13 December 2007

Spinach and Artichoke Mini Pies

It's that time of the year again - exam week. Which, as usual, means that I'm doing just about as much cooking and/or baking as I am studying, simply because it's so relaxing and without it, I might just go insane. So, logically, what better time a year to make my first pie dough from scratch?

Having heard, just as I'm sure all of you have, all of the horror stories about home-made pie crusts, I've always shied away from making my own. I am slightly (or maybe a little more than slightly) ashamed to admit that until yesterday, I always used the pie crusts that you get rolled-up in a box in the refrigerator section, along with the ready-to-bake cookies and such. I can now promise you that once the one left in my fridge has been used, I will never go back. This crust was so flaky and delicious, not to mention easy to make, that I couldn't believe it.

Mostly Butter Pie Crust
(Slightly adapted from Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition - 2006)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of cold salted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, slightly chilled
6 tablespoons ice water

1. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces or smaller, and use a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingertips to cut into the flour until you reach the texture of coarse cornmeal.
2. Add the shortening and continue to blend until the pieces are about the size of peas.
3. Drizzle the water over the mixture and mix lightly just until the dough comes together.
4. Divide in half, shape into discs, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.
5. Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter about an inch wider in diameter than the top of your cupcake molds, cut 12 rounds.
6. Place the rounds in your greased cupcake pan. Place either parchment paper rounds, muffin cups, or silicone cupcake molds in the center of each pie crust. Fill with beans or pie weights.
7. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes, then remove the beans or weights and muffin cups and poke with a fork, then bake for 5 minutes more.

Spinach and Artichoke Mini Pies

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can artichoke hearts, well rinsed and roughly chopped
2 cups frozen spinach
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/2-1 cup parmesan cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion begins to caramelize.
2. Add the garlic, artichoke hearts, frozen spinach and water. Cook until the spinach is fully thawed and the artichoke hearts are warmed through.
3. Add the butter and the parmesan, and cook just until the butter is melted, stirring.
4. Spoon the filling into the pie crusts. About a tablespoon and a half should fit in each crust.
5. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, until the top of the filling begins to brown.

- You could absolutely make this as a full-sized pie, you would just have to up the baking times by about 5-10 minutes. The pie crust recipe gives enough crust for a double-crust pie.
- Don't thaw the spinach. You need the liquid that it will give off as it thaws. It will combine with the cheese to lightly bind the filling.

Join the Mini-Pie Revolution!

I just finished reading... Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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