Category Archives: Pie

Pork and Potato Hand Pies

When I think of hand pies, my mind always goes to ones with a sweet filling – the apple pies at McDonald’s, the Hostess cherry pies, even Pop-Tarts – but every so often I crave a good savory meat pie. Many cultures have their own version of this dish: baked pierogis from Poland, salteñas from Bolivia, pasties from the UK, or pâté chaud from Vietnam, to name a few. I tend to make mine in the style of Argentenian empanadas, and my meat of choice when it comes to savory pies is almost always pork.

My hand pie recipe is made with a traditional pie crust, braised pork and potato filling. The pork is slowly braised in beer and chicken stock with lots of fragrant spices. This produces a tender and moist filling full of flavor. The addition of potato to the filling helps absorb some of the juice from the pork during the baking process. The creamy potatoes also add a layer of richness to the pies. If you are pressed for time, I encourage you to use store-bought pie dough as it produces good results as well. This hand pie recipe is perfect to make with family members and friends during the holidays or for your next potluck. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!


Pork and Potato Hand Pies

Yield: About 4 dozen


Flaky pie dough (recipe below) or 2 packages of pre-made refrigerated pie dough

1 recipe of beer-braised pork shoulder, shredded and cut into smaller pieces (recipe below, make 1 day in advance)

1 recipe for chopped potatoes with cream (recipe below)

1 large egg

2 tablespoons of cream

Pinch of sea salt


1. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Lightly dust a work station. Roll out the pie dough to 1/8″ thickness. Cut the dough into circles using a 3 1/2″ circular cookie cutter. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent the cut dough from drying out.

3. Whisk together the egg, cream and a pinch of salt. Set aside.


4. Create an assembly line of the braised pork, potatoes, and egg wash.


5. Place about 1 heaping tablespoon of pork and 1 heaping teaspoon of potatoes in the center of the pre-cut dough.


6. Brush half of the edges with egg wash. Fold and press to seal. Repeat the process until you have 1 tray ready, which will be about 12-16 hand pies.

7. Preheat the oven to 350°.

8. Using the tines of a fork, pierce once in the center of each assembled pie.


9. Brush with egg wash.


10. Bake in the oven for approximately 20-25 minute until they are a nice golden brown.


11. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Braised Pork Shoulder Filling

3 lbs. of pork shoulder

Olive oil or other vegetable oil

1 tablespoon of Kosher salt

1 teaspoon of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of sweet paprika

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

2 sweet yellow onions, 1/2″ slices

5 cloves of garlic

2 fresh or dried bay leaves

1 bottle of light beer (like a Stella Artois or Corona)

2 cups or more of chicken stock

1/2 packet of gelatin

1. In a small bowl, combine the salt, paprika, coriander, cumin, cardamom, and black pepper. Rub mixture on the pork, then let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.


2. Preheat the oven to 450°.

3. Toss the onion and garlic cloves in olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes and remove from the oven. You want them slightly charred.


4. Reduce the heat of the oven to 300°.

5. Meanwhile, heat a Dutch oven to high heat over a stovetop. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil. Get a good sear on the pork on all sides.


6. Add the roasted onions and garlic to the pot, along with 2 bay leaves. Pour the beer over the pork and onion mixture. Top off with chicken stock to cover the pork. Cover with lid.


7. Braise in the oven for approximately 5-6 hours. Check progress at the 4 hour mark. The filling is done when the meat falls apart.

8. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Remove the pork and set aside. Strain the broth through a chinois, pushing down the solids with a wooden spoon to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Place the pork back into the pot and refrigerate overnight.

9. The next day, remove the harden fat layer on top of the broth with a spoon and discard. Remove the pork and shred and cut any long pieces with kitchen shears. Set aside.

10. Place the broth pot back on the stove and boil over high heat until it is reduced by half. Stir the gelatin into 2 tablespoons of cold water and then stir into the broth. Place the pork back into the pot. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

11. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes and then refrigerate until completely cooled before using.


Potatoes and Cream Filling

3 cups of Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into 1/4″ dice (about 2 small potatoes)

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons of heavy cream

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Put 1 1/2 quarts of water in a medium pot. Bring to boil.

