I am spending a lot of time thinking a lot about what kind of food I'm going to bring on my epic 27-hour journey to Chicago next Friday. I've got some ideas, and some basics, but no desserts yet. And I really can't think of anything I will enjoy more than eating little mini pies on the train. I will have to make them again on Thursday next week, since the little pies I made yesterday will be gone by tonight. I had to fight Alex to get him to not eat anymore last night after dinner. They're perfect. The crust is the most perfect crust I've ever made. It's flaky, buttery, tender, easy to work with, and simple to put together. Alex says it's perfect, and he eats gluten.
You can really put anything you want into these pies. I made them square, because I had spent the previous hour making dumplings (which I will post about when I have a real recipe, this time I used the funny Ha Cao mix that I love because it makes the best dumplings I've ever had) and didn't want to cut out any more circles. Next time I will make little halfmoons. You can make any shape you want. I didn't have enough dough so I made a galette with the last bit of dough. Really, they're so perfect. I can't say it enough. I filled half of mine with blueberries, my favorite pie fruit, and the other half were dolce de leche and apple pies. The best part, besides how easy and delicious these are, is that they can be vegan! The dolce de leche I made is vegan, and the crust can be. I've been having some trouble adapting my recipes to gluten-free AND vegan, for my vegan friends. I don't like to have people over and then not be able to feed them some amazing dessert. This is it, guys. The best gluten-free, vegan dessert possible.
Little Pies, or you could make Galettes (open face, free-form tart-pies)
for the crust, adapted from this knish recipe
1 c plus 2 T rice flour mix
1 t xanthan gum
a pinch of salt
1 T sugar
1 stick butter, margarine, shortening, or Earth Balance, sliced and frozen for about 20 mins
1/4 c cold seltzer
2 t cider vinegar
In the bowl of your food processor, mix the flour, xanthan gum, and salt and sugar. Add the butter and pulse, until crumbly. Mix together the seltzer and vinegar, and pour in by tablespoons, until dough comes together. If you use all the liquid, and the dough feels too sticky, just dump it into a bowl, add about another tablespoon of flour mix, and work it into the dough until its smooth. Divide the dough in half, flatten on floured (with rice flour or sweet rice flour) pieces of wax paper into two disks, sprinkle with more flour, fold up and stick in the freezer while you prepare your fillings.
Coconut dulce de leche
Vegan caramel! It hardly tastes like coconut. Recipe from epicurious.com
2 14-oz cans of unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 t Kosher salt
Mix together everything in a pan with high walls (unless you want to be scrubbing your stove for a while afterwards, like me), and heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Let cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. This should take about an hour. Be careful because it's going to splatter. Once its reduced, pour into a glass jar that you've run under hot water for a minute so it's not cold (or it will break). Let sit for about half an hour, then pour off the oil that's risen to the top. Store in the fridge and use for things like pies or ice cream or eating with a spoon out of the jar.
2 c blueberries (if you're only making blueberry pies, less if you're making half and half like I did)
1 T sugar
1 T cornstarch
Mix everything together in a bowl.
Cut the apple into really thin slices. I left the skin on. You don't have to.
Assembling and cooking the little pies
Preheat the oven to 350. Roll out one dough disk pretty thin (it's tough dough, it can handle being stretched thin), and cut out a few rectangles, about the size of a small index card (3x5?). Put the rest of the dough aside to be reused. Wet the edge of one rectangle, then plop about a tablespoon of blueberries in the middle. If you're making caramel apple, spread half of the dough with caramel, and then lay apple slices carefully over it, making sure that there's enough dough on the other half to cover the apples, and trying not to get any caramel around the wet edge where you're going to seal the pie. Once filled, fold the unfilled top over and press around the edges carefully with your fingers, or a fork. Lay the finished pie on a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat, and repeat until all dough is gone, rolling out the dough again to make more rectangles.
To make galettes instead
You can make mini galettes instead, which will make a lot more since they use less dough. After you roll out the dough, cut fairly large circles out of the dough. Put enough filling to cover the middle, leaving about an inch around the edge to fold over. Carefully fold over edges. Place on your cookie sheet, and repeat.
Once you have all your mini pies (I got about 8 palm-sized pies), brush them with milk (I used Silk), and then sprinkle with large-grain sugar. Bake for about a half an hour, until golden on top and slightly brown on the edge. Be careful not to let them burn!
Let cool enough so you don't burn your tongue, and eat. Store any leftover pies in the fridge.