I love to bake, but it’s been a while since I truly experimented. On a whim I bought some blackberries at the store, and by the time I got home I’d decided I wanted to bake something. It didn’t happen that particular night, but there was a display of delicious looking nectarines at another grocery store a day or two later… And this was born.
Because there was always an apple tree in our back yard growing up, I started out by making apple pies. Then my parents planted sweet cherry trees in the front yard and I was faced with a new challenge. You need tart cherries for a pie, like the kind grown in states like Michigan, New York, and Utah where the air has a cold snap to it during the winter — otherwise the pie will end up sickly sweet and weird. But tart cherries don’t grow so well in California, so we make due with cheats like adding pureed plum to the sweet cherry filling to give it that tartness.
Knowing that and adding orange juice for the tartness is what made this “cup-pie” experiment so successful, although I might do some tweaking in the future. If you try this recipe at home, let me know what you think!
Nectarine & Blackberry Mini Pies
- 1.25 c flour
- 0.5 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 8 tbsp butter, unsalted
- 2 tbsp vodka, cold
- 2 tbsp water, cold
Protip: Store your baking vodka in the freezer and do not substitute. This is what makes the crust nice and flaky.
- Cut together the butter and dry ingredients. You can do this with a fork, but after a while I suggest giving up and just working it with your hands.
- Mix in the cold vodka and cold water. (If you’re using gluten free flour, I’ve noticed this is sometimes a little too much liquid — either use a little less water or add a little more flour.)
- Mold the dough into a round disc shape and refrigerate for two hours or more.
- 2 nectarines, pitted and sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 6oz blackberries
- 1 to 1.5 c fresh squeezed orange juice
- 0.5 c to 1 c water, optional
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Dash or more of cinnamon, to taste
- Dash of salt, to taste
- 2 to 3 tbsp honey
- 0.5 to 1 c rolled oats
This is the more freeform part of the recipe, so take the ingredients with a grain of salt.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the nectarines, blackberries, orange juice, sugar, and cinnamon until boiling, stirring occasionally. (Add water if any of the fruit pieces are completely not submerged.)
- Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, then strain out the fruit and set aside.
- Stir in the honey until dissolved. Continue simmering until reduced to the desired consistency, not too runny but not too thick to pour.
- 0.5 to 1 c rolled oats
- 3 to 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 0.25 c sugar
- Dash of cinnamon
- 1 to 2 tsp flour or baking mix
This is another fun part to do with your hands.
- Heat the butter in a glass bowl until melted.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix the melted butter, rolled oats, sugar, cinnamon, and flour until thoroughly combined.
- Stir half or a third of this into the fruit for texture.
Bringing it all together:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Prep the baking tin with aluminum foil liners, sprayed or brushed with melted butter.
- Fold a piece of foil in half and mould into approximate shape using the bottom of the tin. Then put it in the cup right side up and mold to fit.
- Make sure there are edges sticking up to make removing the pies from the tin easier.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and section into six equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round disk and roll out as thin as you can get it.
- Keeping plastic wrap between the rolling surface and the dough, and between the dough and the rolling pin, helps with picking up and transferring it without ripping once it’s rolled out.
- Just deal with the fact that it’s going to rip anyway.
- Get the dough into the tin foil cups and make sure it’s in there evenly and without any holes.
- Spoon equal portions of fruit and oats mixture into each pie cup.
- Sprinkle some of the separate oats mixture on top, using about half.
- Pour equal portions of the reduced fruit juice into each pie cup until you can see the liquid filling all the caps and getting near the top of the cup. (But not too close, you don’t want it to bubble over too much. There may be some extra juice.)
- Sprinkle the remaining oats mixture on top.
- Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for another 30 minutes or until the edges of the crust are browned.
- Let cool for at least an hour, then serve with vanilla ice cream or enjoy plain.
Wrapping up the experiment:
- The tin foil cups. They made it super easy to pop the pies out and serve.
- The crust. It’s an old favorite recipe of mine and has never failed me. I’d had to roll the dough pretty thin, so it was cooked through, but the crust and filling both had enough structure to stand up without falling apart outside of the tin.
- The tartness. That orange juice was a really good call.
What Needs Work
- The filling. It was a good flavor but something was bit off — maybe it needs a bit more sugar and salt. And maybe a little more crunch, like you get with a good apple pie. I’ve adjusted the recipe above to account for this and not call for keeping the fruit over heat for as long as I actually did. I cooked them to kind of a mush, whoops.
If you try this recipe at home, let me know what you think!