Help me make tiny pumpkin pies
December 16, 2014 11:31 AM   Subscribe

How do I adjust my pumpkin pie if I'm making them smaller and with crusts from scratch?

I recently got a silicone mini pie dish that makes four 3-inch pies.

I've made pumpkin pie in the past, but always with pre-made 9-inch pie crusts. Now I'm trying to make tiny pies, and am confused in my attempts to join this data together.

I'm okay with some of the basics. I have four balls of dough in plastic wrap in the fridge right now. But for the next step I'm a little confused, since I pre-bake pumpkin pie crusts, and I can find example recipes online for pre-baked crusts from scratch, but they all assuming 9-inch pies.

Some recipes are saying I should freeze my pie crusts before baking them? Why?

How much will this change the baking time versus a 9-inch crust?

Anything else I should know?
posted by RobotHero to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't pre-bake my pumpkin pie crusts, but I'd just give you this basic advice: bake it until it looks and smells the way it's supposed to. The crust pre-baking will probably take the same amount of time it does with a full-sized pie. The filling will probably set sooner, so start checking earlier. You don't need a mathematical formula for this; simply look, jiggle and sniff.
posted by jon1270 at 11:36 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The prebaking time shouldn't have to vary. Roll out your dough, trim four circles approximately the size you need and pat them into place in the pans. Use a fork to poke some holes for steam to escape from the crust so it doesn't bubble up, or use pie weights. Bake for 8ish minutes.

The real variation comes in how long you will bake the actual pie, since the heat will take less time to penetrate the shorter distance to the center of the pies. Just watch the pies and take them out riiight after the center stops being jiggly.
posted by Liesl at 11:36 AM on December 16, 2014

The "The Best Recipe" (i.e. Cooks' Illustrated) pie crust recipe is AMAZING. It does call for pre-baking, and explains why and how. I recommend making a double batch, and whatever's left over you can spread out on another cookie sheet, possibly cutting into squares, and maybe sprinkle a little cinnamon and sugar on it. You will have the most delicious shortbread-cookie-like experience.

Also, it will make your pie much better than other pies you may have tried.

For the filling, if you again use the "The Best Recipe" recipe, it almost-cooks the filling before putting it into the crusts, so the cooking time is shorter and more manageable; one of the common issues they address is pies not cooking all the way into the center.

Here's an extended rom-com analogy leading up to the recipe - crust and filling.
posted by amtho at 11:46 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I saw an Alton Brown episode of Good Eats on converting a regular pumpkin pie to a mini pie just last night. First step: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For mini-pies: Evenly divide the crust mixture between 5 (5-inch) pie tins and bake on a half sheet pan for 5 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before evenly dividing the filling between the pans. Bake until the center juggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 25 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for 2 hours.

Now, his crust was a crushed cookie crust, so for a proper homemade dough, I'd say anywhere from 5-10 minutes would probably be enough (about half of the pre-bake time; which I think is about 15 for a 9" pie, at least according to my recipe. Consult with your own.)

I'd probably check the crust after 5-7 minutes, myself, for your 4" pie tins. I'd check the pie itself after about 20 minutes.
posted by PearlRose at 11:48 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Highly recommend using a graham-cracker or cookie-crumb crust instead for these mini-pies; for some reason I find that the traditional crusts just don't scale down as well as the filling does--they tend to burn/dry out.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:52 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've done this with regular pie crust and it was a breeze. They do cook a little faster all around, although I was baking in muffin tins rather than silicone so that might affect things. I think I did 7 minutes to prebake the crusts.

They came out really well but it is very easy to overbake mini pies.
posted by xeney at 12:12 PM on December 16, 2014

Some recipes are saying I should freeze my pie crusts before baking them? Why?

Sometimes if the butter in the crust melts before the flour sets the crust will tend to slump down the sides of the pie dish. Some people think that freezing helps prevent this. You can also use pie weights, or a couple handfuls of beans or rice to prop up the walls of the pie when you're pre-baking to prevent this. I do find it's helpful to let the crust rest in the fridge for half an hour or so after you line the pan, to help the dough relax so it doesn't shrink up on you.
posted by Diablevert at 12:22 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody. I am eating a tiny warm pie right now. It is delicious.

This was test-run pies. I am going to make another set of pies later this week.

I did not freeze the crusts, just let them fridgify. I had some trouble with them cracking while rolling them out, but the fourth pie was better than the first, so maybe I just needed to practice my rolling?

I did have a bunch of extra dough, so I baked it like cookies.
posted by RobotHero at 2:23 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

When my mom has extra dough after making a pie she rolls it out, spreads some butter on it, and sprinkles it liberally with cinnamon and sugar. Rolls it up, slices it like teeeeeeny tiny cinnamon buns, and bakes them. So good. Best thing you can make with the odd bits of crust dough.
posted by phunniemee at 2:41 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Matters can be simplified by using a pumpkin chiffon recipe rather than the usual, and boring, pumpkin custard. The mixture is poured into the pre-baked shells. Recipe in Joy of cooking, 30-year-old edition.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:04 PM on December 16, 2014

I had some trouble with them cracking while rolling them out, but the fourth pie was better than the first, so maybe I just needed to practice my rolling?

Could be they were a little too cold or a little to dry. Pie crust is tricky like that --- simple to put together, but the difference between awesome and acceptable is all about getting a feel for it. I've been doing them for a few years now and still fuck 'em up sometimes myself. The thing is, the warmer the pie is the easier it is to roll out, but if the butter in the crust gets warm enough to melt -- which is not very warm at all, after all, if you held a pat of butter in your palm for a few minutes it would soften --- then you lose your flakiness and the crust gets dense and tough. So it's about finding that balance. A wetter dough can be a bit easier to roll out, too, but too wet and it'll stick to the pin, and again could get tough. Cook's illustrated has a recipe where they swap out some of the water for vodka in making the crust --- lets you get the dough a bit wetter so it's easier to roll out but since alcohol has a low boiling point it bakes out quite quickly and the crust stays flaky when you bake it.

Sorry for rambling --- pie crust is one of those minute to learn, lifetime to master things. Follow your recipe and trust your instincts and Im sure you'll be fine. (And if it really goes to hell on you, crumble it up in the bottom of glass and put the filling over it with a dollop of whipped cream on top and call it parfait. ;) )
posted by Diablevert at 7:35 PM on December 16, 2014

I made mini pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving this year. One thing the recipe called for that I failed to do was to baste the edges of the pie crusts with egg white. I regret not doing this as the crusts didn't really have that nice crispy, golden edge to them. Just something to consider if you aren't already doing this.
posted by rouftop at 11:02 AM on December 18, 2014

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