Thursday, July 7, 2011

All-American Afternoon Tea

Blackberry pies.
So, you know how my sister, Frakah, and I are into afternoon tea and want to start our own tea/bakery one day? Well, we're coming up with ideas for themed teas, and I came up with the idea for an American tea to celebrate the 4th of July. My family always gets together for every holiday, so I thought this would be the perfect occasion to try out a special tea theme.

It's a pie tree!
My first thought was (shocker) dessert. I knew right away that I wanted to make mini pies- blue ones and red ones, based on whatever I could find at the farmer's market. My second idea was for deviled eggs and mini hamburgers and veggie burgers (because I'm a vegetarian). The rest was based upon what we usually have for the 4th of July: potato salad, chips and dip, and veggies with dip.

I volunteered to make the pies, the burger buns, and the veggie burgers. I had no idea what I'd signed myself up for, but let's just say I ended the 3-day weekend feeling absolutely exhausted.

Aw, so cute! Mini veggie burgers.
My plan was to divide the baking into 3 days for the 3 items: Saturday was for pies, Sunday was for buns, and Monday was for veggie burgers (which needed to be fresh for the grill anyway). Well Saturday evening and Sunday morning saw me failing with my pies (24 mini pies means rolling dough out and shaping 48 pie crusts), Sunday afternoon/evening saw me failing with my buns (the damn dough would not rise!), and Monday morning the veggie burgers worked out perfectly (yay!). I actually had to re-bake my pies (which were baked in muffin pans) because I under-cooked them the first time around. Luckily, the pies turned out to be quite good. The buns, on the other hand, were passable, but should have been fluffier.

Strawberry-rhubarb mini pie.
All of this baking had me thinking: why do I put myself through this trouble? I got to thinking and realized the following: a) the stress of baking takes my mind off of any kind of stress/frustration/bad thoughts and feelings I may have, b) I usually enjoy the end result, and, most importantly, c) I do it for the pleasure that it usually brings other people. Few things make me happier than seeing my nephew get excited over something I've baked, or having my sister-in-law tell me how great something looks (even when I think it doesn't). What it really comes down to is sharing the fruits of my labor with people I care about. It's all about the love.

As for the 4th of July Afternoon Tea, it went over pretty well. I made a berry iced tea and threw some frozen strawberries and blackberries into the pitcher. My mini pies were blackberry and strawberry-rhubarb and though not perfect, they looked pretty darn cute, if you ask me. The family seemed to enjoy everything, and though my nephew did not partake of the meal, he did inquire about a pie. Sadly, boys who don't eat dinner don't get dessert.

Happy Independence Day!
Mini Pies

4 discs of chilled pie dough
1 recipe strawberry-rhubarb filling
1 recipe blackberry filling (below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out 1 disc of pie dough to about 1/8 of an inch. Cut out 12 4-inch circles of dough (you may have to roll out the dough a little thinner) and fit them into the muffin tin. Chill the tin in the fridge while you prepare your filling. Next, roll out the second disc and either cut out 12 3-1/2 inch circles (for strawberry-rhubarb) or use a pizza slicer to cut long thin strips for a lattice crust (for blackberry). Fill each pie crust with filling (abut 3/4 full) and top with the top crust, crimping the edges together.

Bake one muffin tin for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for another 30 minutes. You want the crust to be a nice golden brown (try not to under-bake!). Let the pies rest until completely cool.

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