Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mini Cherry Pies

Confession: I have never truly made pie dough from scratch.

I love to bake, but my thing is normally cookies and cakes.  If I made pies or tarts, normally I just buy a grocery store crust.  Is that terrible?

But then the other week I saw a recipe for mini cherry pies that you can make in a muffin/cupcake tin!  The recipe, which, of course, involved making pie dough from scratch, seemed delicious, and sweet dark red cherries happened to be sale at the grocery store, so it seemed like good time to try the recipe and to try my hand at making pie dough from scratch.  Also, miniaturizing desserts is a great way to make them easy to pack for lunch or even to entertain (no messy cutting and serving)!

I know cherry season is ending soon, but this recipe is perfect, even with frozen cherries or end-of-season bruised/not-so-beautiful fruit.  The cherry, vanilla, and rum flavors are classic, and this pie dough was a cinch to make and tasty just as flaky and perfect as I hoped it would.

Cherry pie filling
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon ice water
2lbs of cherries, pitted and cut in half
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp water
vanilla seeds ("caviar") from one vanilla pod

In a small bowl mix together the first two ingredients (cornstarch and ice water).  Set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan (cherries, sugar, citrus, water, vanilla).  Bring to a boil and cook on medium low for about 10 minutes.
Note: you can replace some of the water with rum, which is what I did.

After ten minutes, stir in the cornstarch mixture.  You should see the filling thicken immediately.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
You can refrigerate this 3-4 days, until ready to use.

Pie Crust/Dough Recipe
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup ice water, plus more if needed
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar (mixed into the ice water)
*Optional egg wash: 1 egg, beaten

Combine the flour, sugar, and butter into a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture.  Work the butter in with a pastry blender, fork, or your hands.  Scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed. Stop when all of the butter pieces are approximately pea-sized.
Drizzle 1/2 cup of water/vinegar on top.  Using a rubber spatula, wooden spoon, or your hands, mix to combine.  You will probably need about 1/4 cup more of ice water, but add this slowly, one tablespoon at a time.
Once the dough has just started to come together and form a cohesive clump, stop adding water.  Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and divide it into 2 balls.
Flatten and press together each ball into a little disk.  Wrap each disk of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 48 hours.
Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on floured work surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Use a 4-inch round biscuit cutter (or the lid from a plastic Chinese food take-out container) to cut 8 circles out of the rolled dough.
Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the refrigerator to chill.  Repeat the rolling, cutting and chilling process with the remaining half of dough and cut out another 4 circles.  You now have 12 bottom crusts for your mini pies, which you can fit into the muffin tins.  Fit 1 dough round into bottom of each muffin cup.  Place the muffin tin with the pie dough into the fridge to rest.
Cut the remaining dough to into thin strips to form the lattice tops of your pie.  Return to the dough strips to the fridge to rest, for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove your muffin tin.  Divide the cherry filling equally among the muffin cups.
Remove the dough strips from the fridge and "braid" to form the lattice.  Gently place each small lattice (3 strips by 3 strips) on top of one mini pie.  Press lightly against the edges of the bottom crust.
Lightly brush the pies with the egg wash (1 egg, beaten with a splash of water).
Bake until golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.
Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

The mini pies will keep at room temperature for 3 days before the crust starts to get soggy.

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