2. Add Kosher salt until it tastes like the ocean, about a small handful.

3. Add the chopped potatoes and boil for approximately 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl.

4. Stir in cream and taste and add salt if needed. Add a couple turns of the pepper mill. Stir again and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.



Pie Crust

4 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup of sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1 pound of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

2/3 – 3/4 cup of cold ice water


1. Add the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse a few times.


2. Add the butter pieces. Pulse a few more times until the butter pieces are incorporated, but still visible.


3. Slowly add the cold water while pulsing.


4. Stop once the dough comes together.

5. Transfer to a lightly-dusted workstation. Knead until the flour comes tougher.


6. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts and roll the dough into disks.

7. Double wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


Pecan Malt Syrup Tart

Of all the wonderful pies I’ve had over my life, my favorite from back when I was a child is pecan pie. This southern classic has to be one of the sweetest pies I have ever eaten, and I recall baking it middle school with a pre-made pie shell and both light and dark corn syrups. This was the default recipe one found on the side of every Karo corn syrup bottle and back then, when it came to desserts, the sweeter the better. Now as an adult, I find pecan pies to be cloyingly sweet, but I still have fond memories of the dish, so I started experimenting with ways to reduce the sugar level while maintaining the integrity and the custardy structure of the pie.

My solution is, rather than using corn syrup for the entire pie, I substitute half of it with barley malt syrup, as malt syrup has less sugar than corn syrup. Plus it has a malty flavor that I love! I also reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe and added more pecans. And of course, I made my own pie shell. Overall, the recipe is pretty easy. There is some advanced preparation required with the par-baked pie shell, but you have that ready, it’s easy as pie. I recommend you make this dish for Thanksgiving or your next holiday gathering. Enjoy!

1 par baked 10-inch tart shell (see recipe below)
2 cups of pecans, chopped
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of organic corn syrup*
1/2 cup of organic barley malt syrup
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of unsalted melted butter, cooled
Special equipment:
10-inch tart pan
Pie weights or dried beans

1. Heat the oven to 350°

2. Spread the chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Let cool.


3. In a large bowl, add the eggs and sugar and whisk for about 1 minute.


4. Add in the corn syrup, malt syrup, salt, vanilla extract and melted butter and whisk until combined.


5. Put the par-baked tart shell and the pan on top of a baking sheet. In the tart shell, add cooled pecans and spread evenly.


6. Give the custard mixture a final whisk and pour over the pecans.


7. Place the pecan tart in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes (turning the tart at the halfway mark) until the center is set.


*Organic Light Corn Syrup and Barley Malt Syrup can be found in most natural foods market like Sprouts or Whole Foods.

One 10-inch Tart Shell

1 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of cold water

1. To make the tart crust, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times.


2. Add butter. Pulse 3 to 4 times.


3. Add water. Pulse 2 to 3 times until the dough comes together.


4. Move the dough to work station and gently knead it until it just comes together, and then form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.


5. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

6. Heat the oven to  325°

7. Roll out the tart crust wide enough to cover the tart pan. This will be roughly be 13 inches in diameter


8. Press the crust down into the pan. Using a rolling pin, roll over the crust and to cut the portion hanging over the tart pan.


9. Place the crust and pan in the freezer for 5 minutes.

10. Meanwhile, cut out a round piece of parchment paper about 12-inch in diameter.

11. Remove the pie crust from the freezer and line the parchment paper over the crust. Add the pie weights. Par-bake for 20 minutes.

12. Once out of the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper. Let the shell cool completely on a wired rack.

Peach Cobbler

Summer is my favorite time to visit the farmers market because of all the stone fruits that are in season. Nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots – all of them are plentiful everywhere you turn. They are ripe, sweet, juicy and tart; in other words, they’re perfect for making warm cobblers!

Cobblers are baked fruit desserts that have a shortcrust, crumble or biscuit topping. I have tried many different versions of cobbler and my favorite combination is peach cobbler with a biscuit-like topping. In this recipe, I sprinkle crystallized sugar on the biscuit topping, which makes the crust crispy on the top but still moist above the cooked fruit. Since this recipe uses less sugar than most other cobbler recipes, it is important use ripe and sweet peaches. Serve the cobbler with some good vanilla bean ice cream and you’ll have a wonderful summer treat! Enjoy!

