Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Individual Berry Pies

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It’s early December. Why in the world am I baking berry pies? Why am I baking pies at all, when I’m not far enough from Thanksgiving to miss the pumpkin pie and close enough to Christmas to smell the snickerdoodles? If I were wise, I know, I’d declare a moratorium on desserts, an inter-holiday sugar fast, during which I could grow wistful and lean, chastely fantasizing about the rounded mouthfeel of eggnog and the creamy cool of peppermint cheesecake, longing for chocolate and for snow in equal measure.

But, frankly, I’m just not that into deprivation.

Plus, my hunky husband loves berries…and pies…and I love him. So, even if I were a fan of deprivation, I’d just have to take one for the team here. When faced with a choice between caloric restriction and romance, well…You see the (hypothetical) dilemma.

In any case, these are little bitty pies. Teeny tiny pies. They disappear in a day or two without leaving you completely glutted in their wake. These are pies–deep-dish pies, for Pete’s sake–that don’t ask for a commitment.

Enough apologia. If you want to bake the pies, I won’t judge you. And if you don’t, well, you’re not my kind of person, but I’m sure someone else out there probably likes you fine. We’ll just agree to go our separate ways.

Pie people, here’s the recipe. It makes four ramekin pies or two ramekins and one small casserole dish (my husband’s man-sized ramekin. Click here if you’d like to know the precise dimensions.):

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1 9-inch pie crust for a single-crust pie (You can buy it–the Pillsbury refrigerated crusts are pretty good!–or you can make your own lightning-fast, unfussy crust, like this.):

1/4 cup ice water (with the ice removed)

1 heaping tablespoon sour cream

1 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter, cut into little pieces and then frozen for 10 minutes or so

1. Cut up your butter and pop it into the freezer.

2. Fill a glass with ice water (so it can get super-cold)

3. Combine all the dry ingredients in your food processor fitted with the regular, sharp blade. Whizz it all together.

4. Remove your butter from the freezer and dump it into the food processor. Pulse the butter into the flour just until it is broken up–about 15 pulses.

5. Pour 1/4 cup of your ice water into a glass measuring cup, straining out the ice. Use a fork to mix in the heaping tablespoon of sour cream.

6. Pour almost all of the liquid into your food processor, pulsing gently until incorporated. Keep adding the liquid and pulsing until the dough is willing to hold together. (You may have to check it with your fingers to see whether it’s wet enough to cohere.)

7. When it’s ready, dump it out onto a floured surface and use your hands quickly to push it together into a ball. Don’t touch it any more than you need to because your hands will warm the dough. Cold pie dough behaves best. Then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a big enough stretch to accommodate your ramekins. Use a knife to cut around the outsides, leaving a generous space around them so that the dough will fit up the sides of your pans. (If you cut them too small, you can always roll the dough out a bit thinner to stretch it.) Then fit the dough into each of your pans.

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Filling:

3 cups of berries (fresh or frozen and then thawed)

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice (to give it a warm, slightly “seasonal” flavor)

1 tablespoon or so butter

1. Drain any extra liquid from your thawed berries. Then combine all ingredients, except the butter, in a medium bowl.

2. Distribute the filling between your pans, now lined with pie dough. Dab the butter on top.

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3. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until they look ready–probably around 25 or 30 minutes. The filling shouldn’t be runny when you take them out.

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(Just to be a show-off, I cut heart shapes out of my extra pie dough and baked them on a cookie sheet to decorate the pies for my sweetie. That flourish is optional.)

Serve it with a big scoop of ice cream or a small one.

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