Itty Bitty Apple Pies

Believe it or not, it snowed here in Amman this weekend. Alright, so it wasn’t serious snow, but there was snow on the ground nonetheless and it was cold and dreary. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, what choice did I have but to bake? I looked into my barren refrigerator and found little more than 3 apples, about half a stick of butter, Crisco, and some other random bits of leftovers–it wasn’t looking good. Given the weather situation, there was no way I was going to drive to the store to pick anything up, so I had to improvise. I didn’t have enough butter to make a crust, but there was Crisco (please don’t recoil); I only had 3 Golden Delicious apples, not my pick of apples for pie and certainly not enough for much of anything. Given the sad state of affairs, I pulled out my adorable Emile Henry mini pie dishes (which I’ve had since we got married but hadn’t used until recently) and decided to make mini apple pies.

See how tiny they are sitting inside the regular size Emile Henry pie dish?

I am not considered the pie baker of the family. That crown has been bestowed upon my sister, I suppose deservedly, but somewhat unfairly since she’s SO much older than me and has many more years of practice. My mother and Aunt Alice’s pies have been crowned by Raj as “the best” and are the basis of any pie comparison around here (my sister comes in at a close second).

Prior to moving overseas, Raj pleaded with me to learn how to make pie like my mother. I obliged, had my mother teach me how to make her mother’s pie crust and the filling for both her cherry and apple pies (Raj’s favorites), and bought the necessary tools (i.e. a pastry blender (to make dough by hand like my mom, not in the food processor, which I prefer) a fluted pastry wheel to create a lattice crust, and I even shipped Crisco overseas to myself beforehand, in case I couldn’t buy it here (it’s widely available, in case you care to know)).

The Tools: Pastry Blender & Fluted Pastry Wheel

Here’s my grandmother’s pie crust recipe (written in my mother’s beautiful handwriting). I rarely use this recipe given my fear of white, solid fat (Is butter really any better? Don’t answer.), but without enough butter, Grandma Helen’s recipe it was. And besides, if my mom and Aunt Alice use this pie crust recipe, Raj will have to like it, right?

Grandma Helen’s Pie Crust

(I only used half of the recipe to fill two mini pies with and froze the rest for another (hopefully not snowy) day.)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup Crisco
  • pinch of salt
  • 7-8 tablespoons ice water
  1. Put flour mixture in bowl. Take out 1/3 cup flour and mix with 7 tablespoons water and make into a paste.
  2. Place paste into bowl with the Crisco and the flour and blend with pastry blender, adding more water or flour until the dough sticks together.
  3. Divide the dough into 2 even pieces. Turn each piece of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a 4 inch disk. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Before rolling the dough out, let it sit on the counter to soften slightly for 10 minutes.

Mini Apple Pie Filling

  • 3 apples (I used Golden Delicious, but I’d prefer any other kind), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (add more or less to taste depending on apples), plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or Penzey’s apple pie spice)
  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in large saute pan. Place the apples in the pan along with the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Saute for about 8 minutes, or until the apples are softened. Sprinkle cinnamon (or apple pie spice) over the apples and stir. Remove from heat.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Take the pie crust out of the refrigerator and let sit for 10 minutes to soften. Roll out the dough and place the crust into the two mini pie dishes, trimming the edges.
  4. Divide the apples evenly into each of the mini pie dishes.
  5. Roll out the remaining, leftover dough into a rectangle to make the lattice strips. Cut strips of dough evenly with the pastry wheel. Weave the strips over and under each other. Trim excess lattice from the edge. Seal the edges with water. Place a little sprinkling of sugar on top of each pie.
  6. Place the two mini pie dishes on a pan and place in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn up the oven to 375 degrees F and bake for 35 minutes more, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.

Postscript: I don’t deserve to be crowned best pie maker in the family, not because I don’t want the title–I want all titles, but because I don’t really like pie. I’m not a crust person so I’m not the one to tell you whether or not this was any good. I asked Raj about the pie expecting more than I got. His response, “It’s good.” No exclamation. That’s all. Nothing more. Inquiring further, I told him that I used my mom’s crust recipe (he’s always suspicious because he knows I’m not a fan of Crisco). The response was still the same. This was not the glowing review I wanted. Nevertheless, he asked for the second mini pie last night. I suppose that means something.

