October 21st, 2015

Fried Apple Hand Pies


The first time I recall eating a fried pie was almost 25 years ago when I was on a little fall jaunt, driving the backroads of middle Tennessee. Back then, Bill and I had a notion that we’d run a little rural B&B (complete with its own vegetable garden providing our produce for meals, a glorious flower garden as well.)


We’d take day-drives out of the city in different directions to explore. What were we looking for? A cool abandoned home in a bucolic setting that we could convert. Or an inn already in existence that we could buy. We’d stay overnight at some to get a feel for how people ran them. Romantic notions of our quaint B&B got dispelled once I realized

1) While running a catering business was a millstone, it was featherlike compared to running an inn. Weight of the world.

2) Laundry.


But here’s the thing. It’s good to follow these ideas out into the real world. How else are you going to know if it’s what you really want? And, there’s the adventure, always ripe with discovery–

–such as the fried hand pies.

It was on one of those off-the-beaten path drives when we came upon a lone cinderblock building with a walk-up window and a rough hand-painted sign: FRIED PIES $1


(I know; we fry a lot of things in the South.)

“Let’s stop,” I urged. Bill pulled over to the building’s side and I hopped out. I peered into the little window. “What kinds do you have?”

“Peach, apple, blackberry, chocolate, lemon,” recited a small measured voice from the dark interior. I handed the woman $5 and returned to the car with a sack containing one of each, individually packed in wax paper bags.

They were still warm.


We motored on until we came to an open rise on the road, overlooking a valley. There we parked. Pastures below were dry and browned. Colors of the season dotted the surrounding hills, with maples flaming orange and burgundy. Leaning against the car, we sampled the goods, sharing a thermos of coffee.


I thought the pies would be greasy, but they weren’t. I thought that the chocolate might be bizarre, but it was surprisingly delicious. Each one, a half-moon with crimped edges that fit right in your hand, had golden flaky crust. Grab and go! Bill loved the peach-filled crescent. The apple had a sandy dusting of cinnamon sugar and may have been my favorite.


I doubt that we could find that pie place again. In all likelihood, it no longer exists.

But, while I recipe-tested these gingery-apple treats this week for Edible Nashville magazine, I was reminded of those fall drives, and a younger version of me, chasing down a different dream.


FRIED APPLE HAND PIES adapted from Chef Matt Farley of The Southern

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
2 Gala or Honeycrisp apples, cored and diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Melt butter in a skillet set on medium heat. Add sugar and cook for 5 minutes or until mixture starts to thicken. Add apple cider and cook for another minute.
Stir in the apples and ginger. Cook for 5 minutes. Add cinnamon and lemon juice and cook for 10 minutes or until apples are tender. Turn out on a sheet pan to cool.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick ) unsalted butter (diced and cold)
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk

Place flour, sugar and salt into a food processor fitted with the steel (or pastry) blade and run for 15 seconds.
Add butter and pulse until butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. In a bowl whisk the eggs and the yolk and add to flour mixture. Pulse until clumps form.

Turn out onto a table and knead for 1 minute or until dough becomes smooth. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours.

Egg Wash
2 eggs
pinch salt

Place the ingredients into a bowl and whisk vigorously until the egg whites and yolks are mixed together.

Cinnamon Sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Place both into a bowl and mix until well-blended.

To Assemble

All-purpose flour, for dusting surface
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying pies.

Dust a clean surface with flour and roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.
Cut into 4 inch rounds. Brush egg wash around the edges of the dough.
Place approximately 3 tablespoons of chilled apple filling on dough.
Fold over into half moon shapes. Using the tines of a fork seal all of the edges.
Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Place vegetable oil in a pan about 1 inch deep. Heat to about 360 degrees or until flour immediately bubbles when sprinkled in oil. Lower the pies (a few at a time) into the hot oil (do not crowd!)

Cook pies about a minute and a half per side or until golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels. Toss in cinnamon sugar mixture and serve.

Makes 12 hand pies

Posted in Breakfast, Desserts, Fruit, Recipes

24 Responses to “Fried Apple Hand Pies”
  1. Ernesine Lawson Says:

    Up in the night :) and reading your sharing.
    Oh my, have not made fried pies in ages, love them
    and will try once again. What you and Bill were looking for I found almost 40 years ago, an old farmhouse in Robertson County, going through a divorce and wanted a lifestyle change from the Belle Meade home. I found it and before
    the driver could stop was jumping out of the car. I fell in love and still view that wonderful home I created.
    Had many thoughts you had but could only handle the
    remodeling, a garden, some animals and chickens and finishing raising 4 children.
    It was a dream come true. Home too big for one, left a few
    years ago but have returned to this land building
    a cottage by the woods. Will stop as I could go on and on – going to make the fried pies :) thank you.

  2. Kath Says:

    What a wonderful post Nancy, I love that you had that dream and that you and Bill had adventures exploring the possibilities. I wonder what would have been had you taken that path? Life is full of twists and turns. I also love Ernestine’s comment. The pies look delicious, it’s lunch time as I read this and I could do with all five of those pies that you describe. x

  3. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Ernestine–there must have been something in the late late night air. I was awake and read your comment—just now am lucid enough to comment back. I love learning your story. The call of the country life was much stronger for you than it was for me. I still get twinges though—I recently wrote a story (coming out in Jan ’16 Edible Nashville) about the young farmers of Bells Bend and I did fall in love with the area—imagining a rural life in that beautiful community.

