CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:
Now to our Weekend Picnic series, where we look around the country for summer recipes that fit right into your picnic basket. Late summer is high season for fruit, from Georgia peaches to Maine blueberries. In Portland, Oregon, Deena Prichep found one baker who cooks up summer fruit into a picnic-friendly package - a hand pie.
DEENA PRICHEP, BYLINE: Taking a big, drippy fruit pie on a picnic is a pretty messy prospect. But baker Kim Boyce has solved this problem. She bakes up hand pies. They're sturdy little fruit-filled turnovers that don't need a knife and fork. Boyce makes 60 or 70 a day at Bakeshop, her Portland bakery.
KIM BOYCE: The fruit has this beautiful tartness, and the jaminess from its natural sugars and juices coming together and caramelizing in the oven. It's a little bit crunchy, tender, sweet. It has everything.
PRICHEP: To make a good hand pie, you need to start with a good crust. And Boyce makes a great crust. But when she first pulls the dough out of her refrigerator, it doesn't really look that promising.
BOYCE: It's this really sort of dry, crumbly dough. It's definitely not smooth. There's chunks of butter that vary in size from walnuts down to peas.
PRICHEP: Boyce takes this mess of a dough, and starts rolling it out. And things do not improve.
BOYCE: It's totally coming apart. It's shaggy on the edges, it's starting to tear in places. And we're just going to go with it. It's, like, don't stress, don't think about it too much, just keep going.
PRICHEP: There's a reason Boyce isn't worried. She's turning this messy dough, with its big blobs of butter, into something called a rough puff pastry. She rolls it, folds it, and chills it - over and over again, until it comes together.
BOYCE: And the butter that was, you know, walnut and almond-sized footballs, are now becoming streaks through our dough. And that's exactly what we want.
PRICHEP: Those buttery streaks translate to crisp, flaky layers in the oven. And once you've built a nice flaky dough, you can move on to the filling. Which can be hard to decide, especially during the summer harvest.
BOYCE: You know, I love plums. Like Santa Rosa, tart skin, softer juicier in the middle. And I love marionberries.
PRICHEP: Today, we've got fresh Oregon apricots. They have a few sunspots, so Boyce got a deal at the farmer's market. She tosses them with a handful of marionberries, a little bit of sugar, and a big dollop of apricot jam.
BOYCE: And the hardest thing when filling the hand pies is the tendency is to fill them really full. Because you want to stuff all this fruit in, right? We want a big, bountiful hand pie.
PRICHEP: But too much fruit can make the hand pies kind of explode, or be hard to work with. And you want to work fast.
BOYCE: Because this fruit, as soon as the sugar touches it, the juices start to activate, the liquid starts to come out. And we want that to happen in the oven, not right now. Otherwise you end up with a big saucy mess.
PRICHEP: The hand pies are something of a mess anyways. They open a bit in the oven, and juice oozes everywhere. But that's the point. The exposed fruit concentrates, with a more intense flavor, almost caramelized. And the open edges of the crust show off all those nice flaky layers. While the hand pies are sturdy enough to take on a picnic, they are still surprisingly delicate.
BOYCE: Yeah, you can tear open the pie, and you can see all of those layers. And it just gives you this great crackly crust. And, you know, you bite into it, and it shatters all over the place, and makes a mess.
PRICHEP: But what are a few crumbs when you're out on a picnic, and especially with your own hand-held pie. For NPR News, I'm Deena Prichep, in Portland, Oregon.