by Jessica Ellingsworth of Mayvn, Contributing Author
If eating pie during the holidays is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right. Jessica here, and I, for one, love pie…but don’t like the over-richness that can accompany it. In my latest TH installment, I am giving pie a petite (and healthier!) makeover perfect for your next holiday gathering or to give to your neighbor and friends for Christmas.
These tiny tarts, or ‘pies in a jar’ are all the rage in my local bake shops, but can rack up a hefty price tag when entertaining or buying for gifts. Making them at home is more economical and the creative possibilities are endless. These could go the savory route (applewood bacon and sharp cheddar!) or in my case, I threw in two of my favorite fruits with some chopped walnuts. Heck, even your favorite cherry pie filling will work!
Here are my go-to whole wheat pastry crust that will serve as a great foundation and my apple, fig, walnut filling recipes. I’ll also share some “Pro Tips” for pastry crust-making and answer some F.A.Q.s about pie in a jar below. Look for printable recipes at the very bottom.
Whole Wheat Pastry Crust
Makes: enough for 6-8 small pies
2 c. whole wheat flour (I used King Arther)
10 T. cold butter (I used Kerrygold)
1 T. ground flaxseed
1 tsp. vinegar
1/2 cup icy cold water
Mix flour, salt, and flaxseed in a food processor. Add cold butter and cut in using a pastry blender, or pulse in the food processor. Mix water, egg, and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water mix at a time, until dough forms into a ball. Gather up and pat into a disc. If possible, cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before rolling out. When ready to use, roll dough out on a lightly floured surface.
Apple, Fig, and Walnut Filling
Makes: enough filling for 6-8 small pies
2 c. chopped figs. Cut the ends off and rough chop I used the beautiful ‘brown turkey’ variety
2 peeled, cored, and chopped apples
1/3 c. evaporated cane sugar or sucanat
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon
a splash of vanilla extract
1 – Chop and mix fruit and walnuts.
2 – Add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix well.
3 – Roll out pastry dough and measure your pie circles. Be sure and use the wide-mouth mason jars for an easier time filling.
4 – Press dough in and fill.
5 – Measure your top using the mason seal. Either press the top on or fork press it like I did for a rustic look. Cut a a design on the top for venting during baking.
7 – Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
FAQs About Pie in a Jar
How long does it take you from start to finish?
About an hour plus bake time.
What kind of mason jars do you need to buy?
The dough size can be customized depending on the size of jar, but individual serving size with a wide top works best. I used the wide mouth jelly jar size–5-6 ounces.
If you freeze them unbaked, how do you bake them later? Is there a need to thaw?
No thawing needed. Take them straight from the freezer, take the lid off and bake on a baking sheet. Just line up on a baking sheet in case of bubbling over and bake at 375 degrees . That’s another beauty of a mason jar.
If you bake them and give them away, how do you suggest reheating them after they have been baked?
I would do a low temp oven or toaster oven to maintain the crispness of the crust.
Is it easy to involve kids in making this one?
Yes, this is especially good for older preschoolers and elementary ages. It is great to involve them in the filling, laying the crust on the top, sealing the edges, packaging it with a bow, and most of all giving away a homemade creation that they helped make!
Pro Tips for the Best Pie Crust Every Time
- Use very cold butter cut into small cubes.
- Use very cold water–I put ice in my water and stream it in through the top of the food processor. Cold is the name of the game here. If you really want to go the extra mile, chill your pie plate too; not necessary though.
- Whether making pie dough with a food processor OR by hand with a pastry cutter, don’t make the butter pieces too small. (Yes, I m disagreeing with Grandma’s ‘cornmeal texture’ theory.) You want visible chunks of butter to melt and make tiny pockets during baking yielding the flakiest crust you ever put into your mouth!
- Use the smallest amount of water it takes to give the dough a ‘shaggy’ appearance. You want a tender, flaky crust, not a bread dough texture. Be willing to use a little less or more than the recipe calls for to give your dough that shaggy appearance.
- Cold vodka (yes, hard liquor!) can be substituted for water, and many pastry chefs prefer it because it is dryer (less water by volume) than water and the alcohol evaporates during baking. Less water means less toughening of the gluten.
- Make an even disk with floured hands, wrap in plastic, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (or longer if making a pie later). This makes the start of rolling the dough much easier with cold dough and a uniform ball.
- Do not knead; the more a pastry crust is handled, the tougher it will be.
- Make sure there is visible browning all over the crust—under baked pastries just aren’t as delicious. 🙂
Here’s to celebrating the “little” things this Christmas,
About the Author
Jessica is a freelance writer, stylist, and recipe developer. She lives in Austin with her husband, two daughters, and son. She loves makeup artistry, interiors, travel, being in the kitchen with her kids, creative living, and exploring the streets of Austin for inspiration and the best food dives. She blogs at Mavyn.
- 2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur)
- 10 tablespoons cold butter (I used Kerrygold