Just last week, one of the stores where we shop had blackberries on sale. And, while we don’t normally get too much fruit from the store, this sale was a little too good to pass up. So, we bought four of the tiny containers. Of course, when we bought them we had no idea of how we were going to use them, but we knew we’d come up with something.
Luckily for us, we’d just checked out of the library The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen (who also run the Brooklyn Pie Shop). We’d seen this on the new book list and had passed it by (too many books to read), but one of the librarians suggested it, because she really liked the recipes and had seen that it matched our bi-weekly pickup.
At the same time, we wanted to make a bite-sized treat for the volunteers at our Monday walk (we volunteer once a month and figure if we feed the other volunteers on our night, they won’t abandon us) and we had hoped to kill three blackbirds with one stone: use some blackberries, try a new recipe, and treat the volunteers. Thanks to a couple of changes to the recipe for Black Currant Bitties in The Four & Twenty …, we had everything solved — we thought. Follow along and we’ll tell you of the hazards of scratchin’.
Makes about 24 bites.
First and foremost: use a non-stick pan. We didn’t have a non-stick pan, nor even a mini-muffin pan, so we used a small Madeleine pan, that we thought we’d greased very well. The filling, as we expected, bubbled out, making it very difficult to remove our bites without breakage. So, again, use a non-stick pan. For ingredients, the original recipe called for ground arrowroot — we used cornstarch; an 1/8 tsp of allspice — we omitted as we don’t have any; and a pinch of lemon of orange zest — which we just omitted, well, just because. For the apple, we used a Granny Smith, but another baking apple would do, as well. Since we peeled it before grating, we weren’t as concerned about buying organic apples, so we didn’t. And, as explained above, we had the blackberries because of a sale.
Procedure in detail:
Grease a mini-muffin pan. If you didn’t read above, and you don’t use a non-stick pan, you might be sorry, but give the pan a good coating of shortening or butter.
Shape crusts. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces (we actually did 40, because our Madeleine pan had 20 depressions and we did two bakings. Use your thumb to press the dough into the cups, making sure to get dough up the sides and slightly over the top of the pan.
Freeze crust. Place the crusts in the freezer and freeze ’em solid.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Adjust an oven rack to the lower third of the oven.
Mix dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. We like to do this before we add the other ingredients so we can break up the brown sugar, if needed, and distribute the spices and the cornstarch.
Grate apple. Cut the apple into quarters, core, and peel. Grate two of the quarters directly into the sugar. Eat the two remaining apple pieces as a chef’s snack (and you thought that all chef snacks were bad for you).
Add blackberries and egg. Toss in the blackberries and add the egg. Give everything a stir until the dry ingredients are mixed with the eggs. You don’t have to worry about breaking up the berries, but, if some get broken, that’s okay, too. We actually wanted ours unbroken, so we could fit a single berry into each of our bites. If you have a mini-muffin tin, they might require a couple of berries per cup.
Fill cups. Remove the frozen mini pie crusts from the freezer and put a tablespoon of filling in each cup. That’s it; easy as pie, right?
Bake. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet (expect that some filling will boil over, and, like the Boy Scouts, be prepared), and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crusts are golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
Cool. Cool the pies completely on a baking rack and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Here’s where we learned that we want a non-stick pan for this recipe. Our filling did boil over and stuck our blackberry bites to the pan. It took some careful work with a fork and the tip of a knife to free about 30 (of 40) relatively unbroken.
Tasty! What a great way to have pie. It’s not really pie if it’s small, right? More like a fruit snack, especially since each of our bites had a whole blackberry. We think that’s a reasonable rationale, right up to the point when you’re eating, oh, say, 10 to 15 bites. Then you’re eating about a quarter of a pie and verging on gluttony. That’s why we brought these out to others as a treat. We knew that these were tasty enough that if we kept them at home, we’d eat them all in a day. Well, maybe we’d save a few for breakfast the next morning, but they’d be gone quickly. Four stars.