Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mini Strawberry-Almond Pies

When joining friends for dinner, I always make it a point to see if I can contribute anything. More often than not, this usually involves dessert.
 Last night was no exception as Henry and I headed to our friends' place to share a delicious meal. My local market had a sale on  good-looking strawberries earlier in the week. I thought a fresh berry pie would bring the warmth of summer and the comforts of a classic homemade dessert. However, I changed it up a bit and, instead of making a whole pie, I opted for personalized mini ones.
 Now, sugar and butter are always delicious...but when they come in itty-bitty sizes, they are extra satisfying! Call me a sucker for cute little treats--I am guilty as charged! These petite pies were also great because we didn't have to worry about cutting a whole pie.
 The four of us got to enjoy our own little strawberry-almond pie. I didn't think it could get any better...until our pies joined forces with vanilla ice cream.
A la mode? More like "a la get-in-my-belly".

Mini Strawberry-Almond Pies
makes six 3" pies
*Note: Individual mini-pie tins can be found at specialty bakeshops. If you don't have these available, you can use a muffin/cupcake tray and make a larger quantity of extra-mini pies (use an approximate 2.5" cookie cutter to cut circles out of the pie dough and then press them into the hollows of the tray).

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup ice cold water

1. In food processor, pulse together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the cubed butter and process until the mixture resembles course sand. While the food processor is running, slowly stream in the cold water until the dough starts to form and pull away from the sides.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and gently knead together for just a few seconds. Wrap with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Filling and Topping
2 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled (divided use)
3 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup and 2 tbsp white sugar (divided use)
2 tsp lemon juice (or 1 tsp lemon oil extract)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp rose water
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sliced almonds (not pictured here, only in memory as we ate them last night :) )

1. Chop one pound of the strawberries into small pieces. With the other pound of strawberries, cut each berry in half (if the berry is large, cut it into fourths)-- you want these to be relatively chunky in size.

2. In a medium sauce pan, combine the strawberries that have been chopped into small pieces with the cornstarch, salt, 1 cup of the white sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, almond extract, and rose water. Heat the mixture on a medium flame and use a whisk to stir continuously. Once the fruit mixture begins to bubble and thicken, turn the heat off. Stir in the other pound of cut berries and set aside.

1. Remove and unwrap the chilled pie dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/4" thick. Use a 3" circle cookie cutter (or glass, bowl, etc) to cut six pie crusts out. Use the remaining dough to punch out hearts (or whatever shapes you'd like) to add on top of the pies. Gently press each piece of dough into each mini pie tin-- be sure to push the dough up against the sides and on the rim/edges. Use a fork to press the edges of the crust onto the rim of the pie tins. Place the pies on to a lined baking sheet.

2.Divide the strawberry filling into each mini pie tin. Decorate the tops with the cut out hearts (or whatever shape you went for). 

3. Mix the lightly beaten egg with 2 tsp water. Lightly brush this egg wash onto the edges of the pies and the decorative pieces on the surface. Mix the 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle this mixture over the tops of the six mini-pies. Bake the mini-pies at 375 degrees F. for 12-15 minutes, or until the crusts and tops are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Garnish with sliced almonds...and definitely ice cream!

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