Move over cupcakes, mini pies are stealing the spotlight

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Cameryn Mercurio

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Move over cupcakes, mini pies are stealing the spotlight

California Milk Advisory Board dishes out a sweet recipe in trendy bite size form

 So. San Francisco & Modesto – November 22, 2011 – Pies are a tradition at holiday gatherings, a “welcome to the neighborhood” gift and a beloved classic comfort food that never seem to go out of favor. With hundreds of filling possibilities from fruit to chocolate, there is truly a pie for every palate. Pies have certainly been a dessert mainstay, but today they are enjoying a renaissance in a new, more portable form.

Bumping cupcakes out as the “it” hand-held dessert, mini pies are turning a restaurant trend into a household delight. The National Restaurant Association ranked “bite-size/mini desserts” as the second most popular dessert trend in 2011 following artisan/house-made ice cream. Bakers, chefs and home cooks alike are not only embracing the cutie pie trend but making it their own with everything from traditional flavors such as apple, pumpkin and banana cream to more trendy flavors like salted caramel, peanut butter and chili chocolate pies. Not just limited to sweet, savory minis like chicken and meat pies are just as hard to resist.

Just in time for the holiday entertaining, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) has created a recipe for Orchard Hand Pies to help you bring the trend home. Featuring seasonal fruits and Real California Blue and Cheddar cheeses, the classic apple pie has been elevated to a new sweet and savory level. Need more convincing?

  •  Mini desserts and foods are a refreshing reminder to slow down, savor and enjoy each of your bites.  Mini pies make the perfect party food because you don’t need a knife and fork to enjoy.
  • In any pie recipe, the dough can make or break it. You need just the right crust to hold your favorite filling.  The CMAB’s All-Butter Pie Dough is the perfect base for your pies from sweet or savory to big or small.
  • Mini pies are easier to make than they sound – they use ingredients and pans most likely already in your cupboards. They bake in half the time (30-45 minutes) of a normal-sized pie and make the same amount of servings if you use an eight- cup muffin tin, which also creates the perfect size and shape while baking.
  • Orchard Hand Pies are filled with pears, apples and delicious Real California Cheeses that pair well with beer, wine and even chocolates. In fact, the Blue and Cheddar cheeses in the pies can be complimented by pairing them with stouts, barley wines, and pale ales. Check out the free “Pair Savvy” smart phone, available for download on iPhone and Android devices, at for details.

Dairy products – including cheese – made with California milk can be identified by the Real California Milk and Real California Cheese seal, which certifies that the products are made exclusively with milk produced on California dairy farms. Ninety-nine percent of California dairy farms are family-owned. California produces more fluid milk, butter, ice cream, yogurt and nonfat dry milk than any other state. The state is the second-largest producer of cheese, which is available nationally under the Real California Cheese seal.


Makes 8 pies.

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 large Bosc pear, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/4 cup sugar, divided

1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon Real California butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup crumbled Real California blue cheese

1/2 cup grated Real California Cheddar cheese

All-Butter Pie Dough (recipe below) or 2 (15-ounce) packages ready-made pie crusts

Cooking spray 

Heat oven to 375°F. Combine apples, pears, 3 tablespoons sugar, pecans, cornstarch, butter, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, lemon zest and vanilla in a medium bowl; toss well. In a separate bowl, mix blue cheese and Cheddar cheese.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough 1/8-inch thick. Cut out eight 4 1/2-inch circles and eight 4-inch circles using round cutters or a plate, glass or lid of the right diameter. Lightly spray 8 wells of a muffin tin with cooking spray and line with 4 1/2-inch dough circles, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang.

Brush edges of dough with water. Sprinkle cheese mixture over bottom of dough, dividing it evenly. Mound fruit mixture on top of cheese, dividing it evenly. Place 4-inch dough circles on top, pressing edges with the tines of a fork to seal. Mix together 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Brush tops of pies with water and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. With the tines of a fork, poke a few holes in each pie to vent steam. Bake 35-40 minutes or until pies are golden brown and a knife inserted into the filling feels no resistance. Cool pies in tin about 10 minutes; remove from tin and cool on a rack. Serve warm or room temperature.


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces) Real California unsalted butter, frozen

3/4 cup ice water

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt. With a large-holed grater, grate butter into flour mixture; toss lightly with your fingers to coat butter with flour. Drizzle 1/2 cup water over flour and butter mixture; toss lightly with your hands or a spatula. If necessary, gradually add more water until clumps of dough adhere to each other when lightly squeezed. Transfer dough to work surface and form into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Dough may be store in refrigerator up to 24 hours or frozen. Bring to room temperature before using.