Cheerwine Hand Pies Recipe
photograph by Julie Ruble

Nothing says “North Carolina” quite like a glass of Cheerwine. Mentioning it to anyone beyond our state borders produces a quizzical look and the inevitable question: “Is it alcoholic?” It’s not, of course; it’s not wine at all, though it certainly is cheery! Produced in Salisbury since 1917, the fizzy drink is named for its red wine-like appearance. There’s no better way to celebrate North Carolina than with a fair-worthy treat whipped up using one of our favorite classic sodas.

These Cheerwine Hand Pies start with a simple, scratch-made cream cheese dough. You are certainly welcome to use premade pie dough from the refrigerated section of your grocery store, but give this dough a try at least once; it’s so easy to work with. A cheery, cherry pie filling offers a sweet zing inside of these flaky hand pies, and a drizzle of pink Cheerwine glaze on top seals the deal. Extend the fun of the North Carolina State Fair right into your own kitchen by making these easy-as-pie treats!

Yield: 8 pies.

For the cheerwine cherry filling:
1 cup tart cherries, fresh or frozen
¼ cup Cheerwine soft drink
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the hand pie dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
3 ounces cream cheese
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash

For the cheerwine glaze:
½ cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons Cheerwine

Prepare Cheerwine cherry filling: Place cherries and Cheerwine in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. After cherries lose considerable juice at about 10-15 minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch. Pour mixture into hot cherries and mix well. Return mixture to stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and place in fridge until chilled.

Prepare hand pies: Preheat oven to 425° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor, mix flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add cream cheese and butter into flour mixture and pulse about 6 times to cut the fat into the flour. Add milk and almond extract and blend until a loose dough begins to form.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Lightly flour top of dough and roll it out to a 12 x 15-inch square. Cut it into about 16 circles with a 3 ½-inch cookie cutter. Reroll scraps if necessary. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of chilled cherry pie filling into the middle of 8 of the circles, leaving at least a ½-inch margin around the edges. Place 8 other circles on top of the filled ones, using a fork to crimp the edges closed. Poke vents in each assembled hand pie. Don’t worry if they look messy and the cherry filling oozes out a bit; they’ll turn out cute!

Bake and glaze: Brush hand pies with egg wash mixture and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake in the 425° oven for 15-17 minutes, until the pie tops are golden brown. After allowing pies to cool for approximately 30 minutes, whisk together powdered sugar and Cheerwine in a small measuring cup with a pour spout. Drizzle over top of the hand pies. Serve immediately.

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Julie comes from a family passionate about food: Her grandmother made the biscuits and gravy, her father made the chicken and dumplings, and her mother made anything and everything, with a flourish of buttercream on top. Her parents blazed a trail of comfort food from their beginnings in the Midwest to Julie's current home in the South. She lives with her husband Mike and their two dogs in Raleigh, and is the creator of Willow Bird Baking.