I just finished Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. Don’t be put off by the embarrassing this is a beach read for women-type cover. (My Kindle saves me from so much subway shame.) It’s fantastic. Gus read it first (he has a Kindle too, thank goodness) and recommended it. He told me the writing is wonderful, the author is from New England, and pie is important to her. She loves pies and books? I love pies and books! About 20 pages in there’s a great pie-making scene. Peach pie. A convict (intriguing) and a little boy (heartwarming) make a pie. Doesn’t that sound good? Anyway, all the pie talk got to me and here we are. (Again.)
We are planning a picnic with a couple of friends and mini pies are so in right now. What makes them so special? Well, that all depends on what you like about pie. I’m really into crust. The salty, buttery thing is really what I want – fruit just adds a little tart and sweet. At its best, I think pie should be reminiscent of the most excellent, decadent version of buttered toast and jam (the most perfect of all foods, I think). The fruit is a vehicle for the crust – or something like that. Mini pies up the ratio of crust to fruit. It’s not good for you, but it’s goooood.
The plan is to head to Battery Park tonight and eat fried chicken and cherry pies while gazing at the Statue of Liberty. That is, just until dusk and the rats start darting out of the bushes to gorge on the scraps of food the other picnickers left behind. This is New York after all. The rain may force us to move the picnic to our petite studio apartment where we’ll crowd around the AC and focus our gaze on the Empire State Building instead. At least the rats will be a safe six flights down.
Sour Cherry Mini Pies with Cardamom Cream
Makes 10-12 pies
For the crust:
21/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
For the sour cherry filling:
2 cups sour cherries, pitted
3 to 5 tablespoons sugar (I’d go with 3 but I like things a bit tart. You can decide for yourself.)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the cream cheese filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Coarse sugar for sprinkling
1. Make the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, and salt and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some bigger pieces of butter. Add 4 tablespoons water and pulse just until the crumbs begin to come together. Add a little more water if necessary but try not to add too much. Turn the mixture out onto a big sheet of plastic wrap, form it into a disc, wrap it, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to an even 1/8 to 1/4 – inch thickness. Using a 4-inch cookie cutter, cut out 16 to 20 circles. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and chill while you make the fillings.
3. Make the two fillings: In a small saucepan, combine
cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Bring to a boil over
medium, mashing the cherries with a fork, until the mixture has thickened, 6 to
8 minutes. Let cool completely. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, 1 egg
yolk, sugar, and cardamom. Set aside.
4. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk with 2 teaspoons water. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, lay out 6 dough discs. Dollop about 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture in the center of each disc. Top with a heaping tablespoon cherry mixture. Top with another dough disc, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. (This can be a MESSY job. Don’t fret. They always look cute in the end. It works a little better if the dough has come to room temperature.) Brush the tops with egg mixture and sprinkle with coarse sugar. With a paring knife, make a little slit in each pie to vent steam. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pies to a rack to cool.