Nothing puts you in your place in the kitchen quite like botching a Martha Stewart recipe.
I love her Baking Handbook because of its clear organization, detailed how-to instructions, and most of all because of the gorgeous design and photography. You can see her book propped up in the photos above, all of her hand pies sitting their with their symmetrical, identical and goldened to perfection corners tucked neatly to the center. Um, yeah, it's perfection.
Then you see my hand pies. They are most certainly NOT symmetrical, they are definitely not identical. Many of them are more than golden, and nothing is neatly tucked to the center. My hand pies likely tasted very similar to Martha's, but they lack the visual perfection. This has a lot to do with my botched crust.
I need to find a "working with Pate Brisee" self help book, because I am just not good at it. It is sort of disturbing, because I come from a lineage of successful crust makers. My grandmother bakes apple pies in a giant, foot wide, deep dish pie plate. My father can whip up a flaky, tender, perfectly golden pie crust in his sleep using shortening, which is why he frequently bakes pies for my mom on a whim. My sister Anne must have acquired the gene for crust making, only she uses butter to make a legit pate brisee. Me though, I have not perfect the crust making, although I am trying. I won't lie though, on occasion my failed attempts at crust have left me crying in the kitchen. What's a girl to do when she strives for Martha-like perfect and ends up with hand pies that look like these?
The only thing to do is take some funny photos and enjoy them as though they look perfect. After all, they still taste good, right? Plus I have heard that it all looks the same after it's chewed anyways. And worrying about my pate brisee does not help the situation. As my dad always says "Don't worry, worry ruins the crust."
Sausage-Fennel Hand Pies (from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
1/4 c EVOO (optional)
1 pound sweet italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 small head fennel (about 1 pound), trimmed, cored, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
6 plum tomatoes, quartered, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
pate brisee (see below)
1 large egg, lightly beaten, 3 T fennel seeds, lightly toasted
1. Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat (no need if you have a non-stick pan as the sausage will release oil). Crumble sausage into pan and cook until browned, 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.
2. If needed, add more oil--depending on your sausage, you may not need any. Add the onion and cook 2 minutes (or a tad longer if you like your onion really soft). Add fennel and red pepper flakes, season with S&P. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender, 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they release their juices, 3-4 minutes. Add reserved sausage. Remove from heat and let cool COMPLETELY. This is a good time to roll out the crust. When the filling is cooled, add feta and stir in.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil. Now roll out 12 5x5 squares of dough from the pate brisee recipe (below). You can do this a lot of ways. I divided my dough into 3 pieces and made 4 squares out of each piece, rolling everything out between wax paper.
4. Put 1/2 c filling in the middle of each square, and then fold the corners up to cover it (shouldn't be completely sealed or anything). Lay them out on the baking sheet--they don't rise so I was able to fit all 12 on my sheet (admittedly it's an extra large sized one).
5. Brush tops with egg and sprinkle on fennel seeds. Bake until golden brown, 40 minutes (actually less in my oven). Cool slightly and serve warm.
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 c ice water
Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles course crumbs. While machine is running, add ice water slowly until dough just holds together without being wet or sticky. You might need to add a little more water depending on how humid it is. Then chill the dough at least 1 hour or overnight.