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Kath–
    It is fun to think about those paths not taken. My life would have been very different in some ways. It certainly would have been VERY different for my daughter.
    Still, it would have been a life in food and service-who can say where I’d be right now?

    I remember clearly that it was the idea of doing ALL that laundry: linens, towels, sheets, the like
    that ultimately turned me off! Plus, innkeepers really are anchored to their inns.

    Cheers to you–hope that all is well.

  5. heather Says:

    Great story! Makes me want to go for a drive, see the leaves and discover who knows what!

  6. Johanne Lamarche Says:

    Oh Nancy,

    What a guilty pleasure! Pie crust is so rich with the extra egg yolk and confectioner’s sugar. Loved the story behind the hand pies. Maybe Guy Fiori should be sent out on a search of the best hand pies in the country although yours may be the best!

  7. Melinda Says:

    My grandmother used to make the Down East version of fried pies called “Joe Floggers” that were filled with mincemeat and you ate them with a fork and knife and lots of butter. They were delicious- thanks for the memories, Nancy.

  8. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Heather–let’s go!

    Hi Johanne–thanks so much. A guilty pleasure for sure!
    Guy should go on the hunt for the best hand pies–I know that there must be some little spots left in the country still making them.

    Hi Melinda–Thanks so much for sharing. I have never heard of “Joe Floggers” Fantastic. I love learning about variations from different parts of the country. And, I’m glad this post conjured good memories.

  9. Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Nancy this reminds me of all the fried pies I ate growing up. One of my favorites that was carried by every little grocery store in West Tennessee was a brand called Armstrong fried pies…they too came in small wax paper bags with their name printed on them with all the same flavors you describe…the company was bought in later years and alas, no more homemade Armstrong fried pies. Ironically a few years ago I discovered that a photographer I work with, Stephanie Mullins is actually married to the grandson of the Armstrongs who owned the company! A very small world fried pie story!
    My grandmother and my mother made fried pies for us as well…I loved them hot with crisp flakey crusts…they never looked or tasted greasy…just good. Chocolate was my favorite with peach a runner-up.
    Do you remember the little trailer on Jefferson Street…Mahalia’s Fried Pies? She closed a few years ago but what a treat they were at $1 each. My of my I do love a fried pie…your version looks yummy!
    Thanks for conjuring up so many of my “pie” memories Nance.

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hey Terese! I felt sure that you would have some good fried pie memories. Just yesterday, I went into the weird grocery store on Belmont next to Martin’s BBQ and they had a display of Armstrong pies—from Linden Tennessee. Only now they are calling them “Turnovers.” I didn’t buy one, but I may go back. I have a feeling they are not what they used to be…

  11. Madeleine Says:

    I like this story…
    Especially the ending!

    I, for one, remain very content that the laundry did the dream in.

  12. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Yes, dear daughter, it turned just the way it was supposed to, didn’t it? :) cleaning dirty dishes is one thing, but others’ dirty laundry….no thanks.

  13. Barbara Says:

    My first hand pie was in the 50’s….a cherry one in western Michigan in cherry country. Oh my…it was divine. What memories this brings back!
    Love your apple one…nice and brown and crisp, just perfect, Nancy. Any fruit will do, really, but cherries and apples are my favorite.
    (Greasy hands on the steering wheel…I do remember that!)

  14. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Greasy hands on the steering wheel! what a great memory, Barbara. Wow, I bet that cherry hand pie was the best.

  15. Barbara Greene Says:

    Wow Nance…you got a lot of responses to this one! These look amazing! I think I will make some for my next Fall get together. I may cheat and but ready made dough however. I cannot wait to make them.

  16. Beth Says:

    I’ve never eaten a fried pie, but I think they look delicious. The apple and ginger combination sounds spectacular!

  17. Gerlinde Says:

    I just came back from my first trip to Louisiana and New Orleans and I missed hand pies. I just have to make yours, they look wonderful . I can totally understand not wanting to do laundry . I enjoyed reading your story, it makes me think of all the things I missed .

  18. Denise Says:

    Those types of road trip discoveries are the best! :)

  19. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Beth–the fresh grated ginger makes ’em especially good.

    Hi Gerlinde–we all have those paths not taken, it’s interesting to think about what could have been. But I am happy to have not taken that particular path!

    Hi Denise–You are right. I do love a road trip, for so many reasons. But those unexpected finds bring even more joy to the experience.

  20. Adri Says:

    Oh, what is it about fried food? I just adore it, and these handpies are utterly tempting.

  21. Juliana Says:

    I somehow can picture you and Bill eating the fried had pies with coffee coming from the thermos overlooking nice piece of land…I love this picture!
    I must admit that I have never fried hand pie, but would love to try, especially this apple one with ginger and cinnamon…awespme flavors Nancy…thanks for the recipe.
    Hope you are having a fabulous week :)

  22. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Adri–I know—fried food—sweet or salty, it draws us in with its crunch of gold.

    HI Juliana–Thank you. I do think you would love the gingery apple pie for sure.

  23. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    I can relate to this post so much. My husband and I though about running a B & B for many years. We read books, looked at many properties but in the end we were like you. So much work and never a day off. Hand pies were very popular where I grew up in Texas and yours look absolutely delicious…wish I had one right now. :)

  24. Sabrina Says:

    Yum, these pies look fantastic!

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