Mini Cardamom Blueberry Pies

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Last week I re-entered surgical residency full time after a 2 year “research break”.  It was an abrupt transition going from ~40 hours a week, mostly at a desk, to over 80 hours at the hospital last week running around and operating.  By the end of the week I was exhausted!!!  But luckily I had the whole 4th of July weekend off to relax so I decided to recharge with a little baking and food photography.

Several weeks ago I took a one day food photography workshop with my food blog idol, Betty Liu, and Krissy O’Shea from Cottage Farm.  The workshop was amazing and I learned so many new tips and techniques for food styling-who knew crumbs were such a great styling prop?  Here are a few of my favorites from the workshop:

I was eager to test out my new food styling skills on my own so after a quick trip to Home Goods for some new props, I got down to work this weekend.  And what else to make for the 4th of July than pie???  Correction…mini pies??? (I think I have previously confessed my love for all foods that are miniature.)  I decided to go with blueberry pie and mixed it up a touch by adding cardamom and cinnamon…and then I got super patriotic by cutting out stars and stripes to decorate the pies.  The results were adorable and delicious!  Hope you all had a great 4th of July.  Feel free to comment below and tell me what you made!

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Mini Cardamom Blueberry Pies

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water

Cardamom Blueberry filling:

3 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest
2 1/2 tablespoon water (divided)
10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch

1 egg, beaten
Sugar for sprinkling

For the crust: Mix flour, sugar,  and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.

For the filling: Add blueberries, sugar, lemon, 1 Tbs water, cardamom pods (make sure to count how many you add so you know how many to retrieve later!), and cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan. Alternatively, you can place cardamom and cinnamon stick in cheesecloth for easier retrieval. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture breaks down and starts to liquefy, about 7-10 minutes. Carefully remove and discard all 10 cardamom pods and cinnamon stick- you may want to use a utensil so you don’t burn yourself!.  Mix corn starch and remaining 1.5 Tbs water together and then add to the blueberry mixture. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool completely (may be done in the refrigerator).

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Assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one ball of dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well floured surface. Use a 2.5-3 inch cookie cutter to cut out circles for the pie. You should have about 10 circles depending on the size of the cookie cutter. Place these, evenly spaced, on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spoon some of the blueberry mixture into the center of the circle. Be careful not to place too much blueberry filling or the pies will overflow when the top is placed.

Brush the beaten egg around the edges. Roll out the second ball of dough and cut out the same number of pie circles. Cut a hole (or other shape!) in the middle and then make several slits in the pie circle to vent the pie while cooking. Place this circle of dough over the blueberry filling and use a fork to crimp the pie edges together. Brush the tops with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking racks. Enjoy!

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Mini Blueberry Thyme Crostatas

Alas, the cold weather is finally gone and we seem to have fast forwarded through spring and into summer with the blink of an eye.  While I really shouldn’t complain about the heat after our awful winter…it is really hot!!! Especially when you have no air conditioning because your building is fixing your pipes through June (insert sad violin melody here).

So to welcome “summer”, and full embrace the heat, I decided to warm up my steamy apartment a little more by baking! (Clearly I have my priorities straight.)  Blueberries are one of my favorite summer fruits (along with raspberries, strawberries, peaches, cherries watermelon…) and they were on sale at my local Whole Foods (Paycheck) so I decided to adapt one of my favorite crostata recipes.

The original recipe is for an apple crostata but last summer I substituted apples for peaches with a beautiful result.  This time I decided to go mini (yes, I have an obsession with mini desserts) with blueberries as the star, minus the buttery streusel.  Could it be that I’m trying to bake a little healthier? Or maybe I just got lazy…  I love using herbs and citrus in baking so I added some lemon zest to the crust and some fresh thyme to the blueberries.

They are delicious on their own, or if you want to increase your daily calcium and vitamin D intake, you can top with a whipped mascarpone cream (equal parts whipping cream and mascarpone, whipped until thick and creamy and flavored with a touch of powdered sugar and vanilla).

Final note to self: Making pie dough in 80+ weather with no AC is a little difficult and requires much refrigeration in between steps.  Best to avoid, if possible, until AC situation remedied!  Try ice cream instead 🙂

Mini Blueberry Thyme Crostatas

(makes about 5 crostatas)

Crust: (Adapted from Kosher by Design cookbook)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 sticks (1 cup, 16 Tbs) unsalted butter, cold, cut into about 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice water

Blueberry Thyme Filling:

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs flour
1 Tbs cornstarch
dash of cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Egg wash:

1 egg mixed with 1 Tbs water

For the crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest 2-3 times until mixed.  Add the chilled butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles peas.  Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough just comes together.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Knead briefly to bring together in a ball and flatten slightly into a disc.   Chill  for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

For the blueberries:

Mix all of the above ingredients together.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough out until it reaches 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into 6 inch rounds, I used a bowl as my guide.  After cutting the first 2-3 rounds, you’ll need to re-roll the scraps to cut more.  If dough becomes too soft and difficult to roll, refrigerate again for about 10 minutes.  You should get 5 small circles.

Spoon blueberry filling into the center, leaving at least a 1 inch border.  Be careful not to overfill, you will likely have leftover filling.

Fold the edges over the filling, covering about an inch of filling all around.  Make sure to seal any seams so it stays folded while baking.  Brush the crust with the egg wash.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and blueberries are bubbling.  (If crust browns too quickly, you can cover crust with tinfoil with center cut out.)  Remove from oven and cool for at least one hour.  Enjoy!

Summer Berry Pie

Happy belated 4th of July!  This 4th of July I was unfortunately had the pleasure of working a 24 hour shift in the emergency room.   Generally, alcohol plus hot weather plus holidays equals lots of trauma (aka drunk people doing stupid things like driving, riding motorcylces, getting into fights or attempting to jump over bonfires) so I was prepared for the worst.  Luckily the shift was relatively uneventful.  So uneventful that I actually had time to sit down and eat dinner (a huge luxury).  My colleagues and I tried to find a BBQ restaurant that would deliver to us on 4th of July but were unsuccessful…so we settled for Mexican food…and pie!  Nothing says “America” like a burrito and a side of berry pie!  This pie uses an all butter crust and is filled with sweet strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.  Topped with sweet corn ice cream (stay tuned for my upcoming post), it’s the perfect summer (or 4th of July) dessert!

Summer Berry Pie

Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water

Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.
 
Filling
 
5 cups of berries
3 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs flour
juice from 1/2 lemon
 

Assembly

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out  a disk of dough on a well floured surface into an 11 inch diameter circle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Place dough into a 9 inch pie dish. 

Fill pie with berry filling.  Roll out second disk of dough and place on top of filling.  Crimp the edges together.  Brush top with egg wash and make several slits in the top to let the steam out while it bakes. 

Tip:  To prevent the edges from burning, I like to cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil.  Fold a large square of aluminum foil (to cover the entire pie) in fours.  Cut the center out so that when you unfold it, the foil will cover just the edges and allow the rest of the crust to brown.  (see pictures below)

Bake pie for 40-60 minutes until crust is brown and filling is bubbling.  Let cool for 1 hour before serving.  Enjoy!