Mini Cherry Pies

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Projects from last weekend included creating some new portable food photography surfaces. Finding the tongue and groove boards I had my heart set on proved way more challenging than expected, but once I’d gathered all the materials, putting these together was relatively easy. I won’t bore you with the details in this post, because I have way more interesting things to share. Smaller, but much more significant things to share…

…such as these cutie patootie little pies!

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I’ve seen these around the internet, on Pinterest and on a few blogs, but could not find a complete recipe for them, so I did some research and adapted my own version. I did not expect to have so much fun making these little things. Putting these together took me back to childhood days and an Easy Bake oven, (without the part where I wonder why they won’t bake from the warmth of a light bulb).

The first thing you’ll need to do is remove the pits from about 4 cups of fresh cherries. Don’t let this seemingly daunting task discourage you. I’m sure there are many kitchen gadgets on the market that make this really easy, but since I had already done my share of running around town in search of supplies related to the creation of photography surfaces (the ones I’m not going to bore you with right now), I wanted to use what I had. Here’s the method I used:

How To Pit Cherries

1. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross on the bottom of the cherry.

2. Make sure your cuts go all the way down to the pit.

3. Flip the cherry over and hold it firmly in your hand. Grab a chopstick and insert it into the top of the cherry (where the stem was), and push the pit out through the cut end.

4. The pit should pop right out. So satisfying! And fun!

I’m filing this under ‘Things my Grandmother never told me’.

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For the dough, I used a slight adaptation of the basic pie dough recipe in Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts, circa 1985. I’ve used this for many tart bases over the years, and it always creates a flaky, delicious crust that never disappoints. It’s slightly sweet, buttery and firm enough to hold up well in desserts that stand up unaided in their shells, such as tarts and small pies.

I found that this plastic container top (around 6 inches), which was a good size for the bottom crusts. The dough should have a bit of an overhang after it’s pushed down into the wells of a cupcake pan. A slightly smaller biscuit cutter worked well for the top dough.

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After the cherries were pitted, I cut them in half and placed them into a large bowl. In a small bowl, I measured out about 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and mixed them well. Then I squeezed some fresh lemon juice onto the cherries, and combined the sugar mixture and cherries together and let the ingredients mingle for a few minutes before scooping the cherry filling into 10 pie shell bottoms.

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The real fun starts when you get to cut and decorate the tops. My favorites were the lattice tops. I also used mini dough cutters in various shapes to cut out hearts and stars. My daughter is not a fan of cherries, so she made her own peach mini-pie. You could use blueberries, blackberries, apples, or any other favorite filling. I’m thinking nearly any recipe for a 9″ pie would could work divided between the 10 little pie shells.

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THE RECIPES:

Mini Cherry Pies
Makes 10

Ingredients

One Pate Brisee recipe (see below), Chilled
4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg for egg wash (beaten with a pinch of salt)
Additional sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Remove a disc of chilled dough from the fridge, roll out, and use a 5-inch circular cutter to cut out 10 circles. Press the dough circles into the wells of cupcake pans and allow the access dough to hang slightly over the top.

Place the pitted, halved cherries into a bowl and squeeze 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice over the top and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon, then blend with the cherries until the pieces are evenly coated. Allow this mixture to sit and create juices for a few minutes before distributing it between 10 pie shells.

Remove the second disc from the fridge and cut tops and shapes out and place them over the mini pies. Crimp edges. If your designs don’t include cutouts, make sure to cut a few slits on top so the filling can vent. Chill the pies at this point for about 30 minutes. This is a good time to start cleaning up the giant mess your kitchen has become.

Preheat oven to 425°F. When you are ready to bake, brush tops of the pies with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, turn and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325°F and bake another 10 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is a golden brown.

Cool the pans on a rack before removing pies. I carefully removed the pies while they were still warm since the filling bubbled up over the top a bit. I didn’t want the pies to stick. Go around the edges with a butter knife first and the pies should pop right out with a little gentle twist.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you need to reheat them, about 20-30 seconds on high in the microwave works well. Warm pie. Cold ice cream. It doesn’t get much better!

Pate Brisee (Basic Pie Crust)
adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe
Makes 10 double crust mini cupcake sized pies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Directions

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds just to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube, just until the dough holds together. Do not process for longer than 30 seconds.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into two. Place each half onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten and form two discs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before using.

Hail to the Kale

 

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I am in love with a leafy green vegetable!

Who wouldn’t be? Kale, also known as borecole, is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. It belongs to the Brassica family. Some of its relatives include cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. One cup of raw kale contains: 30 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 1,020 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin K, 200 percent vitamin C, 180 percent vitamin A, 40 percent magnesium, 15 percent of both calcium and vitamin B6. Recently, the antioxidant qualities have helped kale to gain in popularity because of its high levels of sulfur containing phytonutrients. These phytonutrients and antioxidants rid our bodies of toxins and can assist in the fight against cancer.

This spring, I decided to attempt growing my own kale, and I found that it’s very easy to grow in our mild spring climate. The only problem I see so far is that my chickens seem to like it too.

So, how can you incorporate kale into your diet? I have enjoyed eating kale for the last year in hot soups, in quesadillas, and any recipe that calls for spinach. Kale holds its color and shape, and won’t turn limp like spinach. But, my very favorite way to enjoy kale is in chip form.

When roasted, the leaves are crunchy, with a melt in your mouth quality that’s reminiscent of potato chips. The flavor is fresh and mild, with a finish of salt and garlic.

Here’s what you’ll need to make Crispy Kale Chips:
4 cups kale leaves (torn into bite-size pieces and large middle stems removed)
1 Tablespoons good olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Rinse the kale and pat it dry thoroughly. Remove and discard the thick ribs and roughly chop or break up the leaves a bit. Pat leaves dry again. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil, garlic, sea salt and pepper. Spread out onto a large rimmed baking sheet. The kale leaves do not need to be in a single layer, they shrink in volume as they bake. Bake for 15-20 minutes, giving them a stir every five minutes or so, until its tender, crisp on the edges and slightly browned.

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Raw kale leaves are also good in smoothies, where combined with more flavorful ingredients, they blend very well, and retain all their nutritional value.

Add these items to a blender and mix well: 1/2 cup mango, 1 cup blueberries, 1 1/2 cups coconut water, 1 cup kale leaves (stems removed), 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 avocado, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 Tablespoon flax seeds.

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You’ll have a delicious, spicy, filling snack (or lunch). If you don’t love spice, you can eliminate or decrease the cayenne pepper. This recipe is one of my favorites from the Dr. Oz 3-day cleanse.

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