Glamour Shot of Mini Apple Pie

56 thoughts on “Itty Bitty Apple Pies

  1. I loved your story and recipe! I have my nana’s recipes and I made one of hers (also a pie) yesterday recording it for a future blog update. Your’s turned out much better than mine! Your husband’s response was pretty much the response I get from my husband on anything I cook……..but as I remind him often, he didn’t marry me for my cooking skils! However, your little pies looked scrumptious!

  2. Jen, you made your mother’s day. To see her name as they say in lights(your blog) is the high point of her presidents day. The pies of course look great and I know I would love them as I love pies.. Of course McDonalds is still giving 2 pies for a dollar and they now include cherry so look what Raj may be after when he next lands in Washington.. I could almost smell the sugar coming off the pies and Dick will be so anxious to start on these with his new oven..

  3. How nice of you to give me a pie shout out. Tell Raj that he will never get any of my homemade pies since he ranks me as second best. Did you use the Pezeys apple pie spice special reserve by way of your care package?

    1. At least you rank second. I’m not on the pie list. Yes, I did add a few sprinkles of the magic pie dust from Penzey’s. I asked Raj if he tasted anything different. The answer was “No.”

  4. Jen, your two little pies look beautiful and I’m sure they were delicious. I have one confession to make. On the recipe card, there are 2 different recipes. My mother’s recipe is the one on the left, that is the fool proof one. I kind of tweeked the other one to have a larger pie crust for the deep dishes that we all have today. I probably need a mathematician to get the formula correct for a bigger pie. For now you are safer with Gramma Helen’s crust. Your blog today brought a smile.
    Keep happy and bakin. Love, Mom

  5. Great blog. I bet those pies were great. Given that what I do for a living is heirloom cooking and baking, your inclusion of the backstory and the pic of the pastry recipe was so much fun for me to read!

    1. Thanks. I love your website and would LOVE to come to one of your Bygone Basics cooking experiences. I’ll seriously look into it once we’re back stateside. Your blog is amazing too.

  6. Just over the weekend I was contemplating making an apple pie! But I was a little overwhelmed with all the different recipes and methods. Looks like yours is fool proof (being an heirloom!) so I will try it out over the weekend! Thanks for sharing a little family secret…

  7. Jen ~ I truly enjoyed reading some of your blog stories and love your recipes. You are a very talented writer and obviously a good cook/baker too. Maybe you should write a book about your time abroad peppered with recipes? Easier said than done, but you never know!!! Looking forward to more delicious dishes.

  8. Jen, Mom and I use Grandma Helen’s pie crust recipe too 🙂 Your pies look delish! I don’t remember Grandma Helen cooking really but I know she made and canned everything even down to her own ketchup.
    Her crust can be tough to get rolled evenly but if it can be managed and not overworked, it is glorious!

    1. Hey Abby,
      Do you have any of her canning or ketchup recipes? I’d love to make other ‘heirloom’ recipes, we just don’t seem to have many of them. Nicole and I fought over one of Great Aunt Helen’s recipes, written in her handwriting. I can’t remember what it was for, pickled something or other, but it was written in her cute handwriting so I framed it an put it in my kitchen (but it’s in storage now).

      1. I just wanted to add a note to this….be very cautious when using old canning recipes. There were/are a lot of unsafe methods out there. When dealing with canning, it is best to be sure and have someone who has been trained in safe canning practices after 1989 have a look at the recipe. A lot of deaths a generation or two ago went undetermined, but widely believed to be oftentimes attributable to home canning due to lack of understanding of microorganisms. Sorry to butt-in…felt compelled.