Peach Cobbler

Serves 9-12

6 cups sliced ripe, yellow peaches (1/2 inch thick slices)
1/3 cup of sugar + 1/4 cup of  sugar
1 tablespoon of organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (divided in half)
3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 scant teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold and cut into 12 cubes
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoon of heavy cream
Crystallized or turbinado sugar, for topping
Vanilla bean ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, add the sliced peaches, 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir to combine. Set aside.

3. In a food processor, add the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Pulse 3 to 4 times.

4. Add the cubes of butter. Pulse 5-6 more times or until the mixture is pea-sized chunks. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

5. Add the buttermilk and the vanilla extract to the dry mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in carefully until just combined. Set aside.

6. Grease a 9 x 9 square baking pan with a non-stick spray. Give the peach mixture a quick stir. Pour filling into the pan.

7. Spoon the crust mixture in evenly-spaced dollops on top of the peaches.


8. Brush the crust with heavy cream. Generously sprinkle the crystallized sugar on top.

9. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. (Check the cobbler at the 20 minute mark. If the cobbler browns too quickly, you can cover it with aluminum foil.) Cool for at least 20 minutes.

10. Spoon into a bowl and serve with a large scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream.


Sour Cherry Pie

Sour cherries are extremely hard to acquire here in Southern California. They’re coveted by many pastry chefs at the farmers market because they are great for baking and due to the limited supply. Your best options are to pre-order them or to have them shipped to you from Oregon or Utah. Personally, I haven’t had much luck with sour cherries the past few years but I scored some last week at the Hollywood Farmers Market. I bought just enough to make one pie. I explained to my son that a sour cherry pie is a seasonal treat and that it is important to use the best ingredients when making them.

For this pie, I used Grist and Toll’s pie crust recipe. Grist and Toll is a local flour mill in Pasadena that produces high quality flour worthy of such a special treat. Typically I use my own pie dough recipe, but the owner encouraged me to try her recipe and I was pleased with the results. The recipe calls for their Sonora wheat flour. One important thing to note is that the crust browns more quickly then other pie crust recipes, so it is important to keep an eye on the pie and tent it early enough in the baking process to prevent it from burning before the contents of the pie are completely cooked. The only two changes that I made to the pie crust recipe are: 1) I added one additional tablespoon of sugar, and 2) I used a food processor instead of cutting in the butter by hand.

When you buy sour cherries, you can pit them and freeze them until you are ready to use them. They freeze beautifully. This is a great pie for Father’s Day or for the Fourth of July. And if you can’t acquire sour cherries this year, there’s always next year. Enjoy!

Sour Cherry Pie

Yields one 9-inch deep dish pie (about 8 slices)

3/4 cup of granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean pod, scraped for seeds
6 cups of sour cherries or tart mountain cherries (washed and pitted)*
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 Grist and Toll’s double-crusted pie crust recipe or your favorite pie crust recipe**
1 tablespoon of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of sugar crystals
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Preheat oven to  375° .

2. Place the cherries and lemon juice in a large bowl. In a small bowl, add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and the seeds from the vanilla bean. Pour the dry mixture over the cherries. Stir to combine. Set aside.


3. In a lightly floured workstation, roll out the first pie crust dough into a 12″ inch wide circle, 1/4″ thickness. Work quickly so the dough doesn’t soften. Gently roll the pie crust around your rolling pin and transfer it to your pie dish, draping it over the edges as you unroll it. Press the pie crust down into the dish and cut off any excess crust. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.


4. Place a large piece of parchment paper on your workstation and lightly dust with flour. Roll out the second piecrust dough into large circle, a little bit larger than the last piece. Go a little thinner than 1/4″ thickness. Using a fluted pastry wheel or a pizza wheel, cut into 1″ strips. You should have about 12-14 strips. Place the strips in the freezer for about 5 minutes and remove.


