It’s coming! Get fired up for the red, white and blue. Fourth of July, summer’s biggest day, is almost here. Who doesn’t love hamburgers, hot dogs, and all the fixings? It’s the fireworks, it’s a parade, it’s a cookout – it’s a whole day filled with everything you love about America. It’s going to be great!

I am under strict orders to produce a blueberry pie to round out the festivities every Fourth. This year, I am adding in Cherry Hand Pies. They’re buttery, flaky and totally totable. You don’t need a plate or a fork, they’re neat to eat, and they’re packed with sweet, juicy cherries. Their convenient portability means that you can serve them anytime, anywhere. Hand pies are so much better than regular pies. You should get a jump on things and make some right now.

I have pie anxiety. There, I said it. I can bake a cake in my sleep and frost it blindfolded, with one hand tied behind my back, in the 10 minutes before company arrives at the door. But pie is another issue. I have to clear the kitchen, send everyone out of the room, or better yet, the house, and have utter silence. “Don’t talk to me! I am making piecrust! Stay out of the kitchen! And don’t even look at me!”  

I watched a video online. They made it look so easy. Meanwhile, I was covered in flour, my edges didn’t look nice and neat, and I forgot the egg wash on the inside edges before I sealed up one of them. I trimmed so much of my irregular perimeter that I had to gather up the leftover mess, re-refrigerate it, and roll the dough twice. What did I learn? Let’s just say it’s true: Social media can make you feel pretty bad about yourself. 

But I’m here, at the safe distance of the newspaper, to tell you it will all be okay. If I did it, you can do it, too. You don’t need to do things perfect. I discovered it was better to brush the egg wash over all of the bottoms first. It’s much quicker and you don’t have to obsess about the brush getting into the filling. (You also won’t forget to do it, like I did.) Also, just trim up any unruly edges as you go. I sealed my pies and they looked a little wonky,  but after I trimmed them, they were fine. So don’t let fear hold you back. Let the flour fly, roll with it, and have fun. You’ll have pies before you know it. 

The pastry is essentially a rough puff, or a quick puff, a speedier version of classic puff pastry. It doesn’t have quite as much loft, but you still get delicious, tender puff pastry, faster and with a lot less effort. Whisk the dry ingredients around in the bowl with your hand, using your fingers to loosely rake everything together. Toss the butter to get each piece covered with a little bit of flour. Work it in with your fingers to take the butter down a bit in size, but leave some large pieces. This is called cold butter process, and it’s the same technique you use to make biscuits, scones, or piecrust. 

This recipe uses sour cream in place of water for hydration. It adds tenderness and another level of flavor to the dough. You can use fresh cherries, or make this with berries, but frozen ones work very well here because of all of the juice that gets drawn out as they defrost. I used frozen sour local cherries, and the ingredients in the ratio below, and the filling came out perfect. I had enough left over for a second batch, so you could plan to make more if you like. If not, think ice cream, a small cherry crisp, or a little no-bake pie. 

Use a pizza cutter, bench scraper, or sharp knife to get the edges nice and neat, but don’t fret too much about the shape. You can use a round cutter, or a square one, but just know that they will still be amazing whether they’re perfect or not. You can make these ahead of time. After baking and fully cooling, I froze them on a parchment-lined sheet. Once frozen, I wrapped them individually in parchment paper and transferred them to a resealable bag to store in the freezer. You can pop them directly from the freezer onto a piece of foil in a 375 degree toaster oven for 10-15 minutes and they are as good as fresh. You can also freeze them unbaked, but you may need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

Start saving your appetite. It’s going to be so good! Have a fun and festive Fourth.  

Cherry Hand Pies


  • 2 cups (240g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 16 Tablespoons (227g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces 
  • 1/2 cup (113g) sour cream, cold


  • 10 ounces frozen cherries (a little more than 2 cups), mostly defrosted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)


  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons (25g) coarse sparkling sugar, for garnish

for pastry:

Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl. Add butter, working in to make a coarse/crumbly mixture, leaving most of the butter in large, pea-sized pieces. Add sour cream, and stir until mixture starts to come together in chunks. 

Turn out onto a floured work surface and bring together with a few quick kneads. Pat dough into a rough log, then roll into an 8” x 10” rectangle. Dust both sides of dough with flour. Starting with shorter end, fold dough in three like a business letter. 

Flip dough over, give it a 90º turn on your work surface, and roll again into an 8” x 10” rectangle. Fold in three again. Wrap dough and chill at least 30 minutes before using. 

for filling:

Combine cherries, sugar and salt in a saucepan set over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently. Use a potato masher to mash about a third of the berries; continue to cook and stir until cherries warm through, sugar dissolves, and liquid simmers, about 5 minutes. Combine lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir together to make a slurry. Add slurry to cherries, stirring until liquid comes to a simmer. Cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, or more if needed, continuing to stir, until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in almond extract if using, and let cool to room temperature. Can be refrigerated and made up to 2 days in advance. 

for pies: 

With a rack set on the middle position, preheat oven to 425º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Roll dough into a 14” x 14” square. With a straight edge and a pastry wheel, or a 3 1/2” square cutter, cut out sixteen 3 1/2” squares. Brush some of the beaten egg over eight of the squares, then divide filling among them, using about a heaping tablespoon for each. 

Use a knife, or decorative cutter of your choice, to cut a vent into each of the remaining squares. Top each filled square with a vented square, and press along the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. Brush the top of each pie with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Transfer pies to prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until firm. 

Bake pies for 18 to 20 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes before serving. Store lightly wrapped at room temperature for two days, or freeze for longer storage.

Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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