|Apple Chai Mini Pie - it's a superstar! - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
I had the opportunity to check out a friend of a friend's (thanks, Chuckman!!) new cookbook that just came out, Mini Pies by Christy Beaver and Morgan Greenseth. It's exactly that, a cute little book full of miniaturized sweet and savory pies, and techniques over how to make this mini-magic happen in your own kitchen. Christy and Morgan are the dynamic piemaking duo behind Mini Empire Bakery, a shop in Seattle making all kinds of yummy desserts with a focus on quality local ingredients and having a full menu of options including vegan and gluten-free choices. I know that probably sounds like a typical bakery to a lot of people lucky to live in large cities or in regions close to a bounty of fresh produce, but we forget there's quite a lot of places where a bakery like this would be a dream come true. We forget what a rare gem quality bakeries can be! So a cookbook like this is especially nice, as people everywhere can still have a taste of Mini Empire Bakery, even if they are hundreds of miles away. The book includes instructions for making vegan-friendly pie crust, there's a lot of soy milk used in recipes, and there are different options for how to fill or top a pie however a person may choose, whether they have dietary needs or not. The book is full of inspiring photos of wee baby pies, and creative ideas for flavors.
|With this book, you can create your own Mini Empire at home! - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
I could have made a big batch of mini pies and sat on the couch to graze on my dessert bounty, watching my thighs grow. But no! I wanted to make several of the mini pie filling recipes and also foist some gently-used clothing on friends for a clothing swap brunch. Mini pies, like the full sized ones, have the same challenge as most desserts -- you can't just make a little bit. Even with the miniature size, you get the equivalent of a full pie, just portioned out in single servings, so invite friends over or package them up as a gift, because they're ridiculously adorable as they are dangerous to have around. You'll eat all of them, I swear. I decided to make a range of pie options, two savory and two sweet. I went with the season, choosing their classic pumpkin and a spicy number, a chai apple for the dessert pies, and a caramelized onion with olive tapenade, and a spinach and cheese quiche for savory. Mini pie brunch and a clothing swap -- it's not a bad way to try some new recipes and trade some wardrobe goods amongst friends. I have to say, clothing swaps are my new favorite thing, and it doesn't have to be clothing, could be anything -- books, kitchen tools, etc. It's kind of like an indoor rummage sale, except that it's a swap and everyone brings their own stuff to trade.
|Pie filling factory - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
I modified some of the recipes a hair -- I had some leftover turkey slices, so I sliced and crisped it in a pan, while wilting some fresh spinach for the savory egg and spinach quiche. It made them a little more hearty, since I had more sweet than savory options. For the caramelized onion pie, I used kalamata olives for the tapenade versus a mix of olives. Again, I was going more with what I had available, but their recipe would yield a nice creamy tapenade with the combination of olives. For the sweet pies, I had fresh roasted pumpkin on hand, which I mixed with the other ingredients in a food processor to help blend down the chunks. About one small sugar pumpkin is enough to yield the 8 ounces needed in the recipe, if you decide to go with fresh squash. For the chai apple filling, the recipe calls for Granny Smith, which are ideal for dessert pies since they're nicely tart and firm. We had a surplus of Fuji apples from our CSA, so I went with those instead, which turned out perfectly. When you're making multiple pie fillings, I recommend making or preparing as much of the fillings ahead as possible, so they're ready to fill the readied dough shells. Our kitchen may have looked like a mad array of bowls and dishes full of oddball things, but once the batches of filled mini pies were going into the oven and baking away, it went pretty fast.
|Filling pies and cutting the dough just right - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
As to the tools of the trade -- I didn't have specialty miniature pie tins. A lot of bakeries are starting on this trend, and there are mini pie tins available at kitchen supply stores. But the Mini Pies cookbook suggests using your muffin and cupcake pans, which work just dandy. I have multiple sizes: wee bitty appetizer tart pans, regular cupcake-sized pans, and Texas muffin-sized pans. I had mixed amounts of filling for the savory pies. Since they were more chunky with the whole ingredients, I thought they would fill the small bite-sized appetizer pans better, showing off their texture. I did have extra spinach and turkey quiche filling, but that was by design -- I baked off the excess in ramekins for a quick breakfast while I was working. The cook's gotta eat too, right?
I saved the larger cupcake-sized pans for the dessert pies, since I had more filling for those. The real trick was getting the sizing right for when the pie dough needed to be placed into each tart or cupcake mold. It needs to be cut in a large enough circle to make a fully-formed shell up the side of each mold shape, so you find yourself hunting around the kitchen for round shapes that can make a nice, clean cut. A biscuit cutter was perfect for the little bite-sized pies. The standard cupcake pans required something larger and I was pleased to find that the metal top for a cocktail shaker makes a just-right circle! Plus the sharp, clean metal edge ensured a clean cut. I know people say to use a wine or cocktail glass for cutting pastry rounds, but some glasses have rounded, blunt edges, making it harder to cut. Plus, it's glass and you hate to mess around with that if there's an accident. It's all fun and games until someone gets a big shard of glass in their dessert.
|Savory mini pie goodness! - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
The mini pies were a hit. Sure, it requires a little extra effort versus making one large pie, but gosh darnit if they're not cute as all get-out. And it inspired me to consider doing mini pies for Thanksgiving. I'll still make the traditional pumpkin pie, but maybe pecan and apple or pear, in mini form, so there's less hard decisions to make when dessert comes around. You could easily have two of these small pies in one sitting. Even three!
Much thanks to the girls at Mini Empire Bakery for letting me cook through some of their recipes and enjoy their wonderful new book, Mini Pies. This is a great gift idea if you're looking for something to make/give to someone for the holidays -- the book is small and would go nicely with a batch of mini pies!