a still life in figs - fig, balsamic, rosemary hand piesFig, Balsamic, & Rosemary Hand Pies

Late summer is a lens flare lucid dream. An imperious, two-volume Oxford English Dictionary now keeps company with the fearful symmetry of a cheap ceramic tyger on the bookshelf in the newly cleaned out study. Kombucha ferments in a sea-foam green bowl tucked away behind the cupboard doors of the midcentury buffet. We leave in six days for New York, where I will have the opportunity to participate in the Sunday Suppers workshop with Nikole Herriot, wander markets, eat at momofuku má pêche, and gorge myself on treats from momofuku milkbar. Unreal. Wild cherry tomatoes roll around lens caps on the kitchen counter. Rowland S. Howard plays Shut Me Down, and I bake.

I wish I could relate the innards, the real guts, of the conversations that have been percolating around here lately. You see, I keep the company of a poet with blue eyes and exceptionally long eyelashes. He’s part fiend, part hierophant, and we bicker over things like whether or not the ancient wisdom of the Mayans and the potential apocalypse should be considered in planning a purely hypothetical jaunt to the British Isles. He imparts tales of Aleister Crowley’s one time residence above the oldest cheese monger in London, Paxton & Whitfield, much to my delight, and I regale him with my Transylvanian daydreams. Together we plot underground masquerades.

We lay awake late at night talking about immortality, the virtues of death, and whether we, as a society, will soon be growing human hearts like fat tomatoes. He, with animate eyebrows, tells me stories about a 92-year-old Okinawan fisherman diving into the sea like a young man and of the oldest woman alive, 115, singing. The bright side, a good attitude, he tells me, will keep you in vigor. It’s a fact.

Fig, Balsamic, & Rosemary Hand Pies

We’ve sat on stoops and porches and talked with friends. I caught a firefly. I may have disabled it on accident. His mother sent us chocolate filled butter cookies. I ate too many. We sip. And plan. It rains hard. He smokes. We’re the parents of some water kefir grains now. We’re honing ideas. An exciting project is afoot. Handmade artifacts and a supper happening. I look forward to being able to say more as details become concrete in the coming weeks and months.

We spend a lot of time talking about sustenance: physical, spiritual, and intellectual. Poetry is as practical as a loaf of bread. Sometimes good work is difficult and slow like baking from scratch. It takes time to produce art, and it takes time to savor it, digest it. We require the sustenance of a fig and the sustenance of whalebone, owls, and Gladstone bags. Particles & waves. Heart geometry. Artists are as vital to a community as its farmers and cooks. A life without art isn’t worth living.

basket of local figs
Fig, Balsamic, & Rosemary Hand Pies

I’m inspired by everything around me, ideas, objects, people. Etchings, vintage smut, country estates, marmoreal slabs and corsetry, gourds and sorbets, sweetbreads, marrow, and parasols. My mind feels prismatic lately, and the late summer light refracts shades of fruit stall, of sticky fig, white peach, and the paper bag brown peel of Golden Gem apples. My eyes are big, bigger than my appetite and bigger than the hours in a day. I have such plans. It’s an exciting time to be anything at all and so…and so I buy too much fruit. So much fruit. Butter, flour, vinegar, fig, herb, yolk, honey, cane. I write, these days, in pie.

Fig, Balsamic, & Rosemary Hand Pies

Balsamic, Fig, and Rosemary Hand Pies

yields about 18-22 4″ hand pies

I’ve been very keen to share the recipe for this fig pie all week. The filling is a satisfying balance of sweet, tart, and herbaceous. I’ve varied this recipe at times by adding a small dollop of goat cheese to the pies. They’re very good either way, and I can’t help but wonder if these could be made savory-sweet with the addition of not only goat cheese but some proscuitto, bacon, or pancetta as well? If I find out, I’ll be sure to let you know. If you try it, do let me know.


