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Brown Sugar Hand Pies (plus a story & a cookbook)

There are times I’m certain the cooking mojo has left me—times when kitchen creativity has taken wing. It’s a hollow feeling and have found it’s best to cook and bake old reliables until it passes.

Sooner or later my mojo returns and I breathe a sigh of relief.

Now a new kind of mojo chaser has surfaced to pester me. The ideas are coming but the execution…not so much.

Have you ever read “Like Water for Chocolate”? It’s a fabulous book with a story line that somewhat mimics my current dilemma.

The main character, Tita, cooks from her soul. Her very emotions are the main ingredient in the delicacies she prepares and serves to family and friends. When she’s feeling passionate her dining companions become full of passion. When she’s feeling despondent they become despondent. The more they eat, the more they feel what she feels.

Although my family doesn’t feel my emotions when eating the food I’ve cooked they do experience what my emotions do to my cooking. Nothing turns out quite right.

During serene, happy times the food from my kitchen looks better. It smells better. It tastes better. It is just better.

But right now with older family members becoming unsteady and some who have recently passed, with a new job, with the holidays ahead of us…there’s a feverish energy afoot that’s putting my kitchen in turmoil.

It’s time to turn this around so I’ve prescribed myself some positive energy activities—long walks in the crisp fall air, the exercise plan I’ve been putting off, a fun evening with friends, and curling up to a hot cup of tea and a good cookbook. I remind myself each morning that every journey has bumps in the road and today might just be the first bump-free day of many yet to come. You know, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.”

So, for this post, what started out as Apple Dumplings (then became Savory Fennel, Apple & Goat Cheese Tartlets) finally wound up as Brown Sugar Hand Pies.

The pie crust dough is wonderful (not just any pie dough—gluten-free pie crust a la Shauna Ahern, Gluten-Free Girl extraordinaire.) But my ideas in using it for an apple dumpling or savory tartlet—although good ones—just didn’t turn out. Brown Sugar Hand Pies, on the other hand, are a bit simpler. My mood brightened at the prospect. Ahh, much better. Sometimes simple and tasty are just fine in my book.

Armed with a freshly baked goodie and steamy cup of tea I opened my latest cookbook acquisition—gluten-free girl and the chef: a love story with 100 tempting recipes.

And, similar to “Like Water for Chocolate” it speaks to me.

It has heart and soul, along with dishes that have each been made countless times by the Aherns until each one is just right.

It’s got me thinking—will we be able to feel the love that went into the book, the recipes, their lives when serving up some of these dishes to unsuspecting diners? We shall see.

PS - don’t stop here. I know this is a long post but scroll down to see the recipe, a link to win a cookbook and more, plus some amazing recipes—all gluten-free—for your Thanksgiving table.

Brown Sugar Hand Pies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together in a small bowl:

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Drizzle over the sugar mixture and mix in thoroughly (this should only slightly moisten it):

1/2 teaspoon maple or agave syrup mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water


Make one batch of Shauna’s Pie Crust with the following substitutions (if required by your dietary constraints) and addition:

Instead of:

5 tablespoons butter use 5 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread

4 tablespoons leaf lard use 4 tablespoons shortening

1 egg use 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water)

Add: 3 tablespoons granulated sugar to the flour mix

Keep the dough refrigerated until ready to use. Follow Shauna’s instructions for rolling it out between two layers of parchment paper. You’ll want the dough to be about 1/16” thick for the hand pies.

Cut the dough into squares or rectangles using a cookie cutter (I used a 2 5/8” square) or measure out using a ruler and cut with a knife.

Gently remove the squares to a parchment lined baking sheet. A small metal spatula comes in handy for this step. If the dough separates a little you can gently push it back together.

Place a heaping spoonful of the cinnamon sugar mixture into the center of each square leaving a border of about 1/4” of dough uncovered. Place another square on top.

Slightly press the edges down in two or three places along each edge then crimp all around with the tines of a fork. Use the fork to place a few decorative holes in the top of each hand pie.

Brush with milk (rice, soy, or any alternative milk you have on hand) and sprinkle with turbinado or regular sugar.

