Every one falls for the cozy appeal of an apple pie. And an individual hand pie, a fold-over version, takes the homey pie up a notch. These pretty and diminutive pastries make an elegant end to a dinner party and a festive addition to a holiday buffet. They’re far easier to serve than their larger versions, with no need for determining portions and dealing with the mess of slicing.

Shape them into bite-sized crescents to eat with your fingers, or into full-sized half-moons for single- sized portions. Plus, these can be made ahead, then frozen, baked or unbaked, for later use.

Because these small pies are made to be eaten with your hands, you will need the proper crust, one that will not fall apart after the second bite. The recipe below calls for cream cheese to create a firm pastry that’s sturdy and tender, but not terribly flaky. It’s not at all fussy and it does not call attention to itself or intrude on the filling. This crust just does its job, firm enough to hold up to juicy, runny fillings. Because it does not contain sugar, it works as well with syrupy fruits as it does with hearty chicken or meat fillings, too.

In this recipe, of course, you can use any apple, but I like a mix of varieties. Take the tart, hard Keepsake that holds its shape while cooking. Pair it with the Liberty, slightly spicy and juicy, and whose slices melt into sauce as it cooks. Baked into these pies, the Keepsake slices retain their shape, while the Liberty turns into a lush sauce.

Stir in a little elderberry or blueberry jelly for color and contrasting flavor. The deep purple jelly adds just the right note of sweetness and brilliant purple tang. You can then whip a little jelly into heavy cream for a lively garnish.

If you’re in a rush, feel free to use prepared pastry in the freezer case, but be sure it’s made with butter. Truth is, I often do grab a pre-made crust when I crave an impromptu rustic apple pie that I can eat with my hands.

 

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.