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Chef's Hat: Mini pies are all the rage

There's something special about having a whole pie to yourself - even if it is a mini pie.

You can honestly say, "I ate the whole thing all by myself!" Mini pies are also a great dish to take to parties or family get-togethers because there is no cutting required.

These pies can be extremely simple to make, especially if you use store-bought pie crust. Once you start making minis you'll get addicted to these little treats.

Any regular fruit pie can be turned into a mini pie. I have not experimented with custard type pies and have not seen any recipes to downsize those varieties of pies. But there isn't any reason I can think of that it couldn't be done.

Mini pies are not just for dessert either. Mini chicken pot pies make a great dish for lunch or supper. I ran across a recipe called "Impossibly Easy Chicken Pot Pie." There was no way I could pass up trying a recipe that claimed it was extremely easy to make.

I have to admit I did not find the recipe "impossibly easy." It was not a difficult recipe to follow, but there are quite a few steps. However, compared to the steps I've used to make other homemade pot pie recipes, it was indeed quite an easy recipe to make.

The next recipe I tried was "Impossibly Easy Salted Caramel Apple Mini Pies." Again, the title oversimplifies the process a bit. This is definitely a recipe worth making, but be prepared because there are more than just one or two steps you have to follow when making this recipe.

If you don't have a large family, mini pies are a great way to go because you can freeze individual portions. That's tough to do if you are making a whole fruit pie.

Try to downsize your apple pie. You'll like the result and kids love having their own individual pie. Happy Eating!

Easy, Simple Mini Pies

2 refrigerated pie crusts (read the package, you may need to buy two packages)

1 can pie filling, any variety

1 egg, whisked

Nonstick cooking spray

Instead of the second pie crust (for the topping) you can make a streusel topping.

For the streusel topping:

1⁄3 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 12-muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Roll out a single pie crust onto a flat surface. Using a large cookie cutter or any circular lid, cut out a 4-inch circle of dough. Press the dough circle into the bottom of a muffin tin cup, leaving a tiny rim of dough sticking out at the top. Repeat with remaining dough to fill all 12 muffin cups.

Fill each cup with pie filling, about ¼ cup. The cups will be almost full, but should not be full to the top.

Use the other crust to top each pie. (Or make the streusel topping instead.) Cut the dough into circles and top each pie or make a lattice crust.

To make a lattice type crust: Use a knife and cut the dough into thin strips. Then place the strips across the top of each pie in a criss-cross fashion. If using a solid circle crust on top, make sure to cut a couple slits into each pie.

With your fingers, gently press the top crust onto the bottom to make sure the crusts are stuck together.

Use a pastry brush and brush the top of each pie with the egg.

If you are using a streusel topping, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour and spices in a food processor. Whirl until mixed. Add the butter and pulse just a few times until the mix is crumbly. Do not over pulse - the mixture will end up as a paste!

Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the pies. If using a streusel topping, there is no need to brush the top of the pie with the egg.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes, just until the crust is lightly golden.

Impossibly Easy Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Adapted from bettycrocker.com

Chicken mixture:

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 pound, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or chicken thighs) cut into bite-size pieces

1 medium yellow onion, chopped (will be about ½ cup)

½ cup chicken broth

1 cup frozen peas/carrots

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

½ teaspoon thyme

¼ teaspoon oregano

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)

Baking mixture:

½ cup Bisquick

½ cup milk

2 eggs

Non-stick cooking spray

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in oil 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink in center. Add onion and chicken broth; heat to simmering. Add frozen vegetables and seasonings. Heat until hot, stirring occasionally until almost all liquid is absorbed. Cool 5 minutes; stir in cheese.

In medium bowl, stir baking mixture ingredients with whisk or fork until blended. Spoon 1 small tablespoon baking mixture into each muffin cup. Flatten with fork or clean hands. Top with about 1/4 cup chicken mixture. Spoon an additional tablespoon of the Bisquick baking mixture onto chicken mixture in each muffin cup.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. With thin knife, loosen sides of pies from pan; remove from pan and place top sides up on cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes longer, and serve.

Impossibly Easy Salted Caramel Apple Mini Pies

Adapted from bettycrocker.com

These can be frozen, but do it before you put the topping on the top

Apple filling:

1 ½ cups peeled, diced (¼ inch) Granny Smith apples

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Batter:

½ cup Bisquick

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 egg

Topping:

¾ cup whipped cream (canned whipped cream works the best)

½ jarred cup caramel topping

¼ cup toasted pecans

Coarse sea salt, if desired

Nonstick cooking spray

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place paper baking cups in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups; spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the apples, cinnamon and nutmeg, set aside.

In another small bowl, stir together batter ingredients with whisk or fork until blended.

Spoon 1 level measuring tablespoon batter into each paper-lined muffin cup. Top with 2 tablespoons apples. Spoon 1 tablespoon remaining batter over apples in each muffin cup.

Bake 15 minutes or until set in center and edges are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from muffin pan.

To serve, remove paper and place in small individual serving bowls. Top each pie with whipped cream, 2 teaspoons caramel sauce and 1 teaspoon pecans; sprinkle with salt.

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