I’m not an expert on pies but I do like them. If I had to choose one pie that I like above all others, it would be Apple Pie. It’s even better when it comes as Mini Apple Pies with Pine Nuts! I know pine nuts are a strange addition to Apple Pie, but we like it this way sometimes. I don’t make Apple Pie as often as I would like to. Sometimes the craving hits me and then I get to it.
The world of food blogging has opened up a world where almost every day of the year is dedicated to celebrating food. I was surprised to discover that the US has food related celebration for every single day of the year! One food celebration that calls to me is “Pi Day” (or was it “Pie Day”?). Pi Day is celebrated on the 14th of March to commemorate the mathematical constant “π” ( value of 3/14 or 3.1415926535897932384626433832795!). π describes the ratio of the cicumfrence of a circle to it’s diameter. The food world celebrates Pi Dayby baking and/ or eating pie!
Some mathematicians feel that “Tau (τ)” is a better representation of the ratio than “Pi”. So they just might stop baking pie to celebrate or find something new to make! 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 and one celebrates by at least eating pie if not baking it. I’m not American and tend to miss these celebrations.
Someone on Facebook sent me an invite this year to a communal baking event for Pie Day. Usually, I avoid these invites but the word Pie meant I joined the Pie Party. Shauna Ahern and some friends on social media got discussing how they loved baking pies and that resulted in the Pie Party of July 5th .
The US incidentally 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 celebrating Apple Pie, but in a little less buttery but delisious version. I could do with a little less butter in my diet (doctor’s orders) and on the ole hips, so I dug out the pie crust recipe from one of my favourite books, Beatrice Ojakangas’ Light And Easy Baking Please note that a lighter pie is a relative term and means it isn’t chock full of the butter.
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. I used fresh home-made paneer instead that I blended to a smooth creamy texture. I chose to make Mini Apple Pies With Pine Nuts rather than a big pie. Mini Pies are easier to serve or giveaway and everyone gets more crust out of a slice!
This pie crust recipe is enough to make one 11” pie bottom. If you’re making a large pie and want to cover the top, you need to double the recipe. The 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 the “Soggy Bottom Syndrome” (SBS)! There’s nothing worse in a good pie than a soggy crust.
Beatrice Ojakangas’s recipe says to just pile the filling into the unbaked dough lined pie dish. I prefer to 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 remembered seeing an apple pie filling with toasted pine nuts so I added some to my apple filling. I make an apple cake to which I add a touch of garam masala, so I was tempted to do that here too. Just to spice up the filling a bit. My apples were very sweet so I used only a 1/4 cup of sugar but you may use more if you like pie really sweet.
Mini Apple Pies With Pine Nuts
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 tbsps chilled paneer belnded till creamy
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 to 5 tbsps ice cold water
- 2 tbsps apricot jam orange marmalade (or melted chocolate or eggwhite)
- little milk for brushing over pie dough
For the filling:
- 2 big apples (I used Golden Delicious), cored and chopped
- 2 tbsps 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. Add the 4 tbsps of water over it. Using a fork, stir it until it is no longer dry and crumbly, adding a little more water if necessary.
- When you pinch a small bit of dough with your fingers, it should hold together. Gather the dough into a ball and shape into a disc. Rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. 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.
- While the dough is resting, mix all the ingredients for the filling, except the pine nuts. Put it into a small pan and cook for about 10 minutes till the mixture thickens. Let it cool. 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.