I’m not an expert on pies nor am an authority on it but I do know that, for me, no pie comes close to the apple pie, not even one with mangoes in it even though mangoes are my most favourite fruit. I still remember eating and if I can find an excuse to bake apple pie, I will.
Now you are probably thinking I make apple pie every other week or month, and you might be forgiven for thinking it if you saw me. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as I last made apple pie about a year back! I guess I can only plead that I didn’t find an excuse to bake one till now and that too at the last minute!
But I did spend about half my day on it, photographs and all, as you can see.
The world of food blogging opened up a world where it seemed every day of the year was dedicated to something food or the other. I was quite stunned to discover that the US actually had some food related celebration dedicated to every single day of the year!
Now one food celebration that I always wanted to join in was “Pi Day” (or was it “Pie Day”?). Pi Day is celebrated on the 14th of March to commemorate the mathematical constant “π” (3/14 which is close in representation to the value 3.1415926535897932384626433832795!) that describes the ratio of the cicumfrence of a circle to it's diameter. Pi Day i celebrated in many ways but one thing to do is to bake and/ or eat pie!
There is a section of mathematicians who now feel that "Tau (τ)" is a better representation of the ratio than "Pi" and so they just might stop baking pie to celebrate or find something new to make!
On the other hand there is actually an official day dedicated to the “pie” (food this time, not math). The US celebrates National Pie Day on the 23rd of January so of course, you have to eat pie on that day even if didn’t actually make one.
Its not surprising that I always miss these celebrations and get to know of them much later. I am not American, I do not live in the US and these dates do not figure on my calendar. Still, it seemed like a nice idea to bake pie with company.
Then someone on Facebook sent me an invite to an event (you know what FB can be like), to bake for Pie Day. Usually, I tend to delete such invites as I don’t have time to take part. This time however the word “pie” caught my attention. Turns out Shauna Ahern and some friends on Twitter and FB got discussing how they loved baking pies and the Pie Party of July 5th was the result. For once, I actually discovered the event in time to join the party and the perfect occasion for apple pie.
Turns out, through sheer coincidence that the US celebrates today as National Apple Turnover Day! So, is that a sign or what? Apple Pie Day is on the 13th of May so I’m about 1 1/2 months too late for that. Turnover or pie, it’s about apples and buttery crust. So I’m going ahead and celebrating apple pie, perhaps a little less buttery but delicious all the same.
I got talking to Renée on FB and told her that I was going to bring a pie that was lower in calories than usual to the party, she did quip, and I quote her, “"Oh, for pity's sake, Aparna! It's PIE!”
She’s definitely got a point and I could do with a little less butter in my diet and on the ole hips so I remembered an interesting pie crust recipe in one of my favourite books, Beatrice Ojakangas’ Light And Easy Baking.
Flipping through the book I found the recipe I was looking for and decided to try it out. But let me say that a lighter pie (in terms of calories and fat) does not mean there’s very little or no fat in it. It is only a relative term and means it isn’t chock full of the butter that goes into traditional pies.
Her recipe for the crust uses a little less butter and calls for low-fat cream cheese and baking powder. We do get cream cheese here now but it’s too expensive to justify buying it, so I used fresh home-made paneer which I blended into a smooth creamy texture. I also decided to make mini-pies rather than 1 big pie because it’s easier to serve and giveaway but most importantly, everyone gets more crust out of a slice!
The pie crust recipe is enough to make one 11” pie bottom. So if you want to cover the top you need to double the recipe. Thie dough was enough for me to line 4 mini pie tins (4” diameter and and 1” deep) and decorate them.
I usually blind-bake my pie crusts unless there is a specific reason not to do so, or if your filling is comparatively dry. This prevents what someone referred to as the “Soggy Bottom Syndrome”! There is nothing that quite spoils an otherwise excellent pie, as a soggy crust.
Beatrice Ojakangas recipe says to just pile the filling into the unbaked dough lined pie dish but I decided to go my usual way and pre-bake the crust. I also brush the pre-baked pie crust with jam or melted chocolate to seal it so there’s definitely no risk of SBS. You may use egg white if you prefer.
I didn’t peel my apples and didn’t cook the filling. I also remember seeing an apple pie filling with toasted pine nuts so I added some to my filling for a twist on tradition. I make an apple cake to which I add a touch of garam masala, so I was tempted to add some to this filling too. My apples were very sweet so I used only a 1/4 cup of sugar but feel free to use more if you like you pie really sweet.
Mini Apple Pies With Pine Nuts
(Adapted from Light And Easy Baking by Beatrice Ojakangas)
For the pie crust:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
30 gm chilled butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp chilled fresh home-made paneer, blended till creamy
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 to 5 tbsp ice cold water
2 tbsp apricot jam/ orange marmalade (or melted chocolate or eggwhite)
A little milk for brushing over the dough
For the filling:
2 big apples (I used Golden Delicious), cored and sliced
2 tbsp corn starch
3/4 tsp powdered cinnamon
1/8 tsp powdered nutmeg
3/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup brown sugar (or regular)
First toss the sliced apple with the lemon juice so to coat well. This prevents discolouration.
You can do this by hand, but I prefer using the food processor. It’s quicker and the dough stays cold. Put the flour, baking powder and salt in the processor bowl. Pulse a couple of times to blend. Add the chilled butter and paneer and pulse a few times until it looks like very coarse breadcrumbs in texture.
Empty this mixture into a mixing bowl and sprinkle the lemon juice and the 4 tbsps of water over it. Using a fork, stir it until it is no longer dry and crumbly, adding more water if necessary.
When you pinch a small about with your fingers it should hold together. Gather the dough into a ball and shape into a disc. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface till it is about less than 1/4” thick. If you are making a single pie then this should be about 11” in diameter.
Divide the rolled dough equally between four pie tins with removable bottoms, removing the overhang. Prick the bottom of each with the tines of a fork, line with foil and then fill with beans. Blind bake them at 220C (425F) for about 15 minutes till the crust is dry.
Take the pie crusts out of the oven, cool for 5 minutes and then remove the beans and foil. Keep the pie crusts in the pie tins. Brush the base of the baked pie crusts with jam.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling, except the pine nuts. Divide the filling equally between the four pie crusts. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the filling and use the dough scraps to cut out decorations with cutters to top the mini pies. Use water (or milk) to attach them to the pie crust.
Brush the top of the mini pies with milk. Bake them at 220C (425F) for about 20 to 25 minutes until the pies are golden brown and puffy.
Let them cool for about 5 minutes and then remove from the tins and coo slightly on racks. Serve them warm as they are or with vanilla ice-cream.This recipe makes 4 mini apple pies.