Maine-ish Fried Apple Hand Pies and a Baked Variation

Autumn is the season for wonderful apple desserts and concoctions. In October, quite by chance, we were treated to one of these desserts: “Maine Fried Apple Hand Pies.” I was not familiar with the dessert and term, “hand pies.” Wow, these small apple pies were delicious. We sampled the hand pies during a whirlwind visit to New England to visit relatives and see the fall foliage. I loved the small “pies” and returned home to Louisiana eager to try my luck making these delicious apple treats. After many attempts to replicate the ones we ate at the Maine café, I now have my very own unique recipe for “Apple Hand Pies.”

Before I discuss my recipe for “Apple Hand Pies,” I have a few photos to share of our extended weekend trip to New England. If you wish to skip the trip, then go on to the end of the blog for the recipe.

During the visit to Massachusetts to visit relatives, we also traveled to New Hampshire to take a cog train ride up to the peak of Mt Washington, the tallest mountain in the northeastern states. Why not also take a side trip to Maine while we were in the area? After hiking along a coastal bay in Mane, we stopped at a small café to sample the famous dish, Maine “Lobster Rolls.” Since the staff mixed up our meal order, they treated us to their homemade version of “Fried Apple Hand Pies.” Well, that was the gastronomic highlight of the trip and, of course, I had to learn how to make the hand pies.

As good fortune would have it, we visited New England at the height of autumn color. It was a relaxing visit with relatives and a welcome, but chilly, break from our hot Louisiana fall. You can’t get much better scenery than what we experienced. The photo above was taken on a rural state road as we drove from New Hampshire to Maine. The trees along the highway were brilliant yellow and I felt like we were driving through a golden and mystical corridor.

In Boston, we visited Mount Auburn Cemetery, established in 1831 and known as the first rural garden and cemetery in the United States.

Who would think that a cemetery might be a good place to visit to see colorful fall foliage? Well, we took plenty of snapshots of colorful trees here. Located on 170 acres of gentle rolling hills in the Boston area with over 10 miles of roads, 5,500 hundred trees and thousands of varieties of trees and shrubs, it made a fascinating stop on our tour of New England. Many prominent Bostonians are buried here and a person could spend hours exploring tombstones and historical connections. This angel and cherub appear to be looking down and watching us. No coincidence as to how they were positioned!

Next we headed to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for a train ride to the peak of Mt. Washington, the highest mountain in the Northeastern states and well above the tree line. It snowed the day prior to our trip, so we Louisianans were treated to a healthy dose of snow and cold weather. The little cog train went straight up the side of the mountain at a 35 degree angle to the peak. At our visit, the temperature was 28 degrees and the wind blew at 30 miles per hour! As an interesting bit of trivia, the highest recorded winds in the US — outside of a hurricane — was at Mt. Washington at 231 miles per hour. We came prepared and bundled up for this part of the trip!

On a clear day a person can see Quebec and five states — Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Massachusetts — plus the Atlantic Ocean — from the Mt. Washington peak. I’m sure that we saw all these landmarks even though it was hard to tell what was what. Mt. Washington is one in a series of mountains named for eight presidents — here are several other peaks in the series. A goal of any serious White Mountain hiker is to climb all of these mountains peaks in one trip which is a challenge but can be done! We were fortunate to have our daughter along who has hiked all these peaks and served as our personal tour guide while we were at the peak!

Our last destination was the Maine coast. Since these northeastern states are so small, you can visit several states in one or two days! We visited the L.L. Bean outdoor camping flagship store, did some hiking along the Maine bay and quietly watched an eagle perched high up in the tree above us. (The tree is the large one shown in the byline to this post. My, he was so close!) We ending our morning by stopping for lunch at a small café.

The tiny café is located on the premises of Wolfe’s Neck Farm, a non-profit sustainable coastal farm. Here we sampled Lobster Rolls, Lentil Shepard Pie and Fried Apple Hand Pies. Well, I loved the apple dessert and returned home to try to make a few of these myself.

The Term: “Hand Pies”

I was not familiar with the term, “hand pies,” although the small desserts are known by other names and are served across the country. Traditionally, they are made with dried fruit, pie crust dough (in either a circle or half-circle) and are fried. The small pies are just right for one serving.

