I am a pie person. I like cake, but I love pie. With summer approaching, it means pie and lots of it. This month, Abby Dodge graciously gives us Very Berry Mini Pies for the Bake Together challenge. Thank you, Abby! I quickly began dreaming about what kind of little pies to bake and what flavors to combine.
Occasionally, I add fresh herbs such as basil or marjoram to stone fruit and berry desserts, herbs that more typically go into savory dishes. I don’t care for pies that are overly sugared – I want to taste the fruit. The fresh herbs enhance the flavors of the fruit, and balance out its sweetness nicely. For the mini pies, I chose to include thyme in the streusel since I thought it a natural pairing with the blackberries I had just picked up.
When I decided to use the blackberries fresh rather than baking them, I knew I needed a filling to anchor them on. Soft cheeses always appeal to me, so I stirred together goat cheese, mascarpone and ricotta with some honey for a creamy, rich, not-too-sweet filling.
I have also been curious about using coconut oil in place of vegetable shortening. I was delighted to find the combination of butter and chilled coconut oil yielded a flaky crust that easily shattered – this is a little pie to eat with a fork and not your hands!
Just in time for summer pies, I had the pleasure of taking a pie making class last week with Shauna Ahern, where she shared her pie making skills and some helpful tips. I learned I have been rolling pie crust dough all wrong! She recommends thinking of your dough disc as a clock, and rolling it in 10 minute intervals clockwise around the disc. This produces a more uniformly even thickness and doesn’t overwork the dough. Brilliant! My past method of rolling back and forth, back and forth, and then turning the dough to do more of the same was overworking it and usually ended up quite uneven. Using this new technique, my pie dough was rolled out quickly and efficiently.
We happily ate all ten of these Blackberry Mini Pies on Father’s Day. Due to the cheese filling and fresh berries, they should be eaten the same day they are made. Not a hard task with two teenagers diving in!
Blackberry Mini Pies with Walnut-Thyme Streusel
Adapted from Abby Dodge’s Very Berry Mini Pies
Makes 10 mini tarts
For the dough
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 slices, well chilled
2 tablespoons coconut oil, well chilled
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon very cold water
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the streusel topping
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
For the filling
4 ounces soft goat cheese
8 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons honey
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10 ounces blackberries
Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and coconut oil and pulse until the butter and coconut oil are slightly larger than pea size, about 10 to 12 pulses. Drizzle the water and lemon juice evenly over the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough begins to form moist crumbs that are just beginning to clump together, about 8 or 9 more pulses depending on your machine.
Dump the moist crumbs onto a large piece of plastic wrap and gather into a pile. With the heel of you hand, push and gently smear the dough away from you until the crumbs come together (two or three ‘smears’ should do the trick – the coconut oil will be very soft so don’t overwork the dough). Shape into a 5-inch disc and wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit out until soft enough to roll, 10 to 20 minutes (depending on your kitchen temp and the weather). Arrange a large piece of plastic wrap or parchment on the work surface and put the dough in the center. Cover with another piece of plastic or parchment and press down on the dough to flatten. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough between the plastic or parchment to about 1/8- inch thickness. Roll at 10 minute intervals around the disc. Cut out 8 rounds using a 3 1/2-inch round cookie cutter or glass. Gather up the scraps, reroll to a 1/8-inch thickness, and cut another round. Reroll and cut one more round for a total of 10 rounds of dough.
Lightly butter ten regular-sized (2 3/4- 3 inch diameter) muffin cups in a muffin tin.
Working with one round at a time, use your fingers to gently press the dough into each muffin cup, making sure there are no air bubbles in the bottom and the dough is pressed firmly and evenly up the side to within 1/8 inch of the top of the cup. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds. Pop the muffin tins into the freezer while you make the streusel.
Put the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, thyme leaves and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, then add the butter. Pulse a few more times until it is in moist clumps. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and pop in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the streusel for about 14 minutes, stirring after 7 minutes. When it is golden brown, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Remove the muffin tin from the freezer. Cut 10 squares of foil and line each chilled crust with one, then fill with pie weights. Blind bake the crusts for 20 minutes, remove the foil and weights and bake for 5 more minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the 3 cheeses with the honey, zest and salt until smooth.
Remove the crusts from the muffin tin. Fill each mini pie crust with just under 1/4 cup of cheese filling. Arrange blackberries on each pie, 5-6 berries each depending upon the size of your berries. Sprinkle the streusel on top of each thickly. You will have some streusel leftover and it is delicious over ice cream or yogurt. Enjoy the pies right away, or within the same day.