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Flaky pie crust

Time 20 minutes
Yields Makes enough dough for 1 single (9-inch) pie crust or 4 (double-crust) to 6 (single-crust) mini-pies
Flaky pie crust
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Short of any family drama, the biggest dilemma most of us face at the holiday table revolves around dessert. Specifically: Which pie do I choose? (Or, rather: Why do I get to try only one?)

Why stop at one? Friends and family, there is a solution: the mini-pie.

At first glance, it looks exactly like a traditional pie ... but miniaturized. Same rich and buttery crust with that tell-tale flake, same flavorful filling. All scaled down, “Mini-Me"-style. It may even have the same artfully crimped edges, only they’re tiny. Delicate even.

Call them what you will -- tiny pies, muffin tin pies, cup-pies (a la the show “Pushing Daisies”) -- they’re essentially pies baked in muffin tins. And you can bake batches at a time.

You don’t need anything fancy to make the cute little guys -- a couple of standard nonstick muffin tins will do, maybe one or two tiny cookie cutters if you want to get fancy. As for ingredients, a single standard pie’s worth of filling and two to three single pie crusts are enough to give you a dozen or so mini-pies.

They make a perfect project. Though mini-pies are a bit more involved than throwing together a standard pie -- you are, of course, forming and filling a bunch of smaller pies rather than one of, well, normal stature -- they are fun to make. Vary the crimping for the crusts, add little lattice tops if you’d like. Use tiny cutouts baked from spare bits of crust to garnish the pies. Let your creative juices flow, albeit on a size-restricted scale.

Probably the only thing more entertaining than actually making the pies is watching your guests gleefully devour them. The little pies are great when you’re planning for company or potlucks. Did I mention holiday dinners? And they make perfect homemade gifts, each treat individually wrapped for family and friends.

Of course, you could just keep a batch all to yourself. No dilemma there.

1

To make the dough using a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the shortening and pulse until incorporated (the dough will look like moist sand). Add the butter and pulse just until the butter is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture, and pulse once or twice until incorporated. Remove the crumbly mixture to a large bowl and gently press the mixture together until it comes together to form a dough. Mold the dough into a disk roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disk tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

2

To make the dough by hand, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the shortening and incorporate using a pastry cutter or fork (the dough will look like moist sand). Cut in the butter just until it is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture, and stir together just until incorporated. Proceed as above.

3

Form the mini-pies: Prepare the muffin tins by greasing every other cup (fill alternating muffin cups to allow extra room to form and crimp the mini-crusts and to allow the heat to circulate more evenly to bake the crust as it bakes). On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a round one-eighth-inch thick and roughly 14 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into rounds using a 5 1/2-inch cutter. Gather the scraps and re-roll, cutting more large rounds (for bottom crusts) or smaller rounds (about 3 inches) to make the top crust. Carefully place the rounds in the muffin cups, pressing the dough against the bottom and edges of the cups. The dough should extend above the cups by one-half to three-fourths inch; roll the edges and crimp as desired.

4

If pre-baking the mini-pie crusts, gently line the shells with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes, then remove the weights and foil. Brush the edges of the mini crusts with egg wash and prick the bottom once or twice with a fork. Continue baking until the bottom of the crust is dry and lightly colored, 6 to 8 minutes more.