I love hand pies. I mean, pies are good in their own right, but there’s something about hand pies that are just so great. Maybe it’s because it somehow seems more acceptable for me to eat them at breakfast, or maybe it’s that the crust-to-filling ratio is a little higher on hand pies–and it’s all about the crust, right–or maybe it’s because you can eat it while you drive.
This particular recipe uses Asian pears; they’re sort of like a cross between an apple and a pear. The texture is crisp and snappy like an apple, but slightly mealy like pears, and the taste follows suite, borrowing flavors of golden apples and floral pears. They’re a great fruit in general–I’ve made slaws with these and jicama, with Asian-flavored dressings–and they add a little more interest than what a regular apple or pear might.
Unlike other, more familiar pears, these are meant to be fairly crunchy rather than yielding and soft. Some other pears will seem to almost melt in your mouth once you bite into them, turning into a pulpy puree, while these stay crunchy as you continue to chew on them, but still giving you a hint at that mealy, pulipiness that makes pears so wonderful. For this reason, you do have to dice the fruit fairly small so that it softens up enough when the pies are baked. That said, I like to keep some of the pieces on the larger side so you have a contrasting crunch here and there.
The crust is my go-to recipe–the same used in the Beef Bourguignon Potpie recipe, with some minor modifications, of course. You could certainly use store-bought crust for this, and there’s no real shame in it–some of them are pretty good–but there’s still nothing quite like a homemade crust. For this, I put a little ground cinnamon right in the dough to compliment the aromatic cardamom of the filling. Much like other varieties of the pryus family, Asian pears respond well to strong, aromatic flavors: bitter-sweet oils of orange zest, the warming earthiness of ground ginger, and the fragrant and floral notes of ground cardamom.
An egg wash makes them shine, baking to a high-gloss gold, and a hefty sprinkling of turbinado sugar provides not only the crispest of crunches, but also a smokey sweetness that is just out of this world. Serving it with some really good, egg, heavily speckled vanilla ice cream ties it all together.
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