Welcome to the July Baking Challenge! If you’ve been reading my blog for a few years, you may be familiar with my annual July 4th tradition. 🙂 Every year on or around July 4th, I share a new apple pie recipe. Apple pie, an American classic, is my all-time favorite dessert. I shared my first recipe back in 2013 and every year since then:
- 2013: Salted Caramel Apple Pie
- 2014: Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars
- 2015: Apple Crumble Pie
- 2016: Apple Slab Pie with Maple Icing
- 2017: Deep Dish Apple Pie
- 2018: Apple Hand Pies
This year marks year 6 and I combined my annual apple pie tradition with the July recipe for Sally’s Baking Challenge!
In July, I challenge you to bake individual apple hand pies. This is a really fun recipe for summertime; hand pies are an easy grab and go dessert, so they’re great for summer picnics. Awesome portion control. No serving utensils or plates required. Can be served warm, room temperature, or cold and honestly taste great each way. Kids can help shape them and hand pies can be prepared days ahead or frozen.
And, best part of all, you literally have an apple pie just for yourself.
Today I’m sharing my apple hand pie recipe, step-by-step photos, and a video tutorial. I also include alternate filling suggestions just in case apple isn’t your thing. Lots to go over so let’s get started!
Homemade Pie Dough
First step is to make your pie dough. There’s a higher crust-to-filling ratio in hand pies, so we want a crust that tastes GOOD. I recommend using my homemade pie crust. This crust, prepared with a mix of butter and shortening, is sturdy enough to bake in different shapes and designs. Pie crust may be new for some baking challenge participants or even intimidate you, so let’s go over my pie crust tips and tricks:
- Why a mix of butter and shortening? Not all fats are created equal. With its high melting point, shortening helps pie crust hold its shape and since it melts slowly, creates flaky layers and a tender texture. Butter imparts unparalleled, impeccable flavor. So I use both fats to create a strong, flaky, and buttery crust.
- Use cold fats and ice cold water. Keeping the pie dough as cold as possible is imperative, especially in the summertime. If room temperature or warm, the fats will melt as you mix and roll out the pie dough, rendering it impossible to work with. The baked crust will be tough and dense. In the summer months, I even suggest beginning with cold flour. Stick the bowl of flour + salt in the freezer for 30 minutes before adding the fats. This acts as extra insurance to help guarantee your pie dough will be (1) easy to work with and (2) taste good!
- Handle the dough with care. When rolling out pie dough, go slow. Always start from the center and work your way out in all directions, turning the dough with your hands as you go. If the edges are cracking, smooth them out with your fingers and hands. (You can see me do this in the video below.)
- Marbles and specks of butter in the pie dough are a good thing. All the more buttery pockets and flakes in the baked pie dough!
- All is not lost. If you notice the dough is cracking or too dry, dip your fingers in cold water and smooth out any cracks. If it’s cracking, it needs some moisture. If the dough seems really flimsy and sticky, lightly flour it. If it’s sticky, it’s too wet.
Here’s the full recipe for pie crust. More tips and troubleshooting over that way. The recipe yields two crusts and you’ll use both in this recipe to produce 10 hand pies.
Apple Pie Filling
Just apples, sugar, spices, and butter. What more could one want?* The hand pie bake time isn’t long enough to really soften the apples, so let’s get them started on the stove. The filling is buttery, pleasantly sweet, and filled with cinnamon spice. You can prepare it a couple days ahead of time (along with the pie dough!) so all you have to do is assemble and bake the hand pies for dessert.
*Caramel. One would also want caramel. That’s going on top!!
My only tip for the apple pie filling: cut the apples into small bite-size pieces. That way you can fit more into each hand pie.
Use any filling for the July Baking Challenge!
- Blueberry: Combine 2 cups of fresh blueberries (I don’t recommend frozen– too wet), 1.5 Tablespoons cornstarch, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and a splash of lemon juice together in a saucepan. Cook the filling just like you would with the apple pie filling in the directions below.
- Strawberry: Follow blueberry instructions, but use 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries.
- Cherry: Simply follow the filling recipe + instructions for my cherry pastry pies (step 1 in that recipe).
- Jam: fill with a spoonful or 2 of your favorite jam or preserves.
