I n my first column two weeks ago, I simplified cakes by making them small. Pies, too, have obstacles that make people shy away from baking them.
The crust can be difficult to roll out and when you finally do get it large enough, it can be a challenge to get it in the pie pan. Then you are faced with crimping the edges attractively and keeping the crust from shrinking. Let's not even get into pre-baking crusts using pie weights and foil. And we haven't even begun to talk about fillings! It's enough to give sporadic bakers nightmares.
However, it doesn't have to be that tricky, and again one of the keys is to think small. Using a muffin pan allows you to create individual pies with a great ratio of crust to filling. And with just a little extra effort, you can make these delicious mini-pies into beautiful roses.
To grate is great
One problematic part of pie crust is cutting the butter into the flour. Not everyone owns a pastry cutter, and using two knives just leads to a big, floury mess and unevenly sized butter pieces. Using the large holes on a box grater to grate frozen butter eliminates that problem.
Rolling out small pieces of dough is also a lot easier than trying to roll out and transfer a large crust, and small crusts also tend to shrink less. Although I really like a combination of butter and lard for pie crusts, I've used only butter in this recipe because it can be a challenge to find fresh lard (don't use the stuff that is shelf stable - it's full of preservatives).
The crispness in the morning air recently signals the start of baking season (at least for me). A natural for this time of year is apple pie, taking advantage of
the fresh apples that have hit the stores. Golden Delicious are great for pies and many are grown in West Virginia. Jonagolds are excellent, and if you can find them, Northern Spy and Winesap are also good choices. Any firm, crisp apple will do well in a pie. Granny Smiths will work, but will require additional sugar because of their tartness.
Precooking the apples allows you to form them into the "petals" of the rose. Because the mini-pies don't bake as long as a traditional pie, the precooking is also necessary to ensure the apples become fully softened. Baking on the lowest rack allows the bottom of the crust to get browned without burning the top.
These mini pies will work with a variety of fillings - pumpkin, coconut and pecan come to mind. Use your favorite filling but remember that the baking time will be reduced.
Reach Darcie Boschee at bosch...@yahoo.com
Mini-Apple Pie 'Roses'
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, omit)
1 teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons butter, frozen
4 to 5 tablespoons icewater