High Country Baking column: Patriotic mini-pies
July 2, 2013
Editor's note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn't. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Need a Fourth of July dessert? Consider these mini-pies of sweetened blueberries in a delicate crust — they're pure Americana.
They're good eaten out-of-hand at room temperature and heavenly served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, take them on a picnic or share them at a dinner party. They'll be well received in both settings.
Take care with the crust. If you want it to be tender, flaky and delicious, don't overwork it (lumps of butter should be visible when you roll it out) and handle it as gently as a newborn baby.
Makes eight 3 1/2 inch pies
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sour cream (light or regular)
2 cups flour (spoon and level)
1 tablespoon of superfine granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (two sticks)
1 generous cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
2-3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2-3 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons Creme de Cassis or water
Large-grained sugar, for sprinkling
Make the dough: Combine the egg and sour cream in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix well. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces, add them to the bowl, and pulse only until the butter breaks down to pieces about the size of pecans. Add the egg-sour cream mixture and pulse until large, moist curds are formed, with pieces of butter still visible. Dump the dough out on a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap, knead gently a few times to bring it together, form it into two discs, wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to overnight.
Make the filling: Combine the blueberries, two tablespoons of sugar, and the lemon juice in a saucepan and, on medium-low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves, the berries break up a little, and the mixture comes to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch in the Creme de Cassis or water (use the higher amount of cornstarch if the berries have been frozen-they give off more liquid as they are cooked). Add it to the simmering berries, and continue to stir until the filling has thickened and is jam-line. Taste and add more sugar if desired, remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm. While it cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, non-stick aluminum foil, or a silicone mat or grease it lightly.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, if it's too cold to work with, let it sit until it's roll-able. Roll out each disc to a thickness of about one-eighth of an inch and, using a three-and-a-half inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 16 circles. Using a one-inch star cookie cutter, cut a decorative vent in the center of half of the dough circles. Transfer the small dough stars to the prepared cookie sheet, placing them on the side of the sheet that will be closest to the oven door so you can easily remove them from the pan — they will finish baking before the mini pies. If the dough gets soft and sticky during this step, slide it on a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer until it firms up. If necessary, form dough scraps into a disc, chill and re-roll.
Place the eight dough circles without vents (these will form the bottom of the mini pies) on the prepared cookie sheet, about one inch apart. Beat the egg and brush some of it around the outer half-inch of each of these circles (this will help glue the top and bottom dough circles together). Place a generous teaspoon of filling in the middle of each circle, spread it out to, but not on, the brushed-egg rim and top with a vented dough circle. Use the tines of a fork to press the two circles together, sealing them well. Brush the top of each pie and each cut-out star with beaten egg and sprinkle with large-grained sugar. Save any unused filling.
Bake until the little stars are set and light golden (check at about 12 minutes), quickly remove them from the oven to a cooling rack, leaving the mini pies to bake until they have crisped and colored (27-32 minutes in my oven). Remove from the oven and cool. As they cool, you may add a little more filling in the star openings of the pies if you want them to have a mounded look. Place one of the little stars over the exposed filling in each pie. Serve at room temperature or warm.
This recipe was inspired by ones published by King Arthur Flour.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.