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!
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:
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’.
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.
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.
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.
Mini Cherry Pies
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
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
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
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.