- Brown sugar cinnamon: Just make my homemade brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts. They’re hand pies. 🙂
You can shape the hand pies whatever shape you want. I use a 3.5 inch round cookie cutter. I don’t suggest anything smaller than 3 inches in diameter because you can’t fit enough filling in a pie that small. You can also shape into rectangles. See my homemade brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts as an example. I use a ruler and cut into 3×4-inch rectangles. Bake time will be more or less depending on size– just bake until crust is golden brown. Use the same oven temperature.
Watch me assemble the hand pies in this video:
Easy, right? After I cut the dough into circles, I pile it on a plate and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Remember what I said above? The colder the pie dough is, the easier it is to work with. After the hand pies are assembled, brush with a little egg wash to help the crusts brown, sprinkle with coarse sugar for added crunch and sparkle, then bake until golden brown.
Best served with salted caramel on top, but bowl + spoon + vanilla ice cream is perfectly acceptable!
Join the July Baking Challenge
Make the apple hand pies or any hand pie using my filling suggestions above. If you’re not into this recipe, here is the alternate July Baking Challenge:
After you bake the hand pies or alternate recipe, share your photos throughout July using #sallysbakingchallenge on your public Instagram or Twitter, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page or Facebook group. Or email it to me. By sharing or sending your photo, you’re automatically entered in the $250 giveaway!
Apple Hand Pies
- Homemade Pie Crust (makes two crusts, use both)
- 2 medium apples, peeled and diced into small bite-size pieces (about 2 and 1/2 cups diced)
- 1/3 cup (70g) granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon (15ml) milk
- optional: homemade salted caramel for topping
Preliminary note: you can shape the hand pies whatever shape you want. I use a 3.5 inch round cookie cutter. I don't suggest anything smaller than 3 inches in diameter because you can't fit much filling in a pie that small. You can also shape into rectangles. See my homemade brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts as an example. For those I use a ruler and cut into 3x4-inch rectangles. Bake time will be more or less depending on hand pie size-- just bake until crust is golden brown. Use the same oven temperature.
- The crust: Prepare my pie crust recipe through step 5. The dough must chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator. You can make pie dough ahead, see instructions below.
- The filling: Combine the diced apples, granulated sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice together in a medium saucepan or skillet over low-medium heat. While occasionally stirring, bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool uncovered at room temperature for 30 minutes. You can make filling ahead, see instructions below.
- Roll out the pie dough: See my video above as a visual guide for the next few steps. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of chilled dough (keep the other one in the refrigerator). Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls. At any sign of sticking, sprinkle some flour underneath then keep rolling. Roll out until it's about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8th - 1/4th inch thick. Using your cookie cutter, cut into circles. Re-roll any scraps and cut into circles. Place cut circles in the refrigerator to keep cold. The colder the shaped dough, the easier it is to work with. Repeat with 2nd pie dough and refrigerate cut circles for at least 15 minutes before filling the hand pies.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F (191°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Fill the hand pies: Arrange half of the circles about 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. These are the bottom crusts. Using a sharp knife, cut slits into the remaining circles. These are the top crusts. The slits act as vents so that steam can escape as the hand pies bake. Place about 2 Tablespoons of filling in the center of each bottom crust. (Or however much fits while leaving the edges bare.) Place top crust on top. Press your fingers all around the edges to seal, then crimp with a fork. If the hand pies lost some shape, use your hands to form a round circle again. It's OK if some filling juice is leaking out. Lightly brush the top of the pie crust with egg wash mixture. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.
- At this point the hand pies can be baked, but if they don't feel cool to touch anymore, freeze for 10 minutes before baking. The colder they are going into the oven, the better they'll hold their shape.
- Bake for about 28-32 minutes or until they’re golden brown on top and around the edges. Rotate pans halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and allow the hand pies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool until ready to handle. You can serve warm or at room temperature. If desired, serve with a drizzle of warm salted caramel.
- Cover leftovers and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Make ahead tip + freezing instructions: A couple ways to make ahead of time! The pie crust dough can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using. Filling can also be prepared ahead of time. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Prepared filling can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using. Assembled and unbaked hand pies can be covered and refrigerated or frozen for up to 3 days. If frozen, no need to thaw before baking; simply add an extra couple minutes of bake time. Baked hand pies can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature before serving.
- If desired, you can halve the the filling recipe and only use 1 pie crust to yield about 5 hand pies.
- Use any apples you like best. I always use Granny Smith + a red variety for a tart/sweet combination. I love Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Jazz, or Fuji.
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