I’m not sure how we happened upon the end of summer, yet here it is… school has started, evening temperatures are steadily dropping as the days pass, the skies darken just a little earlier, and I can’t wait for fall to arrive shortly. Truthfully, that feeling comes around with most seasons for me: impatience for winter to finally arrive, simply to have an excuse for sinking into the cold and quiet, into the snow when it chooses to arrive in our little valley, to fill our home with the all day smell of slow cooked meals and a heated oven. Then an overwhelming eagerness for spring to get here, the urgency for fresh blooms and brightly colored produce… Followed by the hope for warmer summer temperatures, longer days, and few demands… only to be recycled back into the yearning for autumn all over again. It’s pretty silly, really.
Despite it being the end of summer, I’m still finding mid-summer berries perfectly ripe for eating around this lovely Northwest town. The following pies were born out of curiosity and raspberries sitting in our home, needing to be eaten. I was curious about a chocolate pie crust that was made of something other than crushed chocolate cookies. And as it has been my go-to gadget for the summer, the Babycakes Mini Pie maker worked great for these petite pies, too. The crust isn’t overly sweet, but the vanilla custard balances that out wonderfully. The raspberry topping simply adds a fruity sweetness with a lovely splash of color.
Mini Vanilla Custard Tarts with Chocolate Crusts and Raspberries
Yields about 1 dozen mini pies
For the crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
5-7 tbsp. ice cold water
For the filling:
½ cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 egg yolk, beaten
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, scraped
For the topping:
1- 10 oz. jar raspberry jam
1- 6 oz. container fresh raspberries
Prepare the dough: whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar until completely combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla and egg. Set aside. Either cut or grate (with a box grater) the cold butter into the flour mixture, pinching together the ingredients until it resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until well combined. Add in 5 tablespoons of the cold water, to form a soft dough. Add more cold water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the dough combines. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Prepare the custard filling: in a medium pot, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the two cups of milk and turn the stove on to medium heat. Stir continuously until the mixture begins to thicken (10-15 minutes). Once the custard has thickened, whisk in the egg yolk (whisk quickly to keep the eggs from cooking immediately!). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean. Set aside.
Prepare the chocolate crusts: once the dough has cooled for an hour or two, roll it out to about 1/8-inch on a lightly floured surface. Use the pie cutting tool included with the Babycakes Pie Maker, cutting the larger circles for bottom crusts. You should be able to get at least 12 crusts out of the dough. Lightly brush the wells of your pie maker with oil. Use the pie-pressing tool, placing four of the dough rounds into the pie maker. Prick all over the dough with a fork (keeping it from puffing up while cooking. Close the pie maker until it locks, then plug in and bake for 11-12 minutes, until the crusts are crisp, but not burnt. Unplug the pie maker, transfer the crusts to a wire cooling rack until completely cooled, then repeat the above cooking process until all the dough is used. Be sure to allow the pie maker time to cool completely between each batch. Cool before trying to fill the pie shells.
Prepare your pies: spoon about 3-4 tablespoons of custard filling into each pie shell, smoothing out the filling as best as you can. Refrigerate the mini pies until the custard just sets (15-20 minutes). In a small bowl, whisk the raspberry jam until it’s smooth. Evenly spread about 2 tablespoons of jam on the top of each pie, over the custard. Place a fresh raspberry on the top of each pie. Either serve, or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Wrapped, you can keep these pies refrigerated for up to about 3 days, but eat as quickly as you can for the best flavor and quality!