Simple Yet Delicious [Blackberry] Pies

blackberry crumble pieConfession: I don’t really care for cooked fruit. So, many pies for me are just…ok. But, I’m getting over this either due to aging tastes (booo) or maturity (that sounds better).

What I now like in a fruit pie: Fruit that’s not slimy. Crumble top. And lots of whipped cream!

What I love about fruit pies is that they are really easy to make. I mean, very little measuring, you can cheat with a pre-made crust (I won’t tell anyone), and it won’t be runny if you use this:

Kraft Minute Tapioca.

This will make fruit pies juicy but not runny. No soggy crusts! Bonus: there’s recipes for fruit pies right on the box. And that’s what I use.  Ta Da! TIP: mix the fruit of your choice in a bowl, with the tapioca, sugar, and any other flavors you wish to add (such as lemon juice). Mix well, it’s ok if some of the fruit starts to break down a bit. Let sit for 15 minutes. Stir again. You want there to be some sticky, awesome, delicious sweetened fruit juice at the bottom of the bowl. And don’t worry, the little white bits of tapioca will cook (disappear) into the pie as it bakes.

Whatever berries you chose (here I use blackberries and strawberries), the pie will be better with a crumble crust. At least that’s what my husband says.

CrumbleEasy Crumble Crust

  • 1/3 cup butter, slightly softened (approximately, see note below)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pie spice (or cinnamon, if you prefer)
  • Optional add in: 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

Using your fingers (or, if you’re picky, a pastry blender or fork), mix the butter into the dry ingredients. As the butter softens and incorporates, it will start to stick together when squeezed, but crumble easily. This is the texture you want!

strawberry blackberry crumble pieNote: if your crumble is too dry, add more butter one tablespoon at a time. If your crumble is too moist, add more flour one tablespoon at a time. Too much butter will melt the crumble into the pie, too little will leave dry, loose crumbs at the top of the pie. But it will still taste delicious, don’t worry!

Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Advertisements

Blackberry Mini Pies – A Delicious Disaster

Home grown blackberries... almost ready
Home grown blackberries… almost ready

I have a blackberry shrub that’s doing great this summer, so after a couple of harvests I’ve got enough to make a pie.  I love to share my treats – and with a berry pie, that’s not easy to do. Solution: make mini pies.

I used refrigerated pie crust because I was kind of lazy*. Of course if you’re not lazy, feel free to whip up a batch of  your own pie crust.

*I generally dislike making pie crusts.

Special tools for this one:

  • Minute Tapioca – I use this in all my fruit pies and it really helps keep them from being runny.
  • A “cutter” for your mini crusts. I used a circular storage container, but any large glass or small bowl will do.
  • A muffin pan. You’ll only use 6-8 of the cups.
  • A good sense of humor when a few of your mini pies end in Disaster!

I’d never let your recipe end in disaster, would I?

Part One: Prep the filling.

It needs to sit for about 15 minutes, so do this first and you’ll be ready to fill once the crust is prepped.

  • 2-3 cups fresh blackberries (depends on the size of your berries, right?)
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Kraft Minute Tapioca
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Rise the blackberries, which should be ripe but not mushy. In a large bowl, gently mix the blackberries, sugar, tapioca, and lemon juice until the berries are coated in a roughly even fashion, set aside. Any berry juice will start to thicken thanks to the tapioca:

Sugar Coated Blackberries - yum!
Sugar & Tapioca Coated Blackberries

Part Two: Roll out the crust…

…on a floured surface – I used a rolling pin on a store bought crust, but don’t make the crust too thin, or you’ll have a small problem getting them out of the pan. (See Disaster! below). Cut your mini crusts like they’re Christmas cookies. I was able to re-roll the crust just fine once, as long as I re-floured the surface. I used a simple storage container and it worked fairly well:

Cut the mini pie crusts...
Cut the mini pie crusts…

Gently lift the mini crusts (I used my thinnest spatula to help with this) and place them in a lightly floured muffin cup. Gently (again!) pat the crusts into the little muffin cups. Too heavy a hand, and you’ll stretch the dough too thin (again, Disaster!)

Crusts are ready to fill.
Crusts are ready to fill.

Part 3: Make the streusel.

Mix the following in a small bowl until crumbly. It’s ok to use your fingers for this part!

