Jessica Carter

2018 is bad but pies are good

Stephanie Burt
Updated: October 08, 2018

You’ve had a hard week. Or many hard weeks. Or a whole year—hell, we’ve all had a hard year or two. There’s nothing like some weekend baking to create a zen place and make you focus on sugar instead of supreme courts. Make that baking count so that when Monday rolls around, you won’t only have fond memories of pie, you’ll have actual pie, neatly in your hand as you ride the subway, sit in traffic or even ponder a mass archive of your unread email upon making it to your desk. Make hand pies this weekend, store in a closed container in the fridge, and have sugar rush breakfasts at the ready all week. They can't take that away from you. At least not yet.

Hand pies are all the rage. It’s a pie you can carry in your hand! It can be sweet or savory! Look how cute they are! The hashtag #handpies has 20,700 posts on Instagram, you don’t need a pie pan to make them, and they can be pretty economical to make. So you see, they’re a thing.

In the South, though, we have a longstanding tradition of fried pies rather than baked ones, the flaky crust caramelized and made a little crunchy by either a deep dive into a deep fryer or a little fat in a saute pan. Make the joke that we fry everything if you want, but as the dough cooks, the sweet scent of sugar, pastry, and hot grease mixes in the air and lingers to taunt you as you wait for the pies to cool on a paper-towel-lined pan.

Chef Brandon Carter of FARM in Bluffton, South Carolina, makes all kinds of hand pies for the dessert menu at his destination restaurant nestled way off a main highway in South Carolina. Carter grew up in Atlanta but got to know this part of the world when he was executive chef at Palmetto Bluff, and when he decided to open up his own place, was impressed by the sense of home he’d found in the produce, people, and place in the region. He works to bring that story into the seasonal kitchen feel of his menu at FARM and there is, more often than not, one of a variety of flavors on the menu: peach and ginger, rhubarb, chocolate cream, strawberry, whatever seasonal fruit takes his fancy, or coconut cream.

The coconut cream stands apart from the others, just as your breakfast will. Coconut cream doesn’t require a seasonal designation—sweetened, flaked coconut is always available on the baking aisle of most grocery stores—and the creamy, coconutty goodness, wrapped in dough and served with a side of dulche leche is a mashup of gas-station Hostess Pies and 90s Dunkaroos, but in the most sophisticated, anytime is a good time for an all-inclusive tropical vacation kind of way.

“This pastry dough is a family recipe that I’ve cheffed up a bit,’” Carter explains, adding that the technique he tweaked is freezing the butter and grating it. “As for the coconut cream, I can’t imagine that being a bad way to start the day. Do we need a reason? We are adults and we can do whatever we want.”

But whatever you do, don’t overmicrowave your pies when you’re wanting a little crisp up. You don’t want a filling blow out, so start with 30 seconds out of the fridge and work your way up.

Coconut Cream Hand Pie with Dulce de Leche

Coconut Pudding (Filling for FARM Coconut Cream Hand Pies)


6 egg yolks
1⁄2 cup sugar
4 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
4 tablespoon coconut rum


Place egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on high until light and fluffy.

Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, mix the milk and cream together. Place the sauce over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Decrease the mixer speed to medium and carefully pour the hot milk mixture down the side of the bowl. Turn the mixer to low to prevent splashing. The egg mixture must be in motion to prevent the hot liquid from scalding the eggs.

Once all the milk mixture is incorporated, slowly increase the mixer speed and let it run for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are completely incorporated. Transfer mixture from the bowl back into the saucepan.

Before cooking the then pudding mixture, have a clean bowl and a fine sieve ready. You will be pouring the finished mixture through the sieve and into the bowl the moment the mixture is done.

Return the saucepan to the stove. Over medium-high heat vigorously whisk the mixture until it has thickened, 4-5 minutes. Don't ever stop mixing and make sure your whisk is getting to the bottom and along the sides of the saucepan. This pudding can burn easily.

Once the mixture has thickened. remove from heat and pour the pudding through the sieve into a clean bowl. Use a rubber spatula to press the thick pudding through the sieve.

Once the pudding has been pushed thru the sieve, add the coconut and coconut rum. Still until incorporated.

Take a piece of plastic wrap that is larger than in diameter than your bowl and place it directly on the surface of the pudding. Make sure that every bit of pudding is touching the plastic to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer bowl to the refrigerator to cool completely.

Pie Dough


½ pound (1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
8 tablespoon shortening
5 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour, halved
1 cup ice water
2 teaspoon kosher salt


Place the butter in the freezer for about an hour.

Combine the shortening, flour and salt. Using your hands, distribute the shortening through the flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal.

Grate the butter into the flour mixture using the largest side of a box grater. Gently “fluff” the grated butter into the flour mixture.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Strain the ice out of the water and pour into the well. Gently mix the dough by hand until a ball forms, adding more water as needed to hydrate the dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Dulce de Leche


1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk, label removed

To make the dulce de leche:

Place the can on its side in a 4-quart sauce pot and cover by 4 inches with water

Heat the pot over high heat until it comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 1⁄2 hours, checking the pot from time to time to make sure the water level stays above the can.

Remove the can from the water and allow to cool for at least 2 hours. (Do not open can while it is hot or you will instantly regret it.)

Open the can and keep it in a warm place until the pies are ready.

To form the hand pies:

Divide the pie dough into 6 pieces.

Work with one piece of dough at a time and keep the remaining dough in the refrigerate until ready to form.

Place dough a lightly floured work surface and roll into a circle, about 8 inches in diameter. Spoon 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup of the coconut filling in the center. Brush edges of circle with egg wash.

Fold dough over filling to make a half moon shape and crimp the edges with a fork to seal.

Continue with the remaining five dough balls. Store finished pies in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

When ready, fry pies at 350°F until golden brown. Drizzle with dulce de leche or serve alongside for dipping.

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