Bake for 15-17 minutes until the dough is set (dough made with shortening does not brown). Take the hand pies out of the oven and when cool enough to handle remove to a cooling rack.

What to do with the leftover scraps of dough?

My Mom always cut the leftover scraps of piecrust dough into rough strips. Then she topped them with cinnamon sugar, a dot of butter (Earth Balance) and popped them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Mmmmm.


Gluten-Free Challenge Link Love:

Visit Gluten-free Girl and the Chef for some great gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes, a little about their gluten-free challenge and…a chance to win Shauna and Danny’s book plus a few more things (hint: one is a Kitchen Aid Mixer!). Plus check out all these great bloggers who participated in the challenge:

Amber of Bluebonnets and Brownies made gluten-free apple and pear cobbler.

Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes made gluten-free pumpkin scones.

Aran of Canelle et Vanille made sweet potato and crabapple clafoutis.

Ashley of Not Without Salt made gluten-free chocolate biscotti.

Charissa of Zest Bakery made warm pumpkin polenta with goat cheese.

Deanna of The Mommy Bowl made gluten-free bread.

Debra of Smith Bites made gluten-free celery root soup with cashew cream.

Diane and Todd of White on Rice Couple made Turkey Sloppy Joes on Rosemary Rolls.

Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking made gluten-free molasses cookies.

Gudrun of Kitchen Gadget Girl made a gluten-free pumpkin strata.

Heather of Rookie Moms made chocolate peanut butter brownies.

Heena of Tiffin Tales made glorious gluten-free Thanksgiving torte.

Heidi of Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom made crescent rolls and cinnamon rolls, gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg free.

Irvin of Eat the Love made Gluten Free Maple Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Gingerbread Bottom and Sour Cream Marshmallow Topping.

Jean of Gluten-Free Doctor Recipes made gluten-free sourdough rosemary rolls and gluten-free mincemeat cookies.

Jeanne of The Art of Gluten-Free Baking made gluten-free pumpkin pie.

Kamran of Sophisticated Gourmet made cranberry-almond-coconut macaroons topped with chocolate.

Karen of Cook 4 Seasons made gluten-free pumpkin mousse.

Kim of Cook It Allergy Free made Cornbread and (Shauna’s) Crusty Bread Stuffing with Apples, Sausage, Pine Nuts, and… a special ingredient.

Lexie of Lexie’s Kitchen made dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, no-bake pumpkin pie filling.

Lori of Recipe Girl made an entire Thanksgiving menu, gluten-free.

Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod made gluten-free apple cranberry crisp.

Melissa of Gluten-Free for Good made gluten-free cherry cobbler.

Michelle of What’s Cooking With Kids made gluten-free apple cobbler. 

Molly of My Madeleine made butternut squash soup.

Nikki of Art and Lemons made gluten-free rustic squash tarts.

Paula of Bellalimento made gluten pree Pumpkin roll with mascarpone and nutella filling.

Ricki of Diets, Dessert and Dogs made gluten-free coco-nut shortbread buttons.

Serene of Mom Food Project made an entire Thanksgiving, gluten-free.

Shaina of Food for My Family made a gluten-free apple pie cheesecake.

Shirley of Gluten-Free Easily made candy carrot coins.

Silvana of Dish Towel Diaries made kale caesar slaw.

Tara   of A Baking Life made gluten-free gingerbread cake with vanilla-bourbon Bavarian cream and cinnamon-brown sugar caramel.

Tia of Glugle Gluten-Free made gluten-free pumpkin muffins.

Wendy of Wenderly made sweet and savory prosciutto cups.

« Day After Thanksgiving Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette | Main | Nutty Fruity Granola Bars (Gluten-free, Vegan) »

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    [...]Brown Sugar Hand Pies (plus a story & a cookbook) - The Sensitive Pantry - Gluten-free, Egg-free, Dairy-free, & Vegan Recipes[...]

Reader Comments (20)

Those hand pies look divine! And I couldn't agree more about the food in my kitchen reflecting my mood! Cheers to a smooth road ahead!

Nov 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwenderly

This sounds so good! I know exactly how you feel when your in a funk and your food reflects. Creativity seems to kind of come to a halt, but I'm glad to hear that you are turning it around.