1 recipe of Buttery Pastry Shell (or the pie dough of your choosing)

2 cups of figs, cut into 1/2″ size pieces
2 Tbsp sugar
1/8th cup good balsamic vinegar
1/8th cup honey (raw sourwood)
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
pinch of kosher salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
goat cheese (optional)
1 egg, whisked
sugar for dusting (turbinado, sanding, or regular sugar work for this)

Cooking Directions

First prepare your dough which should then be divided in two, shaped into flat discs, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and chilled. Allow it at least one hour to chill in the fridge. If I’m feeling impatient sometimes I pop it in the freezer to speed up the process.

Mix figs, sugar, balsamic, honey, rosemary, and salt in a medium bowl and let macerate for about 15 minutes (it can sit longer, even over night, to no ill effect).

Heat oven to 425° F.

Carefully pour off about 2 Tbsp of the liquid from the figs and mix with the 2 Tbsp cornstarch. Stir this back into the figs to thicken.

Roll out half your dough to about 1/8th inch thickness on a lightly floured work surface. Rotate the dough and flour as needed to keep from sticking. Using the cutter of your choice (I have used both 4″ and 2″ biscuit cutters to make tiny pies and tinier pies, but you could do shapes or whatever you like.) cut the dough out. If making double crust hand pies cut an even number, if making half moon hand pies then you needn’t worry about it. Lay cut out dough onto a parchment lines baking sheet and place in the fridge to chill for about 5-10 minutes. Again, sometimes I just put them in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Fill a small bowl with cold water and set to the side. Whisk your egg in the bowl to use as a wash.  Remove dough and fill with a scant table spoon of filling for half moon pies and a heaping tablespoon of filling for double crust pies. If making 2 inch pies use about a teaspoon of filling. If you wish, use a little less filling and top with a small dollop of goat cheese.

Fig, Balsamic, & Rosemary Hand Pies

To seal the pies dip your finger in the cool water and run your finger around the rim of pie. Either fold over or top with second crust and press carefully but firmly to seal all around. Seal with the tines of a fork if desired.

Once pies are filled place them back into the fridge or freezer to chill for 10 or 3 minutes respectively. Remove from fridge and cut vent holes in the tops of the pies. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Chill once more before baking.

When ready to bake place the pies on a parchment lined baking sheet on the middle rack and bake for 5 minutes at 425° F. Reduce heat to 350° F, rotate pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown, rotating the pan every five minutes if you have an uneven oven like mine to promote uniform browning. Place pies on racks to cool.

Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Fig, Balsamic, & Rosemary Hand Pies

*This could easily be made into a full sized pie or galette. If doing that, I would just halve or maybe quarter the figs depending on their size and adjust the baking times accordingly.

D: figgy pie
 angry figgy pie is angry D:
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53 Responses to fig, balsamic, and rosemary hand pies

  1. Beth, your fig pies are absolutely beautiful! I would give anything to taste one right now with my coffee. Your photos are stunning as well. Love your blog!!!

  2. Migle says:

    Oh, I really want one in my hand! Right now! :)

  3. Love this sentence: “Sometimes good work is difficult and slow like baking from scratch.” Very thrilling, that buzzy vibrant nervous swirling creative state of mind. Looking forward to seeing what yours produces in the future! And the photos well… what can I say, I pinned them all. :-) Oh, and the mix of fig and rosemary makes me want to eat right now.

    • Local Milk says:

      With out insta-twitter attention spans sometimes it’s difficult to convince people that sitting down with a poem or using a dictionary or absorbing a painting is worth their time. But I think if we can slow down enough to bake bread & pies… we can also take the time to read real books & poetry again. It is my hope.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Fig pie poetry….

  5. Angela says:

    I just stumbled across this blog. It, your photos, and your writing are all incredibly lovely. The voice in your writing is exquisite.

