My kids have been, well, clamoring for blueberry pie. Not because I make such a fabulous blueberry pie, mind you, but because they watch Noggin. And on Noggin, when the main program of the half hour time slot is finished (about 7 minutes before the half hour is actually up) the rest of the time is filled by the songs and antics of Mr. Moose A Moose and his sidekick, Zee, a sort of Harpo Marx in blue feathers. One of the little filler bits involves a search for the right number of blueberries to make someone’s (Moose’s aunt? I don’t remember. Or I’ve blocked it out.) famous blueberry pie. And, since this is geared toward preschoolers, the number of blueberries the recipe calls for is…four.
While that may seem a rather skimpy amount of fruit for any size pie, Moose sells it so well that any time they see that little bit, my kids develop an overwhelming desire for blueberry pie.
So when Julia and I were at the grocery store on Monday, we got a bunch of frozen blueberries – I use Wyman’s frozen wild blueberries pretty much exclusively, unless I’m buying (or picking) fresh, local berries. Wyman’s are the wild berries – tiny and bursting with flavor. And I know I sound like a commercial, but I just really like them. And so do my kids.
I decided it would be more fun and cute (yes, that’s influential at times) to make mini pies. Initially I was going to use very mini tart pans – each little bitty pie a perfect mouthful of crust and fruit. But then I decided to go with standard sized muffin tins instead. Not a perfect mouthful, but a very nice little serving size. And cute.
So here’s what I did.
First of all, I made it quite clear that if they wanted pie, my kids would have to help.
Sorry, kiddo, but you gotta earn your blueberries.
She saw my point and set to work with a better attitude.
Alex helped, too.
We measured out ingredients for the pie crust. Again, I used the "American Pie Dough for Fruit Pies" from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine’s book The Best Recipe.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 T sugar
12 T unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
8 T vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6-8 T ice water.
I put the flour, salt and sugar in the food processor and pulsed a few times to combine. Then I added the pieces of butter and pulsed 5-6 times. Then I added in the shortening…
And then my kids were singing and dancing on their chairs.
Must have been the anticipation of pie.
Yeah, that was it.
Despite the distraction, I managed to finish the dough.
I wrapped it in plastic and put it in the fridge to chill, and then we started in on the filling.
I used 4 cups of blueberries, 1/4 cup of tapioca, 1 cup of sugar, and a little lemon zest.
While Alex combined the blueberries and lemon zest…
Julia whisked the sugar and tapioca together.
Then they took turns blending the sugar mixture with the blueberry mixture.
The blueberries needed to sit for about fifteen minutes – to allow the tapioca to soften. So while things were sitting in that bowl, we got the dough out and made our little pie crusts.
I used a 4" round cookie cutter – it’s the largest circle I have –
and the circles of dough fit nicely in the muffin tins.
I also cut out little scalloped-edge circles to use as tops.
By this time, the children were exhausted from all the hard work, and they had gone downstairs to rest their weary bones.
I filled up the little pie shells (20 of them) with the blueberry filling and topped each with a little bit of butter.
And because I thought the little round tops would cook faster than the rest of the pies, I didn’t put them on the pies initially. Instead, while the mini pies started out in a 400 degree oven, I put all the smaller dough circles on a cookie sheet, brushed them with a wash of egg yolk, and sprinkled them with sugar.
I put this tray in the fridge while the pies cooked.
After 20 minutes, I turned the oven down to 350 and cooked the pies for another 30 minutes.
I took the pies out, then baked off the little lids, and then set them on the pies.
And I’ll admit it – these aren’t the prettiest things I’ve ever made.
A few changes I’d make next time around (and as long as Moose A Moose is counting blueberries, there’ll definitely be a next time) would be these:
I would drain the juice from the blueberries before mixing them in with the sugar and everything else. If this was for a standard sized pie, it wouldn’t have mattered so much, but with these, I think there was just too much liquid.
I would also just go ahead and put the little lids on from the start.
I’d also make the bottom crusts larger, so they’d come up higher than the rim of the muffin tin.
All those mistakes acknowledged, I will say, these were pretty yummy little pies. Julia ate one. And Alex ate two of ’em that night – warm, not long out of the oven. He polished the first one off, a look of bliss on his little purple-stained face. "Mom?" He asked. "Could I have another one?"
And that was really the whole reason for baking them in the first place.