FRONT BURNER: Leak leads to Cherry Hand Pie delight

Cherry Hand Pies (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Cherry Hand Pies (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

One night last week, I walked into the kitchen and heard running water. Not quite a gush, but definitely more than a trickle. I quickly checked the sink and was dumbfounded to find it dry. Then I realized the sound was behind me.

It was coming from my freezer.

I don't want to bore you with the specifics of my household troubleshooting, so I'll get to the point. In my search for the source of the freezer's problem, I found a bag of cherries I had pitted and frozen last summer and a box of puff pastry. Which led to an immediate craving for cherry turnovers.

So after I got the kitchen cleaned up and my freezer reorganized, I made these hand pies.

If your dad is a cherry pie fan, these little pies would make a great dessert to serve Sunday for Father's Day.

You could use about 2 cups fresh cherries, but I prefer using frozen because they've already been pitted.

Rich, buttery and flaky puff pastry, also known by its French names pate feuilletee and mille-feuille, is made with flour, salt, butter and water or cream. The French name mille-feuille means 1,000 leaves, which refers to the layers and layers of thin, flaky baked pastry. The dough itself is made by rolling and folding the dough repeatedly, creating layers of tiny pieces of butter suspended in flour.

What makes this unleavened dough "rise"?

As the dough bakes, the tiny pieces of butter melt and create steam pockets which cause the dough to puff up to 10 times its original height, creating an estimated 700 to 1,500 individual layers of flaky pastry.

Cherry Hand Pies

1 (17.25-ounce) box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets)

1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

12 ounces frozen cherries

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons milk OR 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Place the frozen pastry on the counter to thaw while you prepare the filling.

In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 1 ½ tablespoons cold or room temperature water. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, granulated sugar, lemon juice and salt. Cook mixture, stirring occasionally, until cherries release their juice, about 5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch slurry. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour mixture into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

By the time the filling is cooled, the puff pastry sheets should be defrosted.

On a lightly floured surface, unfold and roll pastry into a large rectangle, about 10-by-14-inches. (You can do this with one sheet at a time, or for more uniform pastries, stack the two sheets — use a piece of parchment between them if desired — and roll them out together.

Cut the rolled pastry in half, then into thirds to make 12 rectangles. Arrange 6 of the rectangles in a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set the remaining rectangles aside.

Brush the edges of the pastry with a little egg wash or cream. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cherry filling into the center of each rectangle.

Place the remaining rectangles of pastry over the filling, lining up the edges. Using the tines of a fork, crimp and seal the edges. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit in the top of each pastry. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake pastries for 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until tops are golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variation: For Cherry Almond pies stir a few tablespoons almond flour/meal into the cherry mixture.

Makes 6 hand pies.