Bourbon Cherry Hand Pies

We have a pretty small freezer, and for someone like me this can be a bit of a problem.  In any given season, you will probably find:

  • Partially-used bags of no fewer than eight and no more than twelve different flours
  • Sauces of all colors frozen into ice cubes, from tomato paste and peanut sauce, to green curry paste and pesto
  • At least one ball of some sort of dough, frozen with the intention of whipping it out at a moment’s notice to impress guests (who have yet to materialize)
  • Recycled yogurt containers full of various soups and broths, well-labeled (and well-hidden behind bags of flour)
  • Several bags of vegetable trimmings, haphazardly frozen on the off-chance that they will be reused in some future soup
  • Gallon bags bursting to the seams with berries, mostly to satisfy A’s compulsion to freeze berries of all kinds, which he will promptly forget about as soon as apple season begins

On top of all that, we now have to make sure there’s room every other month for our 10-lb. delivery of meat from Moomaw Farm.

So occasionally a kitchen project is determined by how to create as much empty space in the freezer with as little effort as possible.  Thus it happened that today, as fall announced its undeniable presence with blustery downpours, I found myself baking with decidedly unseasonal sour cherries.

IMG_1844 color correct

Sour, or pie, cherries have a limited growing season, and since they don’t travel well, they need to be used quickly.  I managed to get my hands on 4 lbs. of fresh cherries back in July, but was about to head out of town, so I pitted and froze them all immediately.  And as you might imagine, they got a bit lost in our crowded freezer—that is, until I was musing aloud that I might make a pie soon, and A asked for a cherry pie.

IMG_1850 color correct

Well, I’ll do you one better: twelve cherry pies!  Hand pies, that is; smaller than a turnover (so you can eat two without feeling guilty), and with quite a large pie crust-to-filling ratio.  Hand pies really are the cream of the crop; both your crust and your filling have to be top-notch to stand up to that ratio.  That little bit of filling has to be immensely satisfying, and the crust needs to be so flaky and flavorful that you don’t mind eating a handful of it.

Of course, twelve hand pies are still more than A and I can (or should) eat in a couple days.  So six of these went back into the freezer, to be baked off some other rainy afternoon when A least expects it.  And I made more cherry filling than I needed, so that went back in the freezer as well, and it really doesn’t seem any emptier than it was this morning….

IMG_1858 color correct

Bourbon Cherry Hand Pies
Crust:
2 1/2 C flour
2 T sugar
1 t salt
1/2 C cold butter, diced
1/2 C cold shortening, diced
½+ C cold water

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  With a fork or pastry cutter, cut in the butter and shortening until mixture is crumbly.  Quickly work dough into a ball, then divide into 12 portions and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Filling:
1 1/3 lbs. fresh pitted pie cherries (or 1 ½ 14.5-oz cans)
1/4 C sugar
1 T bourbon
1/2 t orange bitters
1/4 t vanilla
1-2 T arrowroot powder, or 3 T flour or cornstarch

Combine all ingredients except the arrowroot in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cook until cherries break down, 10-15 minutes.  Lower heat and add the arrowroot powder, one teaspoon at a time, mixing completely after each addition to avoid lumps.  When syrup has thickened, remove from heat and cool completely.

Preheat oven to 375° and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set a small bowl of water by your work space.  On a floured surface, roll each ball into 5-6” circle.  Place 1 heaping tablespoon of filling in each circle (resist the urge to add more or you won’t be able to seal it cleanly), dab edge with water, and crimp shut.  Slice off any ragged edges.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Cut slits to vent, and sprinkle the tops with sugar.  Keep chilled until ready to bake.  Bake until golden, about 20 minutes, and cool on a wire rack.

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