  • 3 tablespoons butter, straight out of the fridge

    Brown sugar streusel
    Brown sugar streusel
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, as needed
  • dash of cinnamon, to taste

Squish, prod, stir, mash the ingredients until you get little pea-sized chunks of sugary butter, that stick together when pinched, but fall apart if stirred.

This is a very basic streusel. I often add a couple tablespoons of oatmeal, walnuts, pecans, or other interesting additions depending on my mood. As long as you have a nice butter/sugar ratio, you’ll end up with streusel that sticks to the pie (doesn’t melt completely into it), but remains sweet and buttery.

Part 4: Assemble the mini pies!

Add the berry mixture and top with streusel. If you don’t want to end in Disaster! then I recommend not overfilling with berries, no matter how amazing the little uncooked pies may look before you bake them:

Mini Pies, Pre-Streusel
Mini Pies, Pre-Streusel
unbaked pie
Looks good enough to eat raw, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Bake at 400ºF for 25-30 minutes, until the pie is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.

Part 5: Disaster! (Getting what you didn’t expect)

Is this a disaster? A delicious one, maybe!
Is this a disaster? A delicious one, maybe!

So the berries leaked all over the place. I thought they would bake down into the crust, but I just simply overfilled them. If this disaster happens to you, act quickly.

  1. Don’t panic. Ugly pie tastes delicious.
  2. Carefully scrape as much filling as you can back into the pie, while it’s still warm
  3. Again while still warm, carefully take a butter knife, or similar, and slide around the edges of the pies to keep the filling from setting , which would stick the pies to the pan.
  4. Wipe the knife often, to keep the “clean” crusts from getting gooey, which defeats the whole purpose, right?

With your quick action, and a little luck, most of your mini pies will “spin” around in tin, basically telling you they’re ready to be popped out and set onto a cooling rack. UNLESS you stretched the crust too thin, and the crusts cracked/leaked. Then you’ll need to follow up with plan B.

What disaster? This is exactly how I thought they'd be ;)
What disaster? This is exactly how I thought they’d look 😉

Plan B is for the mini pies that didn’t want to come out in one piece. For those, I scooped out as much of the crust as I could, and quickly transferred them into cupcake liners. I reshaped them into their little pie forms. Once they were cool, they were fine and the liners could be removed.

These taste just as good as the rest, I promise.
These taste just as good as the rest, I promise.

I enjoyed these pies with vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream.

I guess the lesson this time is:

Don’t let a messy presentation ruin a good dessert.

(I’m already thinking of mini pumpkin pies…)

Pi Day Celebration – Mocha Cream Cheese Pie

Pie Slice2Of course I made a pie on 3-14-15!

Not everything I make needs to take hours. If you need a quick pie, that really is (mostly) homemade, here’s a great one. Best of all, it’s done in about 45 minutes.

Mocha Cream Cheese Pie (adapted from a recipe on Cooks.com)

2 – 8oz blocks cream cheese, softened/room temp
.5 cup sugar
2 eggs
.5 tablespoon of vanilla
4 oz of semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips or broken chocolate bar, such as Ghirardelli’s baking bars)
3 tablespoons strong coffee
1 Chocolate Cookie Crust (I used Oreo, of course)
Whipped topping and chocolate chips for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep the 3 tablespoons strong coffee. I think the instant coffee packets are SUPER convenient, because you can mix them with half the water to make it extra strong, and they mix fine with just hot tap water. Too easy!
  2. In a small bowl, combine the chocolate chips (or broken pieces of chocolate) with 3 tablespoons of coffee. Microwave to melt (if your microwave has a “melt” setting), otherwise use no more than 50% power to melt. (Note: you can also use the double-boiler method, but I was all about “quickness” in this recipe). Pouring the hot coffee over the chocolate helps start the melting process, but stop and mix halfway through to make sure it doesn’t burn!
  3. Set melted coffee/chocolate aside.  Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended.
  4. Mix in, at medium speed,  eggs and vanilla until smooth
  5. Add the melted coffee/chocolate mix and beat just until blended
  6. Pour into the cookie crust, and smooth to an even layer
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes

That’s it! Cool on a wire rack then store in the refrigerator. Serve chilled, with whipped topping and chocolate chip garnish.

.

This recipe is considered a hit in my book, as my husband actually said “it’s really, really good”.