A person might recognize similar desserts called “fritters” or “turnovers.” In New Orleans a popular hand pie was made for years by the Bebig’s Pies Company and termed, “Fruit Pies.” Northern Louisiana has a famous hand pie termed, “Natchitoches Meat Pies.” I’m sure there are plenty of other examples of these pies.

Above is the “Maine Apple Hand Pie.”

About “Apple Hand Pie” Recipes

Here are my own “Apple Hand Pies”:

My goal here was to duplicate — or at least have a similar result to — the hand pies served at the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Café in Maine. And so I did a little research on making hand pies. Typically, hand pies are made with pie dough and are shaped in either a circle or half-circle shape. Either puff pastry or biscuit dough can also be used for the crust. Although hand pies are usually fried, I found several recipes with instructions to bake the pies. I wanted to make things easier, and shaped mine in small squares rather than circles — the taste is the same.

The hand pies at the Maine café were slightly different from most recipes which I located on the internet. The Maine pies were formed in a rectangular or slight trapezoid shape. The dough was soft, tender and slightly sweet. The apples inside the pie were crunchy with a very distinct cinnamon flavor. These is one batch of my own rectangular hand pies, which tasted similar to the ones served in the Maine café — although they are different in appearance.

For fillings, many types of fruit (or meat) fillings can be used. Traditionally, dried fruit is used as the filling in the pies. Apples are a popular fruit and the Maine pies had a filling of diced apples with a distinct cinnamon flavor. For apple fillings, recipes often direct you to cook the apples on the stove until they are tender-crisp prior to filling since the pies are not fried long enough to soften the apple filling. I didn’t find that this step was necessary.

Varieties of apples which hold their shape are preferred in this pie recipe rather than apples which become mushy during baking. Granny Smith apples seemed to be a preferred variety although the tartness of these apples is a drawback. It appears that there are plenty of cooking and pie apple varieties available in produce markets. In addition to Granny Smith apples, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Northern Spy, Pink Lady and Crispin (Mutsu) are often mentioned in “apple baking” lists. I liked the Ambrosia variety the best, an apple developed in British Columbia and thought perhaps to be a cross between Starking Delicious and Golden Delicious apples. It is the top apple in the photo above. (I also used Envy, Koru and Kanzi varieties or a combination of these apples.)

A Small Batch of “Apple Hand Pies”

I made many trials of recipes trying to replicate “Maine Fried Apple Hand Pies.” I tried both baked and fried variations. For the crust, I tried pie dough, biscuit dough and puffed pastry dough. Although the fried pies with biscuit dough most closely resemble “Maine Apple Hand Pies,” I like best a version which is baked using pie crust dough. Why? It is much simpler, tastes similar and avoids deep fat frying — which adds alot of calories. Also, dough which is not slightly stiff, (in other words, soft dough or sticky dough) can’t hold it’s shape for filling with apples and frying — or baking. So, first, here is is my adapted process for a small batch of baked “Apple Hand Pies.” I have shown my process for “Fried Apple Hand Pies.”

Make the apple filling first and set aside. Quarter one large baking apple, peel and slice very thinly, then cut the slices in fourths. Add melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Set aside. The apples will put off some liquid which should be drained prior to filling the pie dough crust. (Or the unbaked pies will become soggy and difficult to handle.) No need to cook this filling in my recipe.

Make the pie dough. The “Maine Apple Hand Pies” had a sweet, cinnamon flavored crust. So I added some sugar and cinnamon to my pie dough. I made this dough like any other pie dough — in my food processor. First I added the sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt to the flour. Then I pulsed in butter and lastly added water to make a soft, pliable dough. However, the dough was not sticky. Add flour if the dough is sticky.

Divide the dough in half into two pastry dough circles or balls and work with only one dough circle at a time. Repeat these steps for the second dough circle. Roll out one dough circle into a 12″ x 5″ rectangle. Keep the board well-floured, adding more flour as needed so the dough doesn’t stick to either the pastry board or rolling pin. Trim the dough to an even rectangle, and use any scraps to fill in thin areas. Sprinkle with a bit of water, if needed, so the dough adheres.

Cut the rectangle into four crosswise strips. Add spoonful’s of apple filling to the bottom half of each strip, draining off any juice from the apples. Use half the apples. The apples should mound up on the dough. Fold over the top half of each dough strip to encase the apples, stretching the dough as needed. Press the edges together to seal with the tins of a fork. Using a knife, gently and lightly pierce few places on the top crust for air vents. Brush evaporated milk over the top crust (so it browns) and sprinkle on a pinch of turbinado sugar (or Sugar in the Raw). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

My husband says these Apple Hand Pies taste like the “real thing” (meaning the New Orleans Bebig’s Fruit Pies). He did not sample the “Maine Apple Hand Pies.”

I really liked the soft dough crust of the “Maine Apple Hand Pies.” These were a little more effort and tricky. In general, making these was similar to my own variation. I added baking powder to the dough so the pies puffed up as they fried. A word of caution. The pie/biscuit dough is sticky. Have plenty of extra flour on the pastry board to work into the dough as you roll it out. These hand pies were a little larger and they were fried. If you want the “Maine” experience go for it.

All the “Apple Hand Pies” — square or rectangular; baked or fried — tasted great. Enjoy either of these two recipes.

We truly enjoyed our visit to New England to visit family and tour the fall scenery. Even though flying is tricky during the pandemic — we used ample caution in traveling. Since we were only going for a weekend — we didn’t check any luggage (sort of crazy?) — and went right to the gate. But this avoided check-in lines, luggage pick-up and crowds. We were lucky that the airline we used kept the middle seat open. Of course we used masks, too, and in general avoided restaurants or other places with crowds. And we did our Covid-19 test prior going to Massachusetts. I’d rather error on the side of caution and be safe! But, it was good to take a vacation; this was a relaxing one. When I make these “Apple Hand Pies” in the future, I’ll have memories of an interesting trip! Enjoy these recipes.

A Small Batch of Apple Hand Pies

  • Servings: 8 hand pies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 1 medium baking apple (about 1-1/4 cup chopped), I used Ambrosia variety
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt

Method and Step for filling:

  1. Cut apple in fourths; peel and core. Thinly slice, then cut slices crosswise into fourths making small, thin chunks. Place in medium-size bowl.
  2. Melt butter in microwave for about 15 seconds. Pour over apples and stir.
  3. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt to apples. Stir to combine well. Set aside while making dough.

Ingredients for Pie Crust:

  • 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra flour for pastry board
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut in chunks
  • 8 Tbsp ice water, more if needed
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • several pinches turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)

Method and Step for Pie Pastry:

  1. Place flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl of food processor and pulse to combine. (To make crust by hand, place ingredients in medium-size bowl and stir to combine.)
  2. Add butter chunks to food processor bowl and pulse to cut butter to small pieces. (Alternately, by hand, cut in butter to size of small peas using two knives or pastry cutter.)
  3. Add ice water through food processor shute with food processor running. Dough should cling to make a soft ball. Add up to 2 additional Tbsp water if needed. (By hand, add water to center of flour mixture and stir to combine.) Dough should be soft and pliable but not sticky.
  4. Divide dough in half and shape each into 2 pastry circles. Completed the following steps with each dough circle to finish hand pies

To finish Apple Hand Pies:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Transfer one dough circle to well-floured pastry board. Roll into a rectangle which is 12″ x 5″ using plenty of flour so dough does not stick to board or rolling pin. Trim uneven edges of dough and used to fill in thin areas, add a sprinkle of water if needed so dough patches adhere.
  3. Cut dough rectangle crosswise into four pieces.
  4. Using one half of the apples (reserve remainder for second pastry circle), drain apples and place a large spoonful onto bottom half of each dough piece. Divide evenly between the dough pieces. Apples should make a mound.
  5. Fold top half of each dough piece over to encase apples, stretching dough if needed, matching edges of dough to form rectangle.
  6. Use the tins of a fork to press down along the 3 edges of dough to seal the edges. (The fourth edge is the side of the folded dough.)
  7. Using pastry brush, lightly and evenly brush evaporated milk over top and all sides of each apple pie. Bot up excess evaporated milk with paper towel.
  8. Very lightly sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar on top.
  9. Gently, make 3 very small crosswise slits in top of dough with sharp knife so steam can escape.
  10. Transfer apple pies to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  11. Repeat process with second pastry dough circle.
  12. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until top of pie is golden brown.
  13. Remove from oven and serve warm.

For the Maine-ish “Fried Apple Hand Pies”:

Maine-ish Fried Apple Hand Pies

  • Servings: 12 hand pies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 2 medium-size baking apples (about 2-1/2 cup chopped), there may be some left-over apple slices; eat as a snack)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt

Method and Step for filling:

  1. Cut apples in fourths; peel and core. Thinly slice, then cut slices crosswise into fourths making small, thin chunks. Place in medium-size bowl.
  2. Melt butter in microwave for about 15 seconds. Pour over apples and stir.
  3. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt to apples. Stir to combine well. Set aside while making dough.

Ingredients for Pie Crust:

  • 2-1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus about 1/4 cup extra flour for pastry board
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (2 stick) butter, cut in chunks
  • 1 cup ice water

For Frying pies:

  • Peanut oil or canola oil

Method and Step for Pie Pastry:

  1. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl of food processor and pulse to combine. (To make crust by hand, place ingredients in medium-size bowl and stir to combine.)
  2. Add butter chunks to food processor bowl and pulse to cut butter to small pieces. (Alternately, by hand, cut in butter to size of small peas using two knives or pastry cutter.)
  3. Add ice water through food processor shute with food processor running. Dough will  cling to make a sticky ball.  (By hand, add water to center of flour mixture and stir to combine.)
  4. Divide dough in half and work with half the dough at a time. Complete the following steps with piece of dough to finish hand pies

To finish Apple Hand Pies:

  1. Add several inches of oil to In a deep fat fryer, Dutch oven or iron skillet. Heat to 350 degrees.
  2. Transfer one piece of dough to well-floured pastry board. Knead dough, adding flour as necessary to make a very soft, non-sticky pastry ball. Roll into a rectangle which is approximately 15 to 18″ x 10″ using plenty of flour so dough does not stick to board or rolling pin. Trim uneven edges of doug-h and used to fill in thin areas, add a sprinkle of water if needed so dough patches adhere.
  3. Cut dough rectangle crosswise into six pieces.
  4. Using one half of the apples (reserve remainder for second pastry circle), drain apples and place a large spoonful onto bottom half of each dough piece. Divide evenly between the dough pieces. Apples should make a mound.
  5. Fold top half of each dough piece over to encase apples, stretching dough if needed, matching edges of dough to form rectangle.
  6. Use the tins of a fork to press down along the 3 edges of dough to seal the edges. (The fourth edge is the side of the folded dough.)
  7. Add a few of the apple pies at a time to the oil, with oil heated to 350 degrees. Fry 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adjusting temperature of fryer or Dutch oven to maintain heat at 350 degrees. Apple pies will puff up as they fry.
  8. Remove apple pies from fryer and drain on paper towels.
  9. Repeat process with second pastry dough piece.
  10. Serve pies while warm.

8 thoughts on “Maine-ish Fried Apple Hand Pies and a Baked Variation

  1. I love that you did a baked version of the apple hand pies! Time willing, I’m going to give them a try at Thanksgiving, but with addition of cranberries. Your nature photos are stunning, and now I want to plan a trip to Maine. 🙂

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    • Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment. Yes, cranberries would be a great addition to this recipe, especially at Thanksgiving. Actually, dried cranberries might work better that fresh ones, hum, would have to try it out. Yes, as much as I loved the “Fried Hand Pies,” I’m trying to keep away from so much fried foods. Lightly brushing the pies with evaporated milk gave a nice, browned appearance and the “Sugar in the Raw” gave a sparkle. And, I love photography so I was in my “element” during our visit. Incidentally, it snowed the week after we came to Boston, so there went the fall colors!

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  2. Pingback: Maine-ish Fried Apple Hand Pies and a Baked Variation — beyondgumbo | homethoughtsfromabroad626

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