I was recently given some mini tart pans, so I wanted to try them out. Lucky for me, a package of 4 actually contained 5. Does that count as a free give with purchase?? In thinking about what to make, I was flipping through my recipe box and came upon my Mom's recipe for Apricot Pie. That sounded good, but when I went to the grocery store, they didn't have any apricots, so I switched gears and picked up some peaches. Then I switched gears again and pulled out my mini pie pans rather than the tart pans for some reason.
Since I was just playing and wasn't actually making them for a particular reason, I decided to experiment. I baked four mini pies, two with the peaches soaked in blackberry liqueur and two with almond filling brushed on the inside of the bottom crust and ginger mixed in with the peaches. I think when I actually make a pie on purpose, I'll stick with the almond filling, ditch the ginger, and skip the blackberry liqueur. I liked the taste of the peaches with the ginger, but not also with the almond. As for the blackberry, it was so subtle, it was barely noticeable. I didn't want the pie to be soggy, so I didn't use a whole lot. If I try that again, I'll have to cook it down to intensify or make a syrup with it. Still, it was fun to play. :)
In addition to experimenting with the fillings, I also experimented with the crust a bit. Since I knew I was gong to use the almond filling, I took it one step further and ground up some toasted almonds in the crust. Our family is split on pastry dough - some like it dry and flaky, others prefer a softer cream-cheese dough, and others like it kinda middle-of-the-road. In attempting to hit this one on the drier/flakier end of the spectrum, I added the almonds to the dough without cutting back any on the flour. I actually liked it, and I'm a middle-of-the-road kinda gal. For me, just so long as it's not thick and doughy, I'm cool with it.
2 c flour
3/4 c Crisco shortening
2 T butter
6 T cold water
1/4 c toasted almonds, crushed
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1 t sugar
Pulse in food processor until it comes together and forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30-60".
4 large peaches (I actually coulda used one more for these)
1/4 c sugar
1 T flour
1 T blackberry liqueur
1/2 t ground ginger (dry, not fresh)
I usually don't use flour in my pies, but I noticed that my Mom used it in her Apricot Pie, so I figured what the heck and threw in that small amount. I can't stand fruit pies with a lot of thickener making them really gummy. I was really thinking more about it holding the blackberry liqueur so that wouldn't screw up the crust.
OK, so I started by peeling and cutting up my peaches. I have read that to make them easy to peel, you can plunge them into boiling water, then an ice bath, but I've never tried that. I have a super sharp paper thin knife that does the trick in a flash. I sliced around the middle like an avocado and pushed the blade outward to pop it in half so I could remove the pit. I then sliced each half into 4, turned it around and made 4 slices in the other direction.
I tossed all of the peaches in one bowl with the sugar and flour and let them macerate for a while in their own juices. Then I split them into two bowls, adding the ginger to one and the liqueur to the other.
When your dough is ready, go ahead and roll it out between pieces of waxed paper. Because the pie tins were so small, I didn't bother rolling out the bottom crusts. I just flattened a piece of dough in the palm of my hand, put it in the bottom of a pie tin and used my thumb to press it up the sides. I did, however, give all the tins a little shot of PAM Baking. For the tops, I just pulled off a golf ball sized blob of dough, rolled it out and then transferred it over my filling using the waxed paper as a guide.
I like that you can see all the little speckles of almond in the dough. Oh, that's another thing! The stove was in full use when I was making my dough, so rather than waiting for a free burner, it occurred to me that we've been hearing about all kinds of things being toasted in the microwave lately. I figured I'd give it a stab. Worked out great! I just poured some onto a paper plate and let em rip for 2", shaking them up about half way through. Then I just squeezed them in my hand before adding them to the dough mixture in the food processor.
For the almond version, I just used my index finger to smear the filling around the inside of the bottom crust. The weird thing is that I had recently finished a can of Almond Paste and picked up this can as a replacement. It wasn't until I saw how thin it was that I noticed the label. Hmmmm, cake and pastry filling - not "paste." The last few times I used almond paste, it had been in the fridge and was stiff and cloudy. I'm not sure if that's just because it was chilled or if there is a big difference between the two, so if you decide to try this, make sure you check the label. I remember reading something about rolling out almond paste and placing that layer over a crust, so the paste must be thicker than this.
Because they were fruit-filled pies, which tend to bubble and potentially spill over, I always bake them on top of a baking sheet. Also, because I was making two different flavors, I wanted to make sure I knew which was which, so I just did a thumb-print edge on two and for the other two, I used the little claw thingamajig that rides along as an on-board attachment to the pastry roller I used to roll out the dough. Cute! I didn't even notice it the first time I used that roller. I went to wash it and the tool popped off. I thought I had broken it somehow. :)
I usually brush an egg wash on the tops of my pies, but Mom's Apricot Pie called for brushing the top with milk and sprinkling with sugar, so I went that way this time. I think I prefer the egg wash, so I'll probably stick with that in the future. Either way, make sure you cut a few steam vents in the top.
Bake at 375 for about 45" until golden and bubbly. See, nice flaky crust.
Here's what the bottom looks like ...
I don't know about your family, but when we were kids, we would love it when our Mom or Grandmother would make pies and use the dough scraps to roll with cinnamon and sugar and bake into a log. With that in mind, I had some extra dough, so I spread on the almond filling and did the same. Yummm!!
The morale of this story is ... you're a grown-up now, you pay for it yourself, so feel free to play with your food. Get in there and experiment. You never know what might happen. Just have fun with it!