Neat, sweet and petite: The holiday mini-pie made in a muffin tin

By Noelle Carter

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 27 2012 4:42 p.m. MST

Apple, pecan and pumpkin mini-pies are baked in a muffin tin and allow batch baking as well as the chance for guests to try more than one. (Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Bob Chamberlin, Mct

Short of any family drama, the biggest dilemma most of us face at the holiday table revolves around dessert. Specifically: Which pie do I choose? (Or, rather: Why do I get to try only one?)

Why stop at one? Friends and family, there is a solution: the mini-pie.

At first glance, it looks exactly like a traditional pie — but miniaturized. Same rich and buttery crust with that tell-tale flake, same flavorful filling. All scaled down, "Mini-Me"-style. It may even have the same artfully crimped edges, only they're tiny. Delicate even.

Call them what you will — tiny pies, muffin tin pies, cup-pies (a la the show "Pushing Daisies") — they're essentially pies baked in muffin tins. And you can bake batches at a time.

You don't need anything fancy to make the cute little guys — a couple of standard nonstick muffin tins will do, maybe one or two tiny cookie cutters if you want to get fancy. As for ingredients, a single standard pie's worth of filling and two to three single pie crusts are enough to give you a dozen or so mini-pies.

They make a perfect project. Though mini-pies are a bit more involved than throwing together a standard pie — you are, of course, forming and filling a bunch of smaller pies rather than one of, well, normal stature — they are fun to make. Vary the crimping for the crusts, add little lattice tops if you'd like. Use tiny cutouts baked from spare bits of crust to garnish the pies. Let your creative juices flow, albeit on a size-restricted scale.

Probably the only thing more entertaining than actually making the pies is the joy as your guests gleefully devour them. The little pies are great when you're planning for company or potlucks. Did I mention holiday dinners? And they make perfect homemade gifts, each treat individually wrapped for family and friends.

Of course, you could just keep a batch all to yourself. No dilemma there.

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FLAKY PIE CRUST

Total time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time

Servings: This makes enough dough for 1 single (9-inch) pie crust or 4 (double-crust) to 6 (single-crust) mini-pies

1 1/2 cups (6.4 ounces) flour

¾ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

3 tablespoons cold shortening

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, more if needed

Prepared egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

1. To make the dough using a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the shortening and pulse until incorporated (the dough will look like moist sand). Add the butter and pulse just until the butter is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture, and pulse once or twice until incorporated. Remove the crumbly mixture to a large bowl and gently press the mixture together until it comes together to form a dough. Mold the dough into a disk roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disk tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

To make the dough by hand, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the shortening and incorporate using a pastry cutter or fork (the dough will look like moist sand). Cut in the butter just until it is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture, and stir together just until incorporated. Proceed as above.