Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vanilla Thimbleberry Mini Pies

Hi there! I have so missed all you delightful people.  I promise I didn't just abandon you willy nilly--I was studying in Granada, Spain last semester.  I can't wait to tell you all about it.  I even have an awesome recipe straight from my host mom's kitchen to share with you later.  But chances to spend my own time in the kitchen were few and far between.  That was mostly ok, because my host mom, Manuela, was an amazing cook.  But as much as I miss Spain and everything that was magnificent about it, one thing I LOVE is getting to putter around my own kitchen again.  First I wanna show you some pictures from my trip, plus I baked you some tiny pies!  Can we be friends again?

This is my incredible host family.  Marian, me, Katie (My roommate), and Manuela.

After my program ended, my boyfriend came out to visit me in Granada, then travel to Croatia for one last week before the adventure ended.  This is a view of Dubrovnik, Croatia from a ferry we were on.  

The Alhambra, Granada's most famous attraction.  It might be my favorite view ever- When you get up higher, it's sillhouetted against the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Some of my lovely friends in front of the Alhambra.
(This is one of my friend Morgan's pictures.  Check out her rockin' awesome blog!

 Sahara Desert, Morocco.

 Lagos, Portugal.  

 My favorite store in Granada, filled with colorful lanterns.

Looking up into the Albaicyn, the Arab Quarter or Granada.  Many of the houses and buildings here are remnants from when Granada was the last Muslim-ruled part of Spain, hundreds of years ago.

There are so many things I wish I kept you guys up to date on, but since I fell so far behind, I just had to pick a few pictures of my favorite places and memories.  I hope you liked them!  Did all that photo viewing make you hungry?  Good, because I've got some pies for you.  Vanilla Thimbleberry Mini-Pies!  

So these thimbleberries.  One thing about them.  They are cute.  They are tiny.  They are delicious.  They are ridiculously hard to pick.  I didn't know they existed until the other day when I was hiking with my boyfriend.  We were actually looking for Porcini mushrooms without a lot of success when we stumbled across this wonderland of thimbleberries!  I was prepared to finally experience my childhood dream of living off the land like the boxcar children, filling a basket to the brim with fresh berries and taking them home to create a delicious breakfast.  It turns out the boxcar children may have had it more difficult than I originally anticipated.  After two hours of struggling to free myself from viney foliage growing on the side of something that may or may not have qualified as a cliff to pick the enough of the world's tiniest, most fragile berries to fill a mason jar, I have a lot more respect for anyone who leaves their home in the car of a train at the crack of dawn to forage for berries just to feed their family of 12.  Props, boxcar children.  I could probably never live like you.  What I'm trying to say here is that unless you're an expert forager, maybe just keeping an eye out for thimbleberries at the store is the thing to do. And if thimbleberries aren't a thing at your grocery store either, almost any other berry will be delicious in these pies.  Ok, so now that we've got our berry situation figured out.  Down to business.

Vanilla Thimbleberry(Or whatever kind of berry your heart desires) Mini Pies

Grease a muffin tin.  Preheat the oven to 350.  I just made a basic pie crust for these.  My favorite way to make it lately is using the rule 1,2,3.  I use one part water, two parts fat, and three parts flour.  For the fat, I use half butter and half shortening.  Ugh, math.  I don't like it.  Anyway, I know you guys have your own crust recipes you know and love. Roll out the crust and cut out pieces to put inside the muffin tin.  You can store this in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, until you're ready to use it.  When you are ready, bake it for 20 minutes, or until it starts to brown. For the vanilla cream, I used Martha Stewart's recipe.  While that was refrigerating, I made the berry mixture.  One cup of berries, one tablespoon lemon juice, and two tablespoons sugar, or to taste. Thimbleberries are so fragile that I really only had to stir them a little with the other ingredients until they became the perfect smooth texture.  Depending on what kind of berry you use, you might need to put the berries, lemon juice, and sugar in a pot on the stove and heat them up while stirring until they become a little more manageable.  Now everything's ready to be put together!  Spoon the vanilla cream about a third of the way up into the pie cups.  On top of that, spoon the berry mixture another third of the way up.  Add a top crust if you want!  If you don't want a crust on top, you're done and you can take the mini pies out of the tins once they're cool!  If you do, put the crust on and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, but watch it to make sure the berries don't boil over.  

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