Pie of the Week: Banana Nutella Cardamom Handpies


[Photograph: Sarah Baird]

There's something about picking up dessert with your hands that feels just a little bit scandalous, and somehow makes every bite just a touch sweeter. Why do you think doughnuts have reigned as supreme breakfast treat over coffee cake for so long, or cupcakes usurped the throne from their fork-requiring counterpart?

While pie's handheld variety hasn't seen the national spotlight quite like other baked goods, here in the South the pocket pie is something of a regional treasure. The name might be up for discussion, but whether you call them hand pies, pocket pies, or fried pies, this Southern staple has all the hallmarks of a perfect picnic treat, and these banana Nutella cardamom pocket pies are no exception.

Generally, making this treat is primarily smooth sailing, but waters can get a little choppy when it comes to filling and sealing the pocket pies. The first, and most important, rule seems simple enough: don't overfill the individual pies. While it may be tempting to load up each piece of dough with as much Nutella and as many bananas as possible, this will prove to be disastrous when they fall apart during frying and filling is floating around in the hot oil. If you show restraint during this step (I know, I know, it's hard) reward yourself by eating an extra pocket pie—or three—once they get out of the fryer.

Sealing and crimping pocket pies (or empanadas, for that matter) is something of an unsung art form in the culinary world and can require quite a bit of trial-and-error to find your favorite method. If you're a master folder and crimper, I applaud your achievement. If you're like the rest of us, a few tricks can come in handy. Dipping your fingers in cold water and running them around the edges of the pie dough before folding over will allow the dough to seal more effectively, and make the dough easier to crimp using the trusty fork tines method, which I prefer. Dusting the tines with flour prior to use will also make the sealing process easier and guarantee no filling eruptions while cooking.

If you aren't a fan of Nutella, any sort of nut butter would also be delicious inside these pocket pies paired with a fruit—think almond butter and strawberries or peanut butter and apples—but make sure to pair the filling with an appropriate spice in the crust.

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Banana Nutella Cardamom Handpies »