Lisa Donovan’s Hand Pies

Lisa Donovan Hand Pies - Bake from Scratch

Lisa Donovan is the undisputed hand pie queen of the South.

Though she’s worked in restaurants and kitchens since she was seventeen—including Nashville’s esteemed City House—it was her time at Husk restaurant and her friendship with chef Sean Brock that cemented her role as a translator of historic foods and arbiter of the modern Southern palate. Her and Sean’s joint passion for storytelling through the plate helped evolve her now trademark style of serving old recipes in new and thoughtful ways. She’s one of the reasons you see fine dining restaurants throughout the region ending meals with old-school pies and church supper-style cakes. The hand pies featured here combine traditional recipes with Lisa’s deft approach to layering flavor to create what we think of as palm-sized bites of heaven.

Lisa Donovan Hand Pies - Bake from Scratch

Donovan’s portable pastries showcase incredible natural flavors in tiny pockets of deliciousness. Choose from her Roasted Strawberry, Dried Apple, Lemon Thyme and Blackberry, and Spicy Green Tomato Jam filling recipes.

1.0 from 1 reviews
Pie Dough
Makes dough for 15 hand pies
  • 2½ cups plus 3 tablespoons (337 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) kosher salt
  • 2 cups (454 grams) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • ¼ to ½ cup ice water
  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Toss butter into dry ingredients, and break apart before beginning to work together. Work butter into dry ingredients with your hands, making shmears and buttery flakes. You are looking to incorporate all the butter into the flour without overworking. If butter starts to feel warm, cool it off in the refrigerator at any time. Every piece of butter should be incorporated with some flour before you begin to add the water.
  2. To incorporate the water, start by drizzling ¼ cup cold water over flour and butter mixture. Using your hands, toss water into flour until it is fully absorbed. Continue adding water as needed until dough begins to form a ball. Once you feel your flour has become a dough and feels moist but not wet or sticky, give it a few strong kneads to work it all together. Your dough should be tacky and supple feeling, but not sticky or moist. Shape dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

1.0 from 1 reviews
Lisa Donovan’s Hand Pies
Makes 15
  • Pie Dough, rested and chilled (recipe above)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Desired filling, chilled (recipes follow)
  • Specified garnish
  1. Cut dough in half, and roll each half to ⅛-inch thickness. Using a 4½-inch round cutter, cut dough, rerolling scraps once. Place rounds between sheets of parchment paper, and refrigerate for 5 to 7 minutes. Combine dough scraps, and reserve for another use, if desired.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water. Once pie rounds are chilled, take them out, one at a time, and brush edges with egg wash. Fill with 1½ tablespoons desired filling. Fold dough over filling, and press to seal. Trim with a fluted pastry cutter to further seal. Place on prepared pan, and freeze.
  4. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  5. Brush frozen hand pies with egg wash, and top with specified garnish, if desired. Make 3 small vents in top of dough using a paring knife. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.

Lisa Donovan Hand Pies - Bake from Scratch
1.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted Strawberry Filling
Makes about 2½ cups
  • 12 cups fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon (0.375 gram) kosher salt
  • Garnish: coarse sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large shallow baking dish (preferably metal as it will help caramelize the fruit slightly), toss together strawberries, ½ cup (100 grams) sugar, lemon zest and juice, and salt.
  3. Roast strawberries for 10 to 15 minutes before stirring. Taste and assess the amount of liquid released and begin to determine natural sweetness and pectin release. Add sugar in ¼ cup (50 grams) increments until flavor is correct, roasting between each addition. Continue to cook and stir fruit until it jams slightly, 30 to 40 minutes. (It will thicken as it cools.) Refrigerate before using. Garnish hand pies with coarse sugar, if desired.

1.0 from 1 reviews
Dried Apple Filling
Makes about 1½ cups
  • 3 cups sliced, dried apples
  • 5 cups unsweetened apple cider
  • ¼ cup (55 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • Garnish: ground black pepper
  1. In a large saucepan, soak dried apples in apple cider for 1 hour.
  2. Bring apple mixture to a boil over medium heat; boil for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 40 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer apples to a deep baking dish, reserving cider.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  4. Toss apples with brown sugar, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and vanilla bean seeds.
  5. Bake until filling begins to break down, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently and adding reserved cider as needed to prevent drying while baking. Let cool for 10 minutes. Gradually stir in cream. Refrigerate before using. Garnish hand pies with pepper, if desired.

1.0 from 1 reviews
Lemon Thyme and Blackberry Filling
Makes about 1½ cups
  • 4 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 lemon thyme sprigs, leaves lightly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon (0.75 gram) kosher salt
  • 1½ tablespoons (12 grams) cornstarch
  • Garnish: coarse sugar
  1. In a large stockpot, bring blackberries, sugar, ¼ cup water, lemon zest and juice, lemon thyme, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer. Remove 1 cup hot liquid, and whisk in cornstarch. Slowly add cornstarch mixture back into simmering mixture, stirring constantly.
  2. Continue cooking until blackberries have softened and sauce has reduced enough to become viscous when chilled. Refrigerate before using. Garnish hand pies with coarse sugar, if desired.

1.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy Green Tomato Jam Filling
Makes about 1½ cups
  • 1 pound green tomatoes, seeded and chopped into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon (2.25 grams) kosher salt
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1½ teaspoons black peppercorns
  1. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, sugar, and honey. Cover and let stand overnight or up to 24 hours to macerate.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, combine macerated tomatoes (including all juices), jalapeño, vinegar, and salt. Place cloves, star anise, and peppercorns on a piece of cheesecloth, and tie with kitchen twine to create a sachet. Place sachet in tomato mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until tomatoes begin to break down and jam registers 215°F to 220°F on a candy thermometer. Remove sachet. Process half of tomato mixture in the container of a blender, and combine with remaining unprocessed mixture. Refrigerate before using.


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  1. Made this exactly by recipe, even though I thought the butter and salt could not be right… pies melted away !… Looked up same recipe on another site… and it stated 2 “sticks” butter ( not 2 cups) and 1 “teaspoon” salt (not 1 tablespoon ) !

    • Hey Donna,

      Thanks for reaching out! We talked to our test kitchen about your problems with the recipe and retested it to see where things might have gone wrong. Afterward, our test kitchen baker had this to say:

      “This is more like a homemade puff pastry- it is very similar in texture to the puff tart doughs- loaded with butter and they needed a pan underneath to catch the drips. The amount of butter makes a very flaky tender dough- that is why you have to freeze it before baking, so that the butter firms back up (after being handled/rolled out/etc) and then the dough will hold its shape during baking.”

      We hope this helps you with your future bakes!


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