Chow Town

Easy, fast tart cherry hand pie recipe brings back summer memories

Tart Cherry Hand Pies
Tart Cherry Hand Pies Special to The Star

Summer makes me miss being a kid — the baskets of strawberries dipped in sugar, water balloon fights and my Snoopy Sno Cone machine.

Does it get any better than that? We spent so many nights playing hide-and-seek in our neighborhood after dark.

These cherry hand pies feel a lot like summer to me. They are pretty simple, delicious, and they disappear so fast.

My pie dough recipe uses butter, but you can certainly bring in a portion of lard or shortening if that’s your thing. I’ve always used butter and I like the way it behaves.

By hand is my favorite way to make pie dough, but you can use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a food processor. Fewer dishes means success for me, so that is the method I’m sharing today. I also find working with my hands therapeutic and satisfying.

You can make these any shape and size you want. I like the little round shape with a tiny star cutout for the top crust for a festive Fourth of July treat.

Tart Cherry Hand Pies

Pate Brisee (flaky pie crust)

8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter

2.5 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 cup ice water

Cut butter into 1-inch cubes and freeze for about 20 minutes. Whisk flour, salt and sugar in medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add water (excluding ice pieces).

Work mixture with fingertips until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more water by teaspoons if dry. Dump the shaggy mixture onto a floured countertop and gather dough into ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least one hour. This will allow the dough to absorb moisture and the butter to chill.


12 ounces tart cherries, pitted (frozen work well)

2/3 cup dried cherries

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

11/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Juice of 1 or 2 lemons

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Combine first ingredients in a small pot on the stove. Heat over medium heat 5 minutes. Whisk cornstarch with enough lemon juice to have pourable slurry. Add slurry to cherry pot and bring to a full boil while stirring. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract and almond extract if using. Cool.


1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a tiny pinch of fine sea salt

1/4 cup turbinado sugar (optional)

Here are my instructions for little 2-inch hand pies … because they are adorable and no one can turn them down. You can make this into a traditional 9-inch double crust pie. Just holler if you need help with how to make that happen.

Split your dough into 2 portions. On a well-floured surface, roll one of the disks out to a 1/8-inch thickness. Use a 2-inch round biscuit cutter to cut little circles out of the rolled crust. Place the circles on a plate in the refrigerator while you roll out the hand pie tops. (You can reroll the scraps of pie crust if you’d like. The more you work the crust the tougher it will become.)

Place about one heaping teaspoon to one heaping tablespoon of cherry filling in the center of each circle. (I try to use as much filling as possible.)

Lightly stretch the remaining circles with your fingers. Dip your fingers or a pastry brush in water and lightly line the outside edge of the bottom crust. Place the slightly stretched top crusts over the cherry filling. Press the edges together with your fingers. Don’t worry about the little bit of cherry juice that leaks out. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a small X in the top crust for a steam vent. You could skip the X and in use a tiny star or heart-shaped cookie cutter to punch out of the center of the top crust when cutting the little circles in the first step.

Lightly brush the tops of each pie with egg wash. If using, sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar. Place pies into the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and heat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 9-12 minutes, or until light golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool.

Erin Brown is a pastry chef and proprietor of Dolce Bakery in Prairie Village and a wife and mother. Reach her at