Nov 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternaomi

Brown Sugar Hand Pies! YES please : )

Nancy - those look amazing! I love hand pies, and so do the kids!

Just amazing! That sounds like the most perfect treat ever! My kids would go crazy for these.

Nancy, I so hope that you find some calm and peaceful moments in the coming weeks. I will send you positive energy and happy thoughts and I will just envision you in your comfy chair, with a big soft blanket, a delicious cup of tea, and that cookbook (I had to laugh since my mom and I both love curling up with good...cookbooks too)!

I can relate to the mojo being gone and coming back and being gone!
These hand pies look great!

Nov 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

These hand pies are so beautiful! I sent the link to Shauna's post with all of your links to my gluten-free friend who was looking for some Thanksgiving inspiration! :-)

Nov 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

These look absolutely delicious! They're like little pop tarts!

Nov 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLori @ RecipeGirl

Oh these sound so comforting. I want one right now please! I too love reading a good cookbook. Your comment about our energy being passed into our foods is a good one and it really resonates with me. I find that I am so often rushing to get baking done (I have 2 wee ones who really want my attention) and I wonder what effect that has on my baked goods. I'm really going to try to set a positive intention before and during baking. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Nov 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Sometimes simple is best. I have always loved the book Like Water for Chocolate, and I totally agree with you that your emotions totally show in the food you make. I know that when I'm stressed and need to get something done, my food is never as good as when I'm calmly in the kitchen in a happy place.

That said, I sometimes find going into the kitchen and baking helps calm me down. Knowing that I can create something, even if it's an old favorite, helps center me. It's what I used to do in college and it's what I continue to do (much to my partner's chagrin, as he often complains that he's getting fat) now when I am stressed out.

Nov 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjackhonky

Ok, Nancy...just gorgeous, as always with your culinary creations. And although there may be days that are slightly "off", when it comes to what you share here, in my opinion, you always bring your A-game! For that, I thank you! :)

Nov 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

Nancy. My dear! These are picture perfect! And the picture is perfect, too. I know my kids would dig into these ... but I probably would beat them to the batch : )


Nov 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

Take some time to smell the roses, and enjoy the little things. These hand pies look lovely.Yumm...

Nov 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterInTolerant Chef

Nice save, Nancy. They turned out very pretty in the end. Sending you warm, cozy, cup of tea thoughts.

Those brown sugar hand pies are so delicious to look at. I am quite starving looking at it. lol... Thank you for sharing this nancy. Plus the beautiful story that comes along with it. And yeah I believe that when you are cooking, what you are feeling will surely come with the taste of the food. Thank you for the reecipe Nancy!

Groom Wedding Speech

Nov 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKresta

Nancy. I don't even know what to do with myself right now... I am so obsessed with these hand pies and I haven't even made them yet! I CANNOT WAIT. And ps - my mom used to do the very same thing with left over dough! Except she'd roll it up like a little croissant! :)
Thank you SO MUCH for this recipe!

I didn't think anyone had ever heard of hand pies except my sisters and I. Thought they were a traditional family treat only for ours, too funny.

Nov 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMedifast Coupons

There are some things that are hard for an eight-year-old to accept, even when they understand, and for my sweet boy it has been the loss of occasional quick cheats like Brown Sugar Pop Tarts. He has been such a trooper since his Celiac diagnosis, but it is hard to be the only kiddo without gluten in his entire school when all his friends are eating processed treats. It is much easier to be the kiddo with a cool mom that made his treats from scratch because she loves him so very much. These will give my son a dash of normal in his special this week, and they are not something I have come even close to on my own yet! We are still trying to tackle the basics. Thank you so much!

Jan 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Julie - I can't imagine how hard this must be for your son--and for you. I hope he enjoys these. There are so many variations possibilities for this recipe so it'll be fun to try out favorite jams and fillings. You sound like a great mom and he's a lucky kid! -Nancy

Jan 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterNancy Kohler

I love this recipe. It looks delicious and a healthy a snack. This belong to the finger foods and so cute and lovely to eat.

Jun 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpet food
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