I’m from the camp that counts chocolate as one of the major food groups necessary for a healthy, balanced diet. So when presented with an opportunity to make a dessert for a get-together yesterday, I briefly contemplated something in my repertoire of chocolate. So what was it going to be? Cake? Brownies? When it comes to dessert, in my book chocolate always wins. Then how did I end up with these?
I think it had to do with the fact that I hadn’t made pie in Ohio yet, and after a choir season of making about a pie a month for birthdays since September, I missed making my vanilla-laced crust. It also had to do with the bowl of ripe stone fruit sitting on my kitchen counter, perfuming the room with its intoxicating aroma. I love the smell of nectarines and peaches!
And then there was that nagging itch to do something I’d never done before. Yes, I can make a good apple pie, and I’ve mastered pumpkin pie plain, pralined, and shrunken to mini state (which is funny because I don’t like pumpkin pie that much; I prefer cherry), but a mini fruit pie with fruit known to be bursting with juice that could turn a crust soggy and cement itself into my muffin tins? Yes, that was the challenge before me.
So, even though I love chocolate in its many forms and when given the choice between a large slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a piece of fruit pie, I’ll choose the chocolate, I have to admit that these make a fine, impressive dessert. They also make an even better breakfast.
Mini Summer Fruit Pies
Feel free to make your life easy and purchase your ready-made pie crusts. You might not get as many mini ones out of them, but you’ll be saving yourself some time and heartache if you’re not a pie-crust-from-scratch kind of person.
- 1 cup fat — by this I mean butter, margarine, shortening, or lard, I suppose. You can use all of one type or a combination of two of them; I’m a fan of 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening, as shortening seems to produce a dough that’s easy to work with.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 6-10 Tbsp. cold water
- about 3-4 cups fruit, chopped into 1/2″ pieces as needed — I used 3 nectarines, 2 peaches, 2 plums, and about a cup of blueberries, but you can use whatever fruit you have around, like raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, etc. And I didn’t peel any of the fruit, which makes it easy.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp. sugar (I used coarse, raw sugar, but regular granulated sugar works, too)
- Place one oven rack at lowest position and one at middle position, and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In large bowl, combine fat with flour, salt, and sugar using pastry blender, two sharp knives, or a fork until mixture is a bowl of course, flour-coated pieces resembling small gravel. (It’s harder with a fork, but I’ve done it before.) Add vanilla and combine together. Add cold water a tablespoon at a time and mix carefully until dough comes together but isn’t wet.
- Place dough on lightly floured surface; divide in half. Roll out one half to about 1/8 to 1/4″ thickness. Using glass or bowl about 4″ in diameter, cut out as many circles as possible (I got 8 out of the first rolling of a half). Nestle each circle in a regular-size muffin tin. Gather dough scraps, re-flour surface, re-roll dough, and cut again (should be 4 circles). Place remaining circles in tin. Repeat process with other half of dough. Should make 24 pies.
- For filling, toss fruit with sugar and cornstarch until well-coated. Spoon filling into each dough “cup”.
- I had remaining dough, so I rolled it out and cut thin strips to place over each pie. It’s putzy and not necessary, though it does add a bit of charm. Feel free to omit this step or cut out small shapes with a tiny cookie cutter to place on each mini pie. Sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake pies on bottom oven rack for 10 minutes.* Shift pies to middle rack, rotating the muffin tins so the front tins are now in the back and the back tins are now in the front. Bake an additional 7-10 minutes, or until you see the edges of the crust are deep golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on wire rack. After 10-15 minutes, carefully turn each pie in the tins to loosen crust from muffin tin and to assure easy removal once cool. You may need a knife to loosen any baked-on filling on the edge.
*If all the tins don’t fit on one rack, position the oven racks to the lowest and upper middle positions. Place two tins on each rack, and rotate the tins between racks after 10 minutes.