my semester starts going into full gear.
First, ya zest and juice some lemons.
Then you separate out some egg yolks and whisk them with sugar, lemon juice and zest. This is where the use of pasture raised chicken eggs really shines through. Can you see how vibrant and deep the yellow is in these yolks? That comes from a chicken that truly gets to roam, forage, and get sunshine, and fresh air. The yolks impart a lovely golden hue, and a rich flavor to the lemon curd that takes it to a whole other level! For a great discussion on pasture raised eggs, check out Soul Food Farm’s brief article on pasture raised vs. cage free eggs here.
Then you get MacGyver with it (or Go Go Gadget with it, depending on your era), and create a double boiler by placing a heat proof bowl filled with the mixture over a pot of steaming water. While I’m all for collecting gadgets (I am, after all, a gadget junkie), buying a double-boiler (or bain-marie as the French refer to it) is totally unnecessary.
Heat the mixture to 172 degrees F.
And/or, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Let it cool down slightly and then whisk in some butter to give it a luscious mouth feel. Mmmmm… serious tangy-sweet goodness right there.
Store it in a container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 3 months.
Here is my… wait for it… homemade instant puff pastry!!! Recipe and tutorial coming soon. I promise! In the meantime, feel free to use store bought puff pastry. Anyway, I was so proud of myself for making homemade puff pastry. And, as you can see, I’m using one of my handy, dandy, go to gadgets, the dumpling maker. Great for all things dumpling-like, e.g., empanadas, half moon ravioli, etc. If you don’t have one of these awesome tools, you can cut out circles with a large glass, or small bowl.
This gadget allows me to put the dough on the inner side, so that I can fill it as shown in the picture below.
Fill your circle with about 2 to 3 Tbsp of filling.
Then close it shut!
Apply some egg wash with a reserved egg white.
Then sprinkle some sugar on it. I used vanilla sugar ’cause it just made sense.
Place your prepped hand pies in the oven. Those dark speckles are little pieces of vanilla bean.
And out comes a seriously beautiful masterpiece that I hope puts a smile on your face, and injects a shot of joy into your day.
Lemon Curd Recipe
Adapted from Miette
*My Adaptations were simply to halve the recipe–except that the original recipe calls for 7 egg yolks, so I opted to use 4 yolks since I wanted the curd to be pretty firm for when I baked the hand pies. If you want to make the full amount you can use 7 yolks and just double the rest of the ingredients.
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/2 Tbsp lemon Zest
4 Large Egg Yolks (reserve one of the whites to brush on to pies before baking)
2 Ounces Unsalted Butter, Cubed
1. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, zest, and egg yolks. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water to make a double-boiler. This helps to cook the egg yolks slowly. Whisk the mixture occasionally until it thickens considerably (to about 172 degrees F – and you can run your finger across the back of a spoon and the line stays as shown in the picture above).
2. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container. Let the curd cool slightly (to about 140 degrees F), then whisk the butter into the curd until it is completely blended in.
3. In order to prevent the curd from forming a skin on the top, place and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. I simply placed my curd in an old jam jar and put it in the refrigerator and it did not form a skin. Lemon curd is so versatile in that it can be used for all sorts of different applications like the filling for a tart, or to fill a vanilla cake, or to fill a doughnut (uh, yum!), or just to simply put on toast or lick off a spoon. Just make sure it is well chilled before using it for other things. It will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days if tightly covered. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
Directions for Assembling Hand Pies
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (or, if using a store bought puff pastry, follow their instructions for best temperature to bake it at).
2. Take out a sheet of puff pastry dough that has been defrosted in the refrigerator, and gently unfold it. I used puff pastry that I made myself with an “instant puff pastry” recipe that I will post about soon as a tutorial, and will provide the link here once I have the chance to get it up. Pre-made puff pastry is readily available in grocery stores–though I must admit that my homemade version blew even the best I have used out of the water
3. Roll out the puff pastry a little bit to get the folds flat. Then, taking a gadget like the one I have pictured above (which can be found here), or using a small bowl, or large glass, cut out circles in the dough.
4. Using the same gadget you can place the circles on the inside, then fill them, then press it together, and voila, you’ll have a hand pie. However, using a bowl or glass, simply spoon in about 2 to 3 tbsp of the lemon curd (depending on size of circles) on one half of the circle being careful not to overfill since you want to be able to close it without the filling seeping out. Fold the other half of the circle over the filling so that the dough meets and forms a half moon. Once you’ve folded the dough, lightly press the edges together. Then, take a fork and crimp the edges (similar to what the dumpling make in the pictures does) to close completely.
5. Using the reserved egg white, take a pastry brush or even your finger and spread it over the top half of the hand pie. Then, using regular sugar, or vanilla sugar (which I made by grinding up a bean pod with sugar), sprinkle all over the hand pies.
6. Place hand pies into the oven and bake until golden brown as shown in the pictures above, about 15 to 20 minutes, keeping a close eye on them since they can bake more quickly depending on the puff pastry, and temperature used. Let cool for 5 minutes, and then enjoy!