Things have been a bit pie heavy over here lately, but I think I’d be selling you all short if I moved on from all this talk of pie without first sharing with you one of my favorite pie tips. Why? Because this tip does not just involve pies, it involves tiny pies.
High on my list of borderline fanatical food preoccupations (there must always be lemons in the house, we must never buy pre-salted nuts) is my insistence on never, ever letting food go to waste. I cannot claim to be 100% successful in this endeavor (though I try), but my efforts rarely wane, no matter what I happen to be making. One of the easiest—and most delicious—food salvaging operations I have come up with is this, a solution for what to do with all those little leftover bits and pieces of pie dough that one is faced with after diligently rolling, cutting, trimming, and preparing a pie.
In the winter time, when sitting down with a hot cup of coffee and a warm cookie seems like the best thing in the world, I tend to shape leftover pie scraps into cookies. Sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar and left out as a cozy treat, it’s a tough act to beat. In the summer time, however, when you’ve relented to having the oven on for the shortest amount of time possible, and you’re not so into the idea of hot beverages and warm cookies, you can’t go wrong with these tiny little fresh fruit pies.
The process could not be simpler. When making a pie, set aside all your errant scraps of pie dough. After you set your pie in the oven to bake, gather together all of your dough scraps and roll them out into a rough circle. Take whatever tiny cup or bowl you would like to use as a little pie plate (here I am using tiny little 4-ounce ramekins), then cut a circle about 2 inches outside the perimeter of the makeshift pie plate. Tuck the circle of dough into your container, gently pressing the dough against the sides and bottom, then use a fork to poke steam holes into the bottom and sides of the dough. Re-roll and re-cut dough until you’ve used up as much of the scraps as humanly possible. It’s up to you if you want to freeze the tiny pie plates at this point (freezing the dough for 30 minutes or so before baking it will prevent a bit of the shrinking that will go on once the dough starts to bake in your hot oven, but it won’t eliminate all of the shrinkage, so I often don’t bother with this step).
Once all of your pie plates have been prepared, set them in the oven to bake alongside your pie (or, if you want to bake the tiny pie crusts on a baking sheet, set them one shelf below your pie where there is room enough to accommodate an additional baking sheet). The tiny pie crusts, being tiny and all, will bake much faster than an entire pie, so watch them diligently to prevent burning. These three pie crusts took about 25 minutes to bake.
After your crusts have cooled, you can then fill them with pretty much anything you want. Here I have adorned my tiny pie crusts with garden fresh strawberries and blueberries, topped with a bit of vanilla yogurt. This is a heavenly combination, but I imagine pretty much any combination of fruity-plus-creamy would be fantastic. Raspberries topped with a dollop of crème fraiche. Nectarines dotted with whipped cream. Blackberries and custard. Really. There is no way to make this not taste good.
Don’t want to eat a tiny pie right now? Prepare your tiny crusts in their tiny vessels, then cover them with foil and pop them into the freezer. When you are in the mood for a tiny pie, bake the frozen pie crusts at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes (until the edges have turned a dark golden brown), then cool and fill as desired. Frozen, unbaked pie crusts will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.