Pi Month Special: Pie On Demand

Pi Month Special: Pie On Demand

I am always in search of good ideas to steal from.  The other day, trolling for recipes, I came across this post and immediately fell in love (and seriously started considering whether or not I need to change the title of this blog, considering how often pie comes up!)  At any rate, the idea is simple – you make single-serve pies in mason jars, bake them off (or not, in the case of fruit pies) seal them up, freeze them and then heat them up as needed!

So, to begin, I made a recipe Sparky’s piecrust…but in this case, since the crust is at risk for getting soggy, I subbed vodka for half of the water (vodka does not activate the gluten in wheat flour, and creates a crust with a lower water content.)  Feel free to use storebought piecrust dough if that works better for you.

Next, I gathered my flotilla of 4oz mason jars (if you don’t have mason jars, you could use old food jars, but look for ones with straight sides.  You can also use paper (NOT styrofoam or plastic) cups cut down to size, or oven-safe ramekins, but you’ll have to package them for the freezer much more carefully.  (I would be careful to bring ceramic ramekins to room temp before baking.)

001 Using the top of the jar as a cookie cutter, I cut a bottom crust, and then cut a strip to go around – you may just want to squash a piece in there, and that’s fine.  Remember to either squash or roll your piecrust thinner than usual, because, due to the size of the jar, the crust-to-pie ratio is going to be much higher than normal in these pies (not a bad thing in my book.)

009 I filled the cup-pies with beans (cheap pie weights, but you have to toss them afterwards) and put them in the toaster oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  011Allow to cool and then CAREFULLY remove the beans.  Do NOT do this by banging the jar upside down; you will just crush your piecrust (If you will look to the right of the photo, you’ll see my words come from sad experience.  Keep in mind that you can reanimate it with your scraps)  Hold the jar at an angle, and gently tickle the pie weights/beans out.

Next, I made a recipe of Pumpkin Pie filling – I’m a traditionalist and don’t mind making a few shortcuts, but keep in mind this makes LOTS of tiny pies…I would say about 15 if you’re using 4 oz jars, though you could easily use 8oz wide-mouth jars as well.

If you decide to halve the ingredients, you could, I suppose, make Bolani Kadu with the excess pumpkin, and Thai Iced Coffee with the extra condensed milk. The entire recipe for 15 PODs follows:

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (or nutmeg, if you prefer more traditional spicing – this is my own version)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk the eggs and combine with the remaining ingredients.  I suppose you could put the whole recipe in a blender, as well.  Add about 4 tablespoons of filling to each prepared jar, return to the toaster oven and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  (N.B.  The top of your pie should not be browned – if your toaster oven has two rack positions, bake the unfilled crusts on the top rack, and the filled pies on the bottom rack)
Now, once your pie filling is set but still jiggly in the center, remove your pies from the oven.  At this point, you can cool them and eat them – OR, you can seal the lid on the jar tightly (I have a set of these just for the freezer/fridge, saves hunting for the 2-part lids) and pop them in the freezer.  To reheat, pop individual pies in the toaster oven at 200 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until the filling has reached room temperature.
You can scale any pie recipe (Sparky’s Pecan Pie** comes to mind) to suit this project: most standard 9″ pie recipes will have about 15 servings.  If you feel the need to add a top crust (keeping in mind that your pie-to-crust ratio is already heavy,) just make a fancy cookie-cutter shape and plop it on top of your filling.

*A big thank-you to Alan from Benchfly.com, who simul-posted this recipe on the Benchfly Blog for anyone who might be spending Thanksgiving in the lab.  Hope it worked out for you all!

** Sparky’s Pecan Pie divides into thirds nicely, a one-third recipe makes about 5-6 PODs : 1/4 stick softened butter (2 tablespoons) 1/3 c brown sugar, 1 egg, 1/4 tsp vanilla or bourbon, dash salt, 2 tsp molasses, 3 tbsp corn syrup and 2/3 cup pecans.

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