These chicken curry-filled flaky mini pies are not only delicious, they’re a healthier alternative to fried curry puffs too!
Pie’s reputation as one of the world’s favourite comfort foods is not unwarranted. And let me tell you, after seeing Waitress on Broadway during my trip to New York two weeks ago I have never wanted to stuff my face with pie more than while I was sitting in the theatre, watching Jessie Mueller’s character “bake” some amazing-looking pies. Warm and oozing; fragrant and homey. These are just some of the things that make pie so beloved.
Sadly enough, pie isn’t particularly popular here in the Philippines. I imagine it must be because fruit pies especially are not a practical thing to sell. Berries and fruits can get ridiculously expensive here. I could never get myself to make cherry pie whenever we do have cherries in the house, because at the price we get them it feels more appropriate to savour them in their natural state.
Unless you manage to find some sort of specialty store, most pies you will see in Manila are the small and savoury kinds– empanadas, hand-pies pies filled with asado, creamy chicken, or Chinese-style mixed veggies… Stuff like that. My favourite kinds though are the curry pies.
I love curry a lot, and any form I can enjoy them is welcome to me. Placing them inside buttery, warm, semi-crunchy shells seemed kind of perfect, so that was the idea I was chasing after when I decided to make some homemade Baked Curry Hand Pies. Even though the more popular versions are the fried kind, this recipe is a nod to both my love for curry and for healthier alternatives!
When I was making this hand pie I wanted to find a flaky dough for the pie crust without having to make anything too difficult. The recipe I did manage to find made some unbelievably easy to handle dough! But compared of course to the more laborious roux dough typically used for the fried version (called Karipok), it doesn’t produce any lovely rippled layers on the surface of the puff once baked.
On a whim, I tried applying the same technique used for the roux version as I rolled out the dough to prep it for filling, but it didn’t quite work. I’m almost certain that swirled effect has to do with both the dough and the frying process.
At some point I will probably make the fried version just for that magical shell-like crust, but these pies in their simplicity make me pretty happy anyway! The nice thin golden crust absorbs the curry juices nicely without turning soggy, and I really love how the crust doesn’t blow up as it bakes. I just hate it when I bite into a hand-pie and find that it’s half air and half filling inside!
I do have a super tiny and weird gripe with this recipe and it has to do with the filling. I am of the belief that a piping hot bowl of curry is food for the soul, and when curry isn’t smothered in thick sauce I get nitpicky about it. It might not be too smart to put too wet a filling into a hand-pie but I don’t think it would hurt to develop a filling with a thicker sauce (not the wet kind of course).
Despite that little personal preference, rest assured that this filling isn’t short on flavour at all. It’s not a dry filling by any means either. Actually the potatoes create a semi-mashed bed of flavours along with the chicken, making this little curry treat something to savour. I won’t be surprised if you eat piece after piece immediately.
Baked Curry Hand Pies
For the dough
- 230 grams nearly 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 120 grams a little over 1 stick butter, cold and cubed
- About 5 Tablespoons iced water, or more as needed
- 1 egg yolk
- 1½ teaspoons water
For the filling
- 5 Tablespoons oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 3 teaspoons curry powder, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 250 grams finely diced uncooked chicken meat
- 2 medium potatoes, boiled and finely diced
- 1½ teaspoons sugar, or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper, or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Make the dough
- 1. In a medium bowl, use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the cold butter into the flour until breadcrumb-like in appearance.
- 2. Add 5 Tablespoons of ice water into the flour-butter mixture, and incorporate thoroughly into the dough using a pastry cutter or the two knives. Test if the dough is ready by pinching a small portion and seeing if the dough sticks together. If dough doesn’t come together add a tablespoon more at a time. (5 Tablespoons was perfect for me.)
- 3. Gather dough and shape into a ball. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.
Make the filling
- 4. In a wok or skillet, heat oil and fry the onions until golden brown and aromatic. Add curry, chilli powder, and turmeric. Mix to combine for a minute, allowing the flavours to infuse into the oil.
- 5. Add chicken, potatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Mix well. Once cooked, set the mixture aside to cool slightly.
- 6. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- 7. Roll out the dough into a 12 x 10 inch rectangle. Roll up the rectangular dough from the long end like a swiss roll. Divide into 12 equal portions.
- 8. Flatten out the cut up dough into rounds. Working with one piece at a time, place about a tablespoon or so of filling on one side, leaving about half an inch of space around the sides. Fold the empty portion of the over the filling and pinch edges to seal. Place finished puffs on the baking sheet, repeating the process with the rest.
- 9. Mix together the egg yolk and water, then use it to glaze the puffs on the baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes, until puffs are golden and crisp on top.
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