Saturday, September 10, 2011

Balaton Cherry Chocolate Hand Pies

It's been a while since I've posted a recipe here or over at NDiN, not because I haven't been baking, but because I haven't been blogging nearly as often. I even try to keep the recipe posts to a minimum because I know you're here for a whole slew of topics, not just how to satisfy your latest sweet tooth, but as I've mentioned before, my sweet tooth is such that I can't help but post sweet recipes.

Wednesday of this week was my birthday so I had originally planned to have a small group of friends over last night. Despite all of my efforts, however,the nights 's festivities have ended up put off by everything from migraines to thunderstorms to pizza dough malfunctions. I ended up throwing in the towel, telling everyone I'd reschedule, and having a quiet evening with my husband, my brother and his partner. The only thing I did manage to pull off was the dessert, and so at the end of the night I was left with more than a dozen hand pies and some wonderful imported beers and ales gifted to me by my brother's partner. Yum. I chomped into a mini pie and immediately knew I had to share the recipe. It was much better than I had anticipated, and considerably easier than I had foreseen, too (especially after dealing with a finicky dough that was too-warm, too-sticky, too-crumbly in various stages. *grumble grumble*)

I'm not all that happy with the dough I used with these, so I'm not going to include that portion of the recipe. You can use whichever pie dough you like, as long as you're careful as you fold them over and stretch them. Some people add a bit of sour cream to their dough to increase the elasticity a bit. I just bought a new dough cutter and I'm very unhappy with it. It bends when I try to cut cold butter, which is maddening.

Anyway, part of the success of this recipe is in no doubt due to the variety of cherries I used. While at the farmer's market this week I talked to "the berry man" about the beautiful deep red cherries he had displayed on his table. Isn't it kind of late for such nice cherries? No, these are Balaton cherries.
Balaton cherries are apparently a fairly recent introduction in the states from Michigan State. They originated in Hungary and are technically a tart cherry, being prized for their deep red juice. They are supposedly the highest ranking tart cherry on the brix scale (the scale used to determine a food's sugar content using a saccharometer <-I like that word.) Because they are still technically a tart cherry, rather than a sweet cherry, they are juicier and better for cooking, and they develop an almost wine-like taste when cooked. I was a bit skeptical, but the berry man was so excited to tell me about them that I couldn't help but try one fresh.

Oh Yes.

They were delicious. I promptly bought every cherry he had left and left the market with a grin on my face.

I didn't know what I'd be making with these cherries, but I did know I wanted to work on some hand pies. I have it in the back of my head that I'd like to open my own pastry and confections business next year, selling at markets and festivals (can we say sweet tooth?) so I like to experiment when I can. My husband, Jeremy, suggested I try a chocolate cherry pie. It sounded mediocre to me, as I've never really been one for anything but pure fruit pies, but I figured I'd give it a whorl.

The results were fantastic. Subtle, melty chocolate with deep balaton cherry goodness, oozing out of an only-slightly-better-than-mediocre crust. Okay, apart from the crust, this was heaven. I'd like to apologize to our more health-sensitive readers. I've tried to cut down the sugar in my diet, and I've actually succeeded to... sort of. I've cut out all artificial sugars, and I only bake with cane sugar and honey. I guess more than anything I'm just more selective about the sugars that I ingest, rather than cutting them out of my diet. Anyway, I really like sweets. Sorry, folks.

And so, I share with you:

Chocolate Cherry Hand Pie Filling

Approximately 1lb pitted Balaton cherries (or other high-sugar tart cherry, like Montmorency) You may want to chop your cherries. I didn't, and it's still delicious, but it would be juicier if I had chopped them first.
1/3 cup crumbled chocolate - I used half dark and half milk and pulsed them in the food processor until finely chopped
1/2 cup cane sugar
1-3 tablespoons flour, if desired

Egg whites and Demerara sugar to top the pies

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl and set aside to macerate for approximately 20-60 minutes
In the mean time, prepare your dough. Don't forget to let it chill before making your pies. The cooler you can keep your dough, the flakier it will be. When your dough is ready, roll it out until 1/8th inch. Using a bowl, or cutting freehand, cut your dough into the desired shapes. Circles beget half circles, triangles beget triangles, squares beget rectangles, etc.

Dribble a bit of the chocolate cherry mix in the center of your dough-shape and fold the dough over, stretching carefully. This takes a bit of practice, especially to keep the dough from tearing. Using a bit of water, wet the edges of the dough and press them together. You can use a fork or a finger or something else to create a decorative edge on your hand pies at this point. I used a fancy dough press that my parents gave me for my birthday. It worked surprisingly well!

To finish off the pies, brush their tops and edges with egg whites and sprinkle Demerara sugar over them (the big, natural sugar crystals) to your taste. Bake your pies according to the directions of your pie crust. I think mine baked a little bit faster than predicted, so watch them carefully. Super dark crust isn't always bad tasting, but burned chocolate just isn't pleasant, especially not in a cherry pie.

Serve warm, with home made ice cream (or whatever you can come up with), and enjoy!

Are you enjoying the last few weeks of berry season by baking or cooking?

Sorry for the double post over at Not Dabbling! I really wanted to share this recipe both places!


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