Mini Pies with Fresh Orange


mini pies with fresh orange

Let’s celebrate a winter fruit: here’s a dessert that makes fresh oranges the center of attention. Mix them up with mascarpone, some sugar, and some extract boosts…and these mini-hand-pies are the perfect perk-you-up bite for a snack, with afternoon tea, or a morning coffee friend.


I found the best way to get the flesh sans peel and pith is to cut off the peels and pith by sliding a knife all around the edges (careful—do it on a cutting board). Then cut flesh of oranges into slices then cubes.


I added a vanilla glaze to drizzle on top with some crushed walnuts. (Don’t you always find the possibilities are endless?? 🙂

I did a demo on Nashville’s WSMV-TV “Today in Nashville” with Kelly Sutton and Carole Sullivan…here’s the segment on YouTube. (I also show you how to cut the orange.) And find the recipe below. Have fun!

Orange Mini Hand Pies with Mascarpone

3 navel oranges

2 sheets store-bought puff pastry

8 ounces mascarpone, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1 egg (for egg wash)

Vanilla Glaze & Topping

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup walnuts, crushed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Zest all 3 oranges. Cut off the peel and pith off the oranges. Cut oranges into slices and then into small dice.

Add the mascarpone to a medium mixing bowl. Add sugar and extracts. Stir to combine well. Stir in the orange pieces and orange zest. 

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough pieces until just slightly larger and thinner. Using a 3-inch square cutter, cut out squares of dough. Add a tablespoon of mixture in the middle. Fold to make triangles. Press along the edges to seal. Then use the tines of a fork to press closed more securely. Place triangles on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Re-roll dough scraps to make more — you should have about 30 mini hand pies.

Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush egg wash on each triangle. Poke a small hole in the center of each one. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden.

Make the Vanilla Glaze:

In a medium mixing bowl press out the butter with a spoon to make it smooth. Add the powdered sugar and mix until the butter is blended into small pieces. Add the vanilla and mix well. Run the kitchen faucet until very hot. Add 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to the mixture and stir rapidly to combine. If frosting seems too thick, add more hot water until it becomes the right consistency for drizzling.

Wait until mini pies are completely cool. Drizzle glaze on top in a zig-zag design. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.


Marcella Hazan’s Walnut Cake

Hazan's walnut cake

Hazan’s walnut cake

I once met Marcella Hazan at a book signing in NYC. She was with her husband Victor Hazan. I was a loyal fan of Marcella and also a fan of Victor Hazan’s book on Italian wines.

Marcella was signing her new book, Marcella Cucina, for a long line of book buyers. I already had a 2-volume paperback copy of Marcella’s The Classic Italian Cookbook, a wonderful guide to classic Italian cooking with lots of regional specialties you can’t find in other books. Her recipes were appetizing, reliable, enlightening, and tasty. Those books spent a lot of time in my kitchen.

I told Marcella, as she signed her new book for me, that I cooked with her often in my kitchen. She looked at me with a smirk and said, “Really? Am I any good?” The comment threw me. I said Yes, of course. She had no reply, handed me my book and I moved on to make way for the next person in line. What was that all about? I couldn’t figure it out. But it made me (unconsciously) put aside her books for years.

Until recently. Once again, thumbing thru the pages of The Classic Italian Cookbook, I was drawn to so many recipes. And this walnut cake is one of them.

butter and sugar creamed

butter and sugar creamed

I tweaked it some from her original recipe. Switched out the lemon zest for orange zest. Shortened the baking time by 10 minutes. Added orange extract and a vanilla icing swirled over the top of the cake.

The cake has more walnuts in it than batter. I used a nut grinder to get large walnut crumbs with some small walnuts chunks.

ground walnuts

ground walnuts

batter and walnuts

batter and walnuts

The batter is dense and a bit stiff. You need to press it into the greased and lightly floured pan.

walnut batter

walnut batter

It bakes up dense and chewy and richly dark.

baked walnut cake

baked walnut cake

It’s not too sweet and makes me think it would make a great breakfast cake.  But I opted to add a sweet vanilla glaze on top. The combination of cake and icing is way too irresistible and, therefore, don’t expect this cake to be around for more than a day. Chew, chew, yum, yum.

walnut cake w vanilla icing

walnut cake w vanilla icing

Walnut-Orange Cake w Vanilla Glaze

1 stick unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for the pan

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons rum

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

zest from 1 large orange

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

2 cups shelled walnuts, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a hand or stand mixer until creamy and smooth. Add the egg, rum, and extract. Beat well to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined. Stir in the walnuts.

Butter a 9-inch spring-form pan and place a circle of parchment at the bottom. Butter parchment circle and dust pan with flour, tapping out excess. Spoon in the batter and press batter to evenly fill pan. Bake for about 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool slightly, then while cake is still warm run a knife along the edges where it touches pan and remove the sides of the pan. Let cake cool completely before icing the top.

Vanilla Glaze:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

5-6 tablespoons very hot water, as needed

Smooth the butter in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix together with butter using a spoon. Drizzle a little hot water on the mixture and stir vigorously to make the icing into a not-too-thick, not-too-thin consistency. If too thin add more sugar. Too thick add more hot water.