On March 13th I mentioned to my children that the next day would be Pi Day and that many people eat pie on that day. Of course they were excited by that, who wouldn’t be, and asked me to make pies for their classmates. And, since what’s the point of having a chef mother if she doesn’t do things like this, I made mini pies for 23 2nd graders, 23 kindergarteners, and assorted teachers and office ladies for Pi Day. But, because I am not a glutton for punishment, I made an easy and forgiving dough. Here’s the delicious recipe so you can make little pies and be the hero, too.
Pi Day Mini Apple Pies
for the dough:
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour (I am a big proponent of whole grains for almost everything – not this)
- 8 Tbs cold butter (1 stick) cut into smaller pieces*
- 8 Tbs coconut oil (I like unrefined, it has a delicious taste and aroma)*
- 2 Tbs powdered sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp salt*
- 6-10 Tbs ice water
*If you don’t have coconut oil you can use double butter but the dough will be slightly less forgiving. Also, if you use salted butter use only 1 tsp salt. If you use unsalted butter use the larger amount. The coconut oil should be solid at room temperature, if your kitchen temperature is so high that the oil is liquefied, refrigerate until it is solid then use it.
Into the body of a food processor put all the ingredients except the ice water. Pulse until the butter and oil are chopped in and it all looks like crumbs. Pulse in the water, 1 Tbs at a time until the dough holds together and isn’t crumbly. You do not want a sticky dough or a really wet one so open the lid and check by feel if you aren’t sure by sight. Take the dough out and press it into a disc then wrap in plastic wrap or put in a plastic bag and set aside while you make the filling.
You can make the dough in advance and keep it well wrapped in the fridge for up to 3 days, just let it get back to room temperature before you roll and shape it.
for the filling:
- 2 Tbs butter
- 5 large or 7 smallish apples (choose what kind you prefer but a firmer one is better than one that will get mushy quickly; the best ones have a little tart in their flavor profile to balance the sweet)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon (you can use more to taste but don’t over-do it)
- 1 Tbs vanilla extract
Peel the apples then cut them off the core and chop into ~1/4″ dice. (This is not an exact science, although it is for Pi Day so don’t worry if your pieces are slightly irregular and not perfectly 1/4″ square.) In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat melt the butter. When it is melted, add the apples and let them cook for a couple of minutes, stirring a few times to make sure they don’t stick. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well then cover the pot and turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Open the lid and let the mix cook another five minutes or so on medium heat, stirring every minutes or so, to allow some of the moisture to reduce. You want a little moisture/syrup but not a huge amount of wet sauce. While it is reducing to the right texture you can start to roll out the dough. Once it is reduced as you like, set it aside to cool a little before you fill your pies.
to make the pies:
Heat the oven to 375° F. Split the dough into thirds and keep the rest wrapped while working with one piece. Using a little flour to keep it from sticking roll the dough to ~1/8″ thickness. I roll onto a piece of parchment paper, which makes cleaning up really easy and keeps the dough from sticking to anything.
To make folded mini pies use a standard tumbler and cut the dough into rounds. Gather up the extra dough and put aside, you will re-roll and use it. Put a small amount of the filling into the center of each round of dough then fold the dough over on itself, making a half-moon shape, and press down with your fingers around the edges. Place each pie on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. In a small bowl beat one egg and a dash of milk then use this to brush over the pies to help them brown nicely. You can sprinkle decorating sugar, cinnamon sugar, plain cinnamon, or nothing over the pies before you bake them. If you want to get really fancy you can use little bits of dough to make decorations on the pies but it’s really not necessary. Repeat the rolling, cutting, filling of the dough until you’ve used up all the first third. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough. When the baking pan is full (the pies can be close but not touching on the pan) bake in the oven for ~12-17 minutes until they are lightly browned and the dough is firm.
To make the tiny mini open pies line mini muffin tins with mini muffin papers. Roll the dough the same but cut them with a shot glass instead of a tumbler. Put a small disc of dough into each muffin paper, pressing slightly. They will not be flat on the bottom but go up the sides slightly. Put a small amount of filling in each little cup. Bake ~8-12 minutes. This recipe yielded 26 folded pies and 36 tiny ones. That’s a lot of pie! Once the pies are baked remove them to a cooling rack or plate to cool. Store in sealed containers or bags. They’ll be good for a couple of days, if they last that long.