Strawberries and chocolate go together like.... ham and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, pork chops and apple sauce (The Brady Bunch anyone?) or...cheese and wine. Both are wonderful on their own but when you put them together it's a whole new level and deliciousness.
In my mission to make mini pies, I searched high and low for mini pie pans. I couldn't find any. I know they're out there. I've seen them since making these but in my impatiences, I didn't want to order them online or wait another week for me to have a whole weekend to search another set of stores. Sooooo I decided to use my muffin pan. Which made perfectly sized little individual servings of pie. I thought about using my ramekins but they don't have an edge on them to be able to make the little crust edge designs. Not that my crust design is great but it has one at least. Which makes them truly look like mini pies.
Before I go into detail here, I want to explain something. I made the pie crust with cocoa powder in it. My intention of course was to create a chocolate flavored crust. It looks chocolaty....all brown and everything.
But the flavor isn't there. It ended up just tasting like any ol' crust. (but there's a fun surprise inside that makes everything wonderful so it wasn't a fail). I'm hesitant to add more cocoa to the my crust recipe in fear of breaking down the flakiness and making it more doughy. I could've used a chocolate cookie crust but then it would be a totally different kind of pie, wouldn't it? Any hints, tips or clues out there on how to make a flaky chocolate pie crust that actually tastes chocolaty?
With all that said.......(crap....I forget where I was going with this)
Well, never mind. Lets just get to it
For the pie crust...you can use your favorite recipe. If you want to try the chocolate version, rule of thumb...for every cup of flour, add 4 tsp cocoa powder and 4 tsp sugar. The recipe I used was from Mastering the Art of French Cooking:
This recipe makes 8 mini pies.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
6 oz chilled butter, but into 1/2" bits
4 TB chilled shortening
a scant 1/2 cup of iced water (plus more if needed)
then I added:
8 tsp (2 TB plus 2 tsp) cocoa powder
8 tsp (2 TB plus 2 tsp) sugar
In a chilled mixing bowl, add flour, salt, sugar, cocoa powder, butter and shortening.
Using a pastry blender (or the tips of your fingers....working very quickly) work the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until you have pea sized crumbs.
Don't get too mental on this one. It doesn't have to be perfect. Everything will be worked in more thoroughly later.
Add the water and blend quickly with a fork, or your fingers slightly cupped and gather everything together into a mass. If needed, sprinkle more water by the droplets over anything that's not combining with the rest of the dough. Be careful. You want the dough to hold together and be pliable but not sticky. Press together into a rough ball.
Place onto a floured surface. Now...I tried a new method here. One I had never heard of until reading Julia Child's instructions. With the heel of your hand (not the palm, which is the warmest part of your hand) press the pastry, bit by bit away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches
until you've worked through the whole ball of dough. Scrape up the dough with a spatula and gather it into a mass. Knead it for a second into a smooth round ball. Lightly sprinkle it with flour, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator or about 2 hrs or over night.
While the dough was chilling, I prepared my strawberry pie filling.
2 cups of strawberries
1/2 cup sugar (plus more to garnish if desired)
2 TB balsamic vinegar
1 TB flour
3 TB butter, diced
2 oz dark chocolate divided into 8 - 1/4 oz pieces
I washed, hulled and sliced the strawberries. Stirred in the sugar and balsamic vinegar and let sit in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use.
When the dough is ready, divide into 8 equal balls. As I worked with 1 ball, the remaining were stored in the fridge to keep cold.
Preheat the oven to 400' F
On a lightly floured surface, I divided 1 ball in half. Each half was rolled out into a circle. Use a 3" cookie cutter to cut the dough into uniform crusts. Place the circles in plastic wrap and stored them back in the fridge.
Once all the dough was rolled out and cut (you should have 16 dough rounds), line 8 muffin tins with half of the dough rounds. Carefully trim the edges of any excess dough, sprinkle the bottoms with a little flour.
Drain off any excess balsamic vinegar from the strawberries then divide them evenly between all 8 dough lined tins.
I had some wonderful sample sized pieces of dark chocolate from Scharffen Berger that were perfect for this! Take a piece of chocolate and bury it in the center of the strawberries, 1 piece per pie. Drop 2 pieces of diced butter on top of each strawberry mound.
Take the remaining rolled out dough rounds and cover each pie. With a fork, carefully press the edges of the pie crusts together to seal the tops to the bottoms. With a knife, slice two little 1/2 inch vents on top of each pie. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar.
Place an empty cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any drips (there will probably be drips). Bake for about 30 minutes or into crust is brown and the filling is bubbly.
Let cool, then carefully remove each pie from the muffin tins. You may need a blunt knife to help loosen the edges of the crust.
Now, like I mentioned earlier, the crusts lacked the cocoa flavor completely. But....the little jewels of chocolate on the inside.....
Well, the chocolate melted all over those rich strawberries and mixed in with the filling.
So I think maybe the crust was just a tease....pretending to be chocolaty when in reality, the chocolate was hiding inside.