“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” –Morticia Addams.
There are “normal” hand pies, and then there are my Halloween hand pies. I’m not a huge Halloween person, actually. Out of all of the holidays, it’s one of my least favourite. Of course, there are elements of Halloween that I love – the earthy magic, the subtle eeriness, black cats and classy black candles paired with winter-white pumpkins, carving Jack O’Lanterns with my kids, the sense that the veil between this world and the next has been lifted for just one enchanted evening – but I try to carry this magic with me throughout the whole year, not just on Halloween. What I don’t like is that here in the US the holiday has been distorted and come to symbolize something dark, morbid and evil. It’s used as an excuse to be tastelessly gory with violent images decorating houses and bloody costumes, or it’s a reason for people to simply act ridiculous. I don’t want to sound old-fashioned here but, to me, Halloween is deeper than just a child’s holiday. It means Samhain bonfires and forest magic; harvest celebrations with apples, pumpkin and corn; the turning of the seasons; light to dark; a night to feel closer to family and friends who have passed on; and for the little ones, trick or treating! (Little ones only!) In my opinion, the guts and gore take away from the etherial mystique that surrounds Halloween, and they’re anything but classy.
If I were to choose someone who almost perfectly embodies my vision of Halloween, it would be Morticia Addams – not the 1990’s version played by Anjelica Huston, though I absolutely love her portrayal. No, it would be the Morticia of the original 60’s TV series, played by Carolyn Jones. One of my favorite shows growing up, I watched each episode over and over again! At the risk of sounding like a cliché 90s goth teenager, Morticia Addams has been somewhat of a role model in my life from a very early age. She’s dark and mysterious, but not in a way that’s evil or gory. A passionate lover, a doting mother, she exudes a timeless elegance and effortless sophistication that’s unique and captivating. She’s a picture of grace in her black evening gown at the top of the grand staircase, but she’s by no means a “push-over” and she doesn’t hide her cunning intellect behind feminine frivolity or ditzy-ness like so many female TV characters – then and now. Not to mention she’s the quintessential hostess, throws a smashing dinner party, is classy AF . . . and has a serious thing for plants. But what I like most is that she fully embraces who she is without excuse or apology to those who may be more, dare I say, “normal.” When other little girls dressed up like Rainbow Brite or Care Bears for Halloween, I envisioned myself as Morticia. To this day, if you wander around my house you’ll find elements of decor that are Addams Family-esque – and not just the Halloween decorations!
For Halloween this year I decided to make strawberry hand pies, but not the “normal” square or round shaped hand pies. These are an homage to my favourite childhood TV show and are inspired by Thing – the disembodied hand from the Addams Family. They are, quite literally, hand pies, filled with a luscious strawberry confiture. I traced my own hand to make a stencil – of course, if the hand shape does suit you, make them a more traditional shape, to each her own. These can be made year-round with either frozen or fresh strawberries – I raided the freezer and found a bag of frozen berries which I used for this recipe. Obviously, if I were to make these any other time of the year I would make them into a more… er… “normal” shape. But who’s to say what’s normal when it comes to hand pies anyway? These are such a fun little indulgence for the week of Halloween.
Halloween Hand Pies
(makes 4 adult hands or 6 kid hands)
for the pastry:
2 cups flour
12 TBSP cold butter, cut into cubes
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
for the confiture filling:
2 cups chopped strawberries (frozen or fresh)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 TBSP water
1/2 tsp vanilla
for the egg wash:
1 tsp water
sugar (for sprinkling on top)
Start by making the pastry. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender. Whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla. Slowly add it to the flour using the pastry blender until the dough starts to come together. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a rough rectangle. Wrap each piece of dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and place in the freezer until firm but not frozen – approx. 15 minutes.
While the dough is in the freezer, make the filling. Place the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, water and vanilla in a sauce pan. Stir to combine. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Cook until thick. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Trace the outline of a hand onto parchment paper (either yours or your kids). Cut out the hand just outside the pencil line to use as a stencil. Roll the chilled dough out thinly on a floured surface. Place the hand stencil on the dough with the pencil lines facing up. By making sure the pencil lines are always up, you ensure that the hands are all facing the same way so the tops and bottoms will fit together seamlessly. Trace the stencil with the tip of a knife, then cut out. You should get about 8 individual adult hands or 12 child-sized hands.
To assemble the pies: Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Line two sheet pans with parchment.
Place a few spoonfuls of filling into the center of the palm of one hand cut-out. Spread the thickened juice up the center of each finger (see photo below). Mix the egg with the water and beat until well combined. Spread a little of this egg wash completely around the edges of the hand. Place another hand cut-out on top. Using a fork, carefully crip the edges of the dough together, paying special attention to the area between each finger. Cut a small slit in the center of the hand to allow steam to escape. Carefully transfer the pie to the baking pan. Brush the top of the pie with more of the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Bake the pies, two or three at a time, so as to not crowd the pan, until they are golden brown – approx. 30 minutes for the adult hand, a few minutes less for the child-size hand. Let cool for several minutes before serving.