Making hand pies is rather straightforward. You need a nice, flaky and flavourful pastry shell and a simple and effective filling. Sour cherries are always a good choice, because although sour, they have a lot of flavour. Combined with a sweet vanilla pastry shell, it is a great tea dessert, as well as a fun picnic food or a party favour.
For the dough
100 grams butter, softened
100 grams Ricotta cheese
200 grams plain flour
50 grams icing sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon powdered vanilla
For the filling
100 grams sour cherries
100 grams sugar
1 ½ tablespoon cornflour (corn starch)
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon kirsch
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
First make the filling, because it will have to cool down before being put in the dough. Take the cherries and put them in a heavy-based saucepan, add the sugar and leave them for about 15 minutes, so they release the juice. You can also use frozen cherries, just leave them in the saucepan to thaw, then add the sugar and continue with the recipe as directed. Bring the cherries to a boil over medium high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Mix the cornflour (corn starch) and cold water in a small bowl, and add it to the cherries. Mix really well and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove the cooked filling from the heat and add the cocoa powder and kirsch. Mix well and leave it to cool down.
For the dough, sift together the flour with the icing sugar and the vanilla, and leave it to one side. Cream together the softened butter with the Ricotta cheese, with an electric mixer on high, until well blended (it will take about 2 minutes, or so). Add half of the dry ingredients and blend it well with your mixer on the lowest setting. Add the second half of the dry ingredients and blend in the same fashion. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and use your hands to bring it together. It will be very soft, but not sticky at all. Place it in the fridge for 10 minutes, to firm up slightly.
Lightly flour your work surface and place the dough in the centre. Roll it out to about 3-4 millimetres (⅛-inch) thickness and cut out 8 rectangles. If you need to, first cut out the first four, then re-roll the scraps and cut out the other four rectangles. Place a portion of the filling in the centre of the rectangle, then fold it over and press the edges firmly with a fork, to seal them. Arrange the pies on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper, cut them once diagonally with a very sharp knife and bake them immediately in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F), for about 12-15 minutes. Yields 8 small hand pies.