      2. I don’t have anything. I think Aunt Alice and Becky probably have most of it. The men in the family don’t tend to grab things like that and I was too small. But I will ask Becky and Aunt Alice. Actually, I was going through pictures of Aunt Helen, Grandpa Joe, Trancy, and Charlie last night when they were kids. I am getting ready to start geneology. Are you at all interested? I found out that Grandpa Joe’s oldest uncle was born on shipboard somewhere between Germany and the USA. Love it.
        By the way, I never responded to your comment about me living in Denmark. I lived there for six months, Holland for five and spent a month in Spain, and 2 weeks in Turkey doing journalism stories. It was great. Denmark is a nice place to visit – not so great to live. That’s an entire other story though.

        1. I’m totally interested in our geneology. My mom has been talking about it for years and wanted to do it through, but she’s computer phobic. How are you planning on doing/researching it?

          1. The Lawrence County Library in Ironton has a great geneology room. Dad has also recieved some info in the mail from two people who started working on the Kleinman side and needed info filled in. Of course he did nothing with it while Aunt Helen was living and just gave me some of the info. I will do all I can from there. One of the bits of info that we recieved showed that part of the family is originally from the Prussia area of Germany. When I get time I am going to get started and will let you and Aunt Ann know what I find and send you the information.

  9. I LOVED your story! It is nice to know that the baking crown is fought over in many families. I loved your pies and thought they looked absolutely delicious….I am with you though crust is not my thing either and therefore will join you in the ranks of those who are unable to judge whether or not is is great, good or okay. Love your blog!

  10. Maaaaaaan, if I were Raj, I’d get an attitude adjustment on those pies. Its not every day someone bakes you a mini delicious apple pie! 🙂 The looked amazing Jen, and even if you say that you aren’t the baker of the family, it looks like your skills are quite on par!

  11. Not only do these look and sound absolutely delicious, they are stinkin’ adorable, too! Though . . . if I baked every time I had respite in my day, I would be 200 lbs. Lol. Judging from your picture, either you work out frequently, have a very fast metabolism, or baking pastries is a rare occasion. Beautiful lady, you are!


      1. Hi Jen!

        So nice to meet you! I’m Cara — just in case you didn’t see my name anywhere on my blog.

        Thank you . . . Wow, what a lovely compliment. One’s voice is really all you’ve got with a gig like a blog. Just a few words to garner attention and offer something unique and interesting. I am honored you found that here. Your blog is awesome, too, btw. I knew right away just by the layout, I was going to enjoy the content.

        The novel . . . Well, I am happy to report the novel is 100% finished; however, it is not 100% edited. Each day, I burn brain cells fine combing my word-child, improving upon her before sending her among the publishing wolves. I am hoping to have a finished manuscript by this summer! Thank you for asking, and for the comment!

  12. Loved your story, especially the part about me:) and your mom. Your pies look wonderful and I’m sure they’re just as delicious. Uncle Joe has Mom’s old cookbook. I don’t know what happened to her canning recipes, but I’ll ask uncle Joe if he knows anything about them.

    1. Hi Alice,
      It’s so nice hearing from you! Raj also still thinks your chocolate cookies are the best! It’s hard competing with my family. Let me know if you get anything from Uncle Joe. Give my best to Bill and Tucker.

    2. Aunt Alice, Jen
      I asked Uncle Joe yesterday – he and dad had lunch at my house and he doesn’t know of any recipes of hers that he has. He told me about the cookbook but it is just a cookbook. Nothing in her handwriting but it must me many of the recipes she used. I will check it out and let you both know.

  13. what a sweet story! just like my mum’s cakes and any I try to make! hers are always better. Still, I guess he liked them enough, if he got seconds! Lovely blog, by the way, thanks for dropping by my pantry!

  14. Your mini pies are so cute! I got stuck one day with a last minute dinner guest and no dessert in sight. I had one roll of a Pillsbury pie crust in the fridge and 3 apples. I put the unrolled crust on a baking sheet, threw the cut up apples slices on top, sprinkled with sugar cinnamon and bits of butter and turned up the edges of the crust and baked. I told everyone it was rustic apple pie and they fell for it.
    thanks for liking my blog, Jen. I have spent all morning reading your wonderful blog. Write a book!

  15. I was just going to say the same as buttersugarflowers–it is so precious to have a family recipe connecting you to your grandma. And nice that your husband enjoys it, which will encourage you to keep the tradition alive! I love your travel photos as well.

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