5. Remove the pie dish from the refrigerator. Give the cherry mixture a quick stir and pour into the pie crust. Place 6 to 7 vertical strips on the pie, all in the same direction.


6. You will weave the remaining strips in one strip at a time, horizontally, to make it look like an Easter basket.


7. Cut excess dough on the edge. You don’t want the edges to be doughy when baked. Fold over the edge and seal the pie crust. Then crimp the edges using your forefinger from one hand and your thumb and forefinger from the other.


8. Place the pie in the freezer for five minutes. Remove.

9. Using a pastry brush, brush the heavy cream all over the lattice top. Sprinkle with the crystal sugar.


10. Place the pie on a baking sheet and place it on the center rack of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes.

11. After 30 minutes, tent the edges of the pie with foil to prevent it from browning too fast.

12. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. Remove the tent and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.

13. Remove the pie out of the oven place on cooling rack for about 1 hour before slicing. Serve with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

* Finding sour cherries may be difficult. Try the farmers market or order them from your local cherry farmer if possible. If you have no other options, you can use frozen tart cherries, but you may need to increase the cornstarch a bit.

** If using the Grist and Toll pie crust recipe, you can make it in the food processor. See pictures below. You want to add all the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter and pulse 6-8 times. Add the water vinegar mixture and pulse a couple more times. Then transfer the entire mixture to your workstation and proceed with the recipe as written. If you choose to use another double crust pie recipe, make sure the pie crust can hold up to the juicy filling. I tend to work my piecrust dough a little bit longer to give it more structure when making cherry pies. You still want the piecrust to be flaky and not tough.

Cherry Ricotta Hand Pies

First of the season cherries have arrived in California! Cherries are one of my favorite fruits, in part because the season is so short. Since cherries aren’t available at the market year-round, they feel extra special when they become available. When they’re in season, I especially like to bake them in desserts like muffins and pies. A good cherry pie is crispy and flaky with a nice golden color. When I think back to my first cherry pie experience, oddly enough, it was at McDonald’s.

Back in the 80’s, McDonald offered two different pie options: cherry and apple. They were delicious, deep-fried, individual hand pies. My mom would buy me one after ballet or choir performances and it always made me smile. McDonald’s cherry pie inspired me to make own version, but with a couple changes: my pie is baked instead of fried, and also has ricotta added to cut down on the sweetness. The dough is flaky and the crystal sugar adds a little crunch. There are some steps required before assembling the pies, so please read the entire recipe before you start. Also, you can prepare the pie crust a day in advanced. Enjoy!

Cherry Ricotta Hand Pies

Yields: 4 hand pies


1 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of cold water
2 cups of pitted red cherries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon of organic cornstarch
Pinch of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
8 ounces of ricotta, drained overnight in cheese cloth
1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg, beaten (divided in half)
2 teaspoons of whole milk
Sugar crystals for sprinkling

1. To make the pie crust, place flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor.

2. Pulse 3-4 times.

3. Add butter, pulse 3-4 times.

4. Add water. Pulse 2-3 times until the dough comes together.

5. Move the dough to work station, gently knead until it just comes together and form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.

6. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

7. To make the cherry filling, add cherries to a sauce pan and turn the heat to medium.


8. Cover pan with lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

9. Meanwhile, whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt. Remove lid and stir in the dry mixture until no lumps are visible.

10. Add lemon juice and cook for 2 more minutes.

11. Remove from heat and cool completely. Set aside.

12. To make the ricotta filling, add the ricotta, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and 1/2 of the beaten egg in a small bowl. Stir until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until needed.

13. Take the other half of the beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of milk and whisk. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until needed.

14. It’s time to assemble the pies. Lightly dust a work station with flour. Roll out pastry dough until 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into 4 inch squares.


15. Add a tablespoon of ricotta filling and a tablespoon of cherry filling on top. Brush with egg wash around the perimeter. Fold over and seal, making a rectangle. Using the tines of a fork to press along the edges to secure the seal.

16. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other four hand pies. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

17. Preheat on oven to 350°. Remove the hand pies from the freezer and score 3 diagonal lines on top of each pie. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle sugar crystals generously on each hand pie. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until nice and golden brown. Place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Serve warm.