When our founding father’s made the blueprints for America, I don’t think they had any idea that this time of year would turn into such a circus. Don’t get me wrong- I’ve got nothin’ against a good party. I love to grill up some hot dogs & burgers & have a cold beer. I love the colors red, white & blue. I love seeing everyone (or almost everyone) flying the flag. I have nothing against the 4th of July in it’s current incarnation. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty great.
I just hope that it’s not reduced to nothing but another excuse to get drunk & stupid for most people. Like I said- I have nothing against a good time. But there’s more to the day than a reason to get plastered & blow an arm off. This is a historical day, an important day for Americans. On July 2, 1776, the Congress voted to approve the resolution of independence from Great Britain. From this, Congress turned their attention to the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important documents (if not the most important) in American history. The document explains the decision for leaving Britain’s rule, becoming 13 independent states that formed a new nation, The United States of America. The date on the Declaration itself was July 4th, which was the date the official wording was approved, so because of that, we celebrate on the 4th. But whichever day it is, it’s important. It should mean something.
For me, it’s not just a reason to party. I never take a minute of my existence for granted, not just that I’m healthy, etc… but that I live in a country which- for all it’s many faults- is pretty damn awesome. But to be honest? Holidays for me are always a(nother) excuse to bake. And as a matter of fact, my mother’s birthday happens to be tomorrow, so it’s kind of a double celebration, which means double the desserts. Which calls for some easy mini pastries for the 4th.
I’ve made homemade PopTarts before, and I’ve made tons of hand-pies or mini-pies. So I thought that it’d be fun to make some patriotic-themed ones for the 4th. It’s a simple, hand held dessert that bakes up pretty quickly and makes use of fresh fruits. I know, it doesn’t seem simple. There are a lot of steps involved, but in all honesty they’re easy steps! However- you can also use canned pie filling to make them, as well as frozen pie crust. One small can of pie filling and two frozen pie crusts will probably give you around a dozen of these, maybe less.
And you don’t just have to use the blueberry filling. Make strawberry, cherry, blackberry… whatever you want! Or a few of each.
Why stars? Well because of the stars & stripes of course! The American flag is commonly referred to as the “stars & stripes”, obviously because of the fact that it contains both. The stars are known as the “Union field”, meaning the stars represent the States of the Union. The union field is a blue square, so it was only right I use blueberries in the pies. Right?
If I’m being totally honest, though, I really just wanted to say they were “red, white & BLUEberry.” I’m corny like that.
INDEPENDENCE DAY FRUIT-FILLED MINI PASTRIES
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks, or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten (to brush on pastry)
- 1 pint blueberries (2 cups)
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- Make the dough:
- To make the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the butter until it is the size of peas and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the dough. Mix together with a fork until everything is evenly moistened. Knead briefly on a floured surface, if necessary, until the dough comes together.
- Divide the dough in half. (At this point you can wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) If you refrigerate the dough, let it come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling out.
- Make the filling:
- Combine blueberries with cup sugar in pan. Simmer on low heat until sugar is melted and mixture is very liquid; about 5 minutes. Combine cornstarch and water in bowl, then add to pan with blueberries. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to full boil and is clear and thick. Pour hot mixture into large bowl & same as with the cherries, cool until room temp.
- Roll the dough out. Roll out one piece of dough to about 1/8-inch thick, in a 9″ by 9″ square, or as close you can get to that. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel or bench scraper, trim the dough so you have even smooth edges. Add those scraps to a scrap pile- we’ll deal with them later.
- Cut the sheet of dough into 6 squares/rectangles/squarangles/whatever shape you can. On half of the squares, cut a star shape out of the middle; these are going to be the “tops” of your pastries. Save the stars!
- Using a spatula, transfer the “bottom” squares to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the lightly beaten egg on each of the rectangles. Spoon a tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, leaving about a 1/2-inch of space around the edges. DON’T OVER FILL THEM. One at a time, place a second rectangle of dough on top of the nine assembled ones. Using your fingers, press around the seams of the dough to make sure they are sealed. Press the tines of a fork around the edges of the rectangles.
- Now, if you want to, you can add the cut out stars, attaching them with some of that beaten egg, to the tops of some pastries. Offset them on the cutout, or put them next to it, etc, then brush that too with the egg. If you’re not using the stars, dust them with cinnamon sugar along with the scraps mentioned above, and bake them on another cookie sheet until golden. INSTANT SNACKS.
- Repeat #’s 4 & 5 with the other half of your dough, if you wish. If not, the dough will keep in a fridge for a few days.
- Refrigerate the pans with the finished pastries (you don’t need to cover them) for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before serving. Store pastries in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
If you wanted to add a white icing to the top, you could. Or ice the stars white with little red sprinkles. Cuteness.
So, here’s the deal: I’d suggest using the above as a guideline, because I never get the right amount of pastries. EVER. I never measure right, and I always end up with more or less than I’m supposed to. And mine are never perfectly shaped- they’re always wonky & uneven. But that’s okay! Who cares!? The important thing is that they’re DELICIOUS.
Happy Independence Day!