This past Wednesday, two members of our Test Kitchen team went live with you on Facebook to answer some of your most pressing questions for this month’s Better Baking Academy Module: Pecan Hand Pies. Here, we’ve rounded up five of those questions along with our team’s expert answers.
If you’re looking to learn more about the Better Baking Academy and our partnership with Bob’s Red Mill, be sure to check out our Better Baking Academy homepage here. We also have a Better Baking Academy with Bob’s Red Mill Facebook group. Here, you can share your bakes, interact with other home bakers, and tune in for our next Facebook Live Q&A on December 15, 2021. We can’t wait to see you again next month and talk all things Battenberg!
But for now, let’s see what our experts had to say about making perfectly flaky Pecan Hand Pies!
Question: I love pecan pie, but what other fillings would work for this recipe?
Answer: The possibilities are endless! Anything from fruit fillings to chocolate-hazelnut spread would work well in this recipe. Just be sure your filling is properly thickened and cooled before filling and baking your hand pies.
Question: My rough puff pastry didn’t have the layers I was looking for. What happened?
Answer: The flaky layers in puff pastry are all thanks to the butter remaining cold in the dough. If your butter hasn’t chilled properly before mixing your dough and if you don’t allow your pastry enough time to chill between rolling and folding it, the butter will melt and blend with the flour instead of remaining in distinct layers as you laminate it. If your butter starts noticeably melting, just return your pastry to the refrigerator and allow the butter to harden before continuing.
Question: My pastry came out tough and hard. What did I do wrong?
Answer: This could happen for a number of reasons. First, it’s very important not to overmix your dough. Your dough should just start to come together in the mixer; it’s OK if a few dry bits remain in your dough, because it’ll hydrate as it sits in the refrigerator and is rolled out. Too much water will also make for a dense dough, so be sure to measure your water by weight to be most accurate. You’ll also want to make sure your butter stays cold throughout mixing and rolling. The final freeze before going in the oven will also help to keep the butter from immediately melting out of your dough, so make sure your hand pies are firmly frozen before putting them in the oven. Finally, ensure your oven is fully up to temperature before baking your hand pies. If your oven temperature is too low, the butter will melt too slowly to release the steam necessary to create flaky layers in your puff pastry.
Question: How do I keep my filling from leaking out?
Answer: To keep the filling in your hand pies, make sure each hand pie is properly sealed. Every edge should have a fair amount of egg brushed on, and you’ll need to be firm with your fork as you crimp and seal the edges. The “X” cut on the top of each hand pie also acts as a vent for the wet filling, allowing steam to release from the pie without bursting, so be sure to cut completely through the dough. If the cut doesn’t go all the way through, the steam will try to escape through the sides, creating a space for filling to leak out.
Question: Can I freeze my hand pies already filled?
Answer: Absolutely! After you’ve filled, crimped, and scored your hand pies, allow them to freeze solid on a baking sheet in your freezer. Once frozen solid, you can then transfer them to a plastic freezer bag or an airtight container. If you’re worried about your pies sticking together, you can layer squares of parchment paper between each hand pie. When it comes time to bake your hand pies, all you’ll have to do is transfer them to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake!