Food

Handpies 101: Let Aviva Wittenberg teach you how to package all your favourite fillings in puff pastry

Plus, she shares advice for making them vegan and freezing a batch for later.

Plus, she shares advice for making them vegan and freezing a batch for later

overhead shot of three handpies on a baking sheet, on top of a wire cooling rack, sitting on a marble surface
(Photography by Aviva Wittenberg)

The thing about packed lunches is that they can become very monotonous, very quickly. But there’s nothing boring about these handpies from Aviva Wittenberg’s new cookbook, Lunchbox: 75+ Easy and Delicious Recipes for Lunches on the Go. Their beauty stems from their versatility: envelope your favourite fillings in puff pastry for a portable breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or, as Wittenberg encourages readers to do, use last night’s leftovers as filling and voilà, a fancy packed lunch! If you’re unsure what filling to start with, we turn your attention to her recipe for French Onion Soup Handpies

Below you’ll find her step-by-step guide to make these pastry parcels — plus, how to properly freeze a batch to have on hand for later. 

Handpies 101

By Aviva Wittenberg

The Queen of the Kitchen (aka puff pastry) is available in the freezer section of your supermarket and needs to be thawed in the fridge overnight before use. Warm puff pastry is difficult to work with—it gets sticky and frustrating to manipulate—so be sure to pull it out of the fridge just before use (and pop it back into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to cool down if it’s sticking to itself). To make vegan handpies, use kosher puff pastry—it will not have any butter — and substitute either a vegan egg replacement or some dairy-free milk for the eggs called for in the recipe. You won’t get quite the same shine on your pies, but they’ll still taste delicious.

Get ahead: Handpies are definitely best the day they are baked, but you can prebake (and crisp them up again later) if you want to. Here are a couple of options for doing the heavy lifting ahead of time:

  • Prepare but do not bake (this is what I’d recommend): store in the fridge for up to 12 hours, or freezer for up to 3 months. To prevent unbaked handpies from sticking together in the freezer, freeze them first on a parchment-lined baking sheet; when frozen solid, transfer to an airtight container or freezer bag. Bake unbaked frozen handpies on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 425°F for 20 minutes.

  • Prebake: store, tightly wrapped in foil, in the fridge for up to 2 days. Crisp up your prebaked pies for 10 minutes at 200°F, if you can, before enjoying for lunch.

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed but still cool
  • 1 recipe handpie filling
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, unroll the puff pastry sheet. Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut it into quarters so that you have four squares, and then cut each square into a set of two rectangles. One rectangle will be the bottom of each hand pie and the other one will serve as the top.

2. Scoop one-quarter of the filling mixture onto each of the bottom rectangles and spread it out evenly using the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula, leaving a 1⁄4-inch border around all edges.

3. Using the point of a sharp knife, cut a few small vents in each of the top rectangles to allow steam to escape while baking. Feel free to get creative with the style of the vents!

4. Using a pastry brush, paint the 1⁄4-inch border of the bottom rectangles with a little of the beaten egg. Carefully top each filled bottom rectangle with its corresponding top rectangle “lid.” Use your fingers or a fork to gently press down and seal all the edges. Transfer the pies to the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops generously with the remaining beaten egg.

5. Bake for 20 minutes (or at 425°F for 20 minutes if baking from frozen), until puffed up and golden brown (the pies will be crispy, and you’ll see the lovely layers of pastry have puffed up along the edges). Allow the handpies to cool before packing as the pastry will get soggy if it is packed while still warm.

Packing Tip: Rich and savory handpies pair well with fresh and light green salads or raw vegetables. 

Makes 4 handpies (serves 2 for a filling meal, or 4 for a light lunch).

overhead of four images depicting the steps for baking puff pastry handpies, all on baking sheets on top of a marble surface.
(Photography by Aviva Wittenberg)

Excerpted from Lunchbox by Aviva Wittenberg. Copyright © 2022 Aviva Wittenberg. Photography © 2022 Aviva Wittenberg. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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