Happy Fall! Yes I am that girl who loves fall. I love the color of the changing leaves, sipping warm apple cider, sweaters, boots, and all that warmth and comfort of sitting at home on a sunday, snuggling up on the couch, under a blanket, watching a movie.
Now what better way to end that perfect Sunday with a fall inspired warm and comforting pie? I love pie, I love all pies. I am fairly certain there is no pie that I don't love. Now that it is fall and with Thanksgiving around the corner, I always make a ton of pies. Freshly baked and made with love. But, I always make the same pies each year: apple, pumpkin and pecan. The favorites. The most popular. Unfortunately, cranberry just gets forgotten and left behind. No one really thinks of cranberry and that truly is a travesty! Fresh cranberries are amazing and only in season during the fall and very early winter. They can be used for sweet desserts or savory meals. So if you are looking to change things up this year or always have extra cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving then you MUST make these mini pies. They are quick and easy and effortless.
While this recipe is a no-fail recipe, I do have a few tricks and tips to help you achieve this show-stopping dessert.
Can we take a moment to admire the buttery-flaky pie crust?!?
The leaf cut-outs and the snow frosted rosemary-cranberry garnish are optional but again... crazy easy to make and really make your guests ooooh and awwww as you bring out your dessert.
I want to point out right away that ALL the elements of this dessert can and should be made ahead of time. You can make them days or even weeks ahead of time. If making more than a day or two in advance you must place it in your freezer. This accounts for everything, including the pie dough, filling and the garnish.
If you are not using leftover cranberry sauce for your filling then let me guide you in the right direction. First you MUST use fresh cranberries. Don't be afraid, they are incredibly easy to use. Just wash them, pick out any bad 'apples' and put it all into your saucepan along side the orange zest, fresh squeezed orange juice, orange slices and sugar. Stir. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 10ish minutes. Then stir in your cinnamon and nutmeg.
Now was that so hard?
You can sip your coffee, make lunch for the kids or just sit down and scroll social media for the 10 minutes. You will hear a lot of 'popping' sounds while the mixture cooks. That sound is the cranberries popping. When they pop, they release a lot of liquid. That is normal and good. The 10 minutes of simmering help to reduce the liquid and once the filling really cools it thickens up completely naturally. You will start to see it thicken at the end of the simmer but it won't truly be really thick until it has had time to cool and set in the refrigerator.
At the beginning, when the cranberries started popping and releasing their liquid.
At the end, watch how it thickens up.
Now it is incredibly imperative that you let this filling cool and come to room temperature. Then refrigerate for about 1-2 hours before using as your filling. This goes for any cooked filling that you want to use to fill a pie. If your are in a rush or impatient like me, and use lukewarm pie filling then your pie dough will start to become super soft. The heat will start to melt the butter in your pie crust. Why is this bad? Do you want a floppy, sagging pie crust? No me neither! I tried once to put in a cherry filling that was just a tad warm and then make a lattice topping. Even that little heat immediately started to destroy my crust making it tear and break.
TIP: Pie filling MUST be cool. Completely cooled down and cold.
The assembly of these mini pies are SO easy. It is almost like making sugar cookies. Just roll out your pie dough. I roll out my dough in between two pieces of baking parchment paper that are dusted with some flour. This will ensure that your pie dough doesn't stick to the cutting board. Then use a cookie cutter or the top of a large glass to cut out perfect circles that are a bit bigger (2inches) than the circumference of the individual compartments in the muffin tray.
Then place about 10-12 circles in your muffin tray. Do NOT line or spray your tray with baking spray. It is not needed. Trust me. These mini pies will just slip right out. Fill the pie dough with the filling. Then top with cute little leaves using your excess pie dough.
Here you can see what cookie cutters I used. Bought from Amazon.de
Instead of putting these directly into your preheated oven, put them in the refrigerator to really get cold and firm up. You can place the tray in the refrigerator for hours ahead of time or even up to two days ahead of time. Keep the tray refrigerated until the oven is preheated. You always want to bake a chilled pie crust. This will ensure that you don't have a soggy bottom as well as ensure that the pie dough keeps it shape and won't sag or fall apart during the baking process. Then, take out your tray, brush the tops of the pie dough (including the leaves) with egg and sprinkle with sugar.
You are looking for your golden brown. The picture above was taken at 22 minutes. I put the tray back in to bake for 3 more minutes.
Golden brown with a hint of sparkle. Perfection.
Once I waited for the pies to cool they easily slipped out of the muffin tray with the help of a butter knife.
The garnish can also be made ahead of time. You have to make a simple syrup to get the sugar to stick to the rosemary and cranberries. The simple syrup can even be made a month in advance! I like to store mine in a mason jar in the refrigerator. I like to use simple syrup for brushing on cakes I think may have dried out or even for making cocktails! And guess what? Simple syrup is SO easy. It is just 1 part water to 1 part sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Wait for it to cool and then you are done!!!
It doesn't look like anything sticky or syrupy, but I promise you it is.
Get your rosemary and cranberries all ready. Have a bowl of your simple syrup and then a plate of sugar. Then another clean plate (which is not pictured). Have you ever breaded chicken before? We are basically doing those exact steps. Not using egg and flour but using simple syrup and sugar. Dip your cranberries and rosemary, one at a time, into the simple syrup then roll it in the sugar. Place it on a clean plate to dry and harden.
To make this dish even better... add some ice cream or whipped cream. The pies are a perfect combination of tartness and freshness but you do need something sweet alongside. And who doesn't love pie with a side of ice cream?!?
This recipe will definitely be on my favorites list from now on. It is colorful and fresh and warmly spiced with seasonal flavors.