  6. marla says:

    Stunning hand pies ~ makes me crave the fall :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you OH SO MUCH for putting this one up! Having friends for dinner this week and this will be the dessert! And I get lost in time reading your prose – lovely doesn’t fully capture it … Christina, Toronto

    • Local Milk says:

      Much obliged. I hope you’ll let me know how they turn out! And I’m very happy that you enjoy my prose…I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, before cooking even. It’s part of me. Though I’m just getting back into it after many “dry” years…

      • Emily says:

        I’m a writer too, it’s my first love, and I am so in love with your writing (and your photographs). I am 26 and I too have had many ‘dry’ years, so this is a great source of inspiration that my prose can be whipped back into shape (I’m a tad phlegmatic with the pen these days). Congratulations on your marriage! Emily, Australia.

  8. Your fig balsamic hand pies are inspired and your photos are wonderful!

  9. These hand pies looks so cute and so delicious! I love the flavor combination – it sounds wonderful.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I have to be honest – I have absolutely no interest in cooking. I’m here for the writing and the photos – both of which are gorgeous, particularly the former. Enjoy New York.

    • Local Milk says:

      Dear Anon., Your comment was received during a particularly stark moment of utter self-doubt regarding the former. Thank you. Writing is a difficult enterprise, and I doubt anyone who says otherwise.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ahhh … self doubt. Note the emphasis on “self” in that phrase. I don’t think anyone familiar with your blog would ever doubt … Christina, Toronto

  11. Adriana says:

    oh my goodness. I have to admit that whenever I try to make hand pies they come out tasty but usually ugly. Yours however, are stunning. I love the finishing touch of the sugar. And the boy, mine, is gonna want me to make these immediately after I show them to him! Balsamic and figs. Score. And by the way, as silly as it sounds, the FAO Schwartz toy store in New York has a special place in my heart. It can be quite inspiring.

  12. First time here – so happy I found your gorgeous blog! I’m a huge fan of figs, and have never tried them in a hand pie, so this is SO bookmarked!

    And I live down the lock from Milk Bar in NYC, you’re in for a dreamy time here ;)

  13. Calantha says:

    You had me at “fig”, you mesmerized me with your poetic and rhythmic narrative, and then I fell in love with the imagery. Beautiful and inspiring. And those hand pies! The one time I attempted hand pies they failed. Edible, yet somewhat miserable in their demeanor. I’m inspired to try again. Particularly given the box of fresh, tantalizing figs lying wait in my fridge.

    Did you make it to Ma Peche? I had the luck of grabbing a last minute reservation a few months back when I made the trek to NYC for the first time. The foie gras with marshmallow was perhaps the most wondrous event of my gastronomical existence. I hope you had a chance to indulge!

    • Local Milk says:

      I think we were leaving comments on each other’s blogs at the same time! I’ll be going to ma peche this next Monday & I’m awfully excited. I compulsively order anything that involves foie gras…I hope something of the sort is on the menu. Again, I’m very happy to have discovered your work today… and I’m very happy you found mine! I think we share a similar ethos.

    • Calantha says:

      Hah hah! It does indeed look like we were commenting at the same time. And I absolutely agree that it looks like we “share a similar ethos.” I’ll be honest, I was absolutely giddy last night to have found your blog!

      One part of the comment you left on my blog struck me particularly: “People are always advising you to “solve a problem” (i.e. fast cookie recipes) but I think that people have as much a need for the nourishment of stories and poetry as they have need of ways to organize their pantry & clip coupons.” I love that you not only equate storytelling with a human need, but also a form of nourishment. So apt and true. I look forward to reading many more of your words, and I am quite grateful they are at times “verbose and lyrical.” Those are the words I like to read.

  14. C Thornton says:

    I would like to build a home inside of one of these and live forever in happiness.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful!! The writing, the photography, the food…just discovered your blog, I’m in love with it! Thank you for sharing your many talents with us.

    • Local Milk says:

      Thank you kindly… you just named my three biggest passions in this life! Follow that with travel & my other half and there you have my happiness! I’m so glad you like it.. I work constantly to improve!

  16. Wow.. your photography is amazing!

  17. Lovely, lovely.
    I’ve been having sort of similar conversations with my husband – maybe not as historical [or beautiful], but always the physical/spiritual. The apocalypse! What if, and should we?

    A friend of mine recently put an album out, and his lyrics always reminds me to have courage, create, be: ‘If it’s Babylon, I think we’ll still get on, history belongs to the lions and the swans.’

    Your hand pies! Gorgeous.

  18. Those little pies are gorgeous. I love this post and your writing. And I think I’m in love with your beau now.

  19. Amy says:

    A beautifully written post and a beautiful recipe. I have one question regarding the recipe – do you peel the fresh figs, or just chop them up as they are? Thank you.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I love your photographs and writing, but the RECIPE! Incredible. Just made them tonight and my mind is blown. There’s such a great combination of flavors – I absolutely must make this again. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Local Milk says:

      That makes me so happy to hear! Photos are lovely and writing is fine… but the recipe is putting your money where your mouth is! So I loved to hear that my recipes worked for others!

  21. nellybelly says:

    This flavor combination is amazing, and a great way to use up 2 things our backyard is overflowing with: figs and rosemary! I’ve made these twice already, and plan on making many more as our figs ripen. Love the perfect little portions- so easy to share w/friends and neighbors, saving me from eating a whole pie by myself! Can’t wait to try adding some pancetta, great idea!

  22. Tamara says:

    I love your blog and made these pies today using figs and rosemary from my garden. They were delicious and I can’t wait to make them with goat cheese! Thank you for your wonderful recipes!

  23. I am really interested in what you wrote here. This looks absolutely perfect. All these tinny details are give me a lot of knowledge.religious food

  24. Anonymous says:

    If you do choose to use the goat cheese, how much do you use and when do you add it in?

    • Local Milk says:

      After you put the filling in I put a small piece or pieces (depending on pie shape & size) on top of the filling before putting the top crust on. How much is up to you! You want enough to taste but not so much it overpowers the pie.

  25. Sitting in Nebraska says:

    Absolutely delightful and resolutely beautiful at the same time! A feast for the senses! Thank you for taking the time to do this; a gift for the spirit of all who imbibe of your gifts!

  26. […] Pink Lemonade Bars via Smitten Kitchen {link}. Fig, Balsamic and Rosemary Hand Pies via Local Milk {link}. Meringue-Topped Cookie Bars via Lick My Spoon […]

  27. Tatiana says:

    You are a poet and a culinary goddess rolled into one with a mystical, meditative undercurrent that makes it impossible to look away.

  28. Marisol says:

    When you chop up the figs, do you remove the skin, or leave it on? Beautiful recipe!

  29. eme says:

    Finally picked some fresh figs and made these tonight. Such a fun and easy recipe.

  30. rubu says:

    I need the butter pastry receipe please

  31. […] You may want to sit down. Meet swoon-worthy Fig, Balsamic, and Rosemary Hand Pies, or simply figs on the go. It’s ok to sigh. {from Local Milk}  […]

  32. Hi Beth!

    I just wanted to say that your blog is gorgeous! Love the photography and the light in your photos.

    I’d love to include your Fig Balsamic and Rosemary Hand Pies in a hand pie recipe roundup that I’m preparing for Parade Magazine (to be published in Sept).

    If you’re fine with it, could I use one of your photos with a linkback to your original post (http://localmilkblog.com/2012/08/fig-balsamic-and-rosemary-hand-pies.html)?

    Let me know your thoughts & thanks so much in advance!


  33. Gina says:

    I’ve been wanting to make these for so long and so I picked today, the hottest day of the year, to heat up my entire kitchen. Oh, so worth it! These are absolutely wonderful. I now have my mind set on trying the blueberry basil ones…maybe next weekend. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  34. […] Fig, Balsamic and Rosemary Hand Pies: As gorgeous as they are delicious! {from Local Milk} […]

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