savory hand pies – with leek, apple and sheep’s cheese
i’ve been wanting to make a pie lately, perhaps in the spirit of thanksgiving. but i’ve been craving the savory variety and wanting them small enough to be hand-held. i had two large leeks i knew i wanted to use and my instinct was to mix them with some type of strongly flavored cheese – which ended up being kashkaval, a hard sheep’s milk cheese i got at the armenian market near my house – but you could easily substitute cheddar.
when meditating on what the final ingredient should be, the common denominator between sauteed leeks, cheddar-like cheese and flaky buttery pie crust seems to be apple, which just happen to be another seasonal favorite. these ingredients come together into the most delightful blend of savory and sweet, with a crispy crust, soft buttery filling and just a hint of melty cheese. you can use this same recipe to make a full-sized pie, but these miniature versions are great for individual servings, not to mention adorable. they are the perfect party appetizers (especially for a tea party) but they are also a convenient snack to pack for work or school.crust 2 c all-purpose flour 1/2 c cold butter (1 stick) 2 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp salt dash of black pepper about 3/4 c ice water filling 2 large leeks 2 tbsp butter salt and pepper 2 medium apples 1/4 c sherry wine (or another cooking wine) about 1 c shredded sheep’s cheese (or cheddar)
begin with the crust, you can make it a day ahead if you have plastic wrap to cover and refrigerate it. it’s really easy to make the crust in the food processor, just add all ingredients except the water and pulse a few times until the butter has broken up into little pieces. if you don’t have a food processor then use a pastry cutter or break up the cold butter with a large fork.
after processing, transfer the mixture to a large bowl and prepare your ice water. use a cup that is at least 8 oz and fill with water and a few ice cubes. i ended up using 3/4th cups of ice water (12 tablespoons) but you may use a little more or less. add ice water into the dry mixture tablespoon by tablespoon, stirring between each one. just as the dough comes together and sticks, press it all together into one ball and let it sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
meanwhile you can get started on your filling. cut up the leeks first. i usually remove the green portions and roots, then cut them top to bottom so i can clean out each layer and get rid of any dirt or grit – which i seem to find in most all leeks.
then slice the leeks about a 1/4th of an inch thick and heat up a pan over high heat. melt the 2 tbsp butter, add the sliced leeks and stir until incorporated, then turn the heat down to medium. cook the leeks like this for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
once the leeks have cooked, add in the sliced apples and cooking wine, turn the heat up to high. cook like this for 5 more minutes, stirring every minute or so. the wine should completely cook off so there is no liquid in the pan.
transfer the mixture to a large plate to cool down, because you don’t want to put hot filling into a pie crust, it will melt the butter before it gets in the oven.
if your cheese isn’t already shredded then take a minute to do so.
cut off half of the crust dough and roll it out on a large floured surface. roll it out as thin as you can with a rolling pin, and let it sit in the fridge another 10 minutes or so. i found i could fit my whole cutting board right in the fridge, but if you can’t do that you can roll it up in some wax paper or parchment paper.
preheat the oven to 350F.
if you are ready to assemble some pies you can use a small bowl or a large mug to cut out circles, or even use a cookie cutter for a custom shape. pile some filling on one side, topping with a little bit of shredded cheese (don’t overfill!) and lay the another piece of crust gently over. you can seal the edges by crimping with your fingers or do as i did, press together with a fork. prick a tiny hole in the top with a knife so the filling can vent. if you want them to have a shiny finish then you can brush them with an egg wash.
bake for 40 minutes, in 2-3 batches.
let cool a few minute before enjoying, but they are best when warm right from the oven. they store well for two days or so, just keep in an air-tight container outside of the fridge, and toast to re-heat. they are great for a little snack or savory breakfast pastry. if you serve them as an appetizer at a party you can double or triple the dough recipe and make a variety of fillings – would be great stuffed with sauteed mushroom, sun-dried tomato, ricotta cheese, roasted pumpkin/squash or garlicy greens.
yields 12 hand pies
Recipe by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of Pivot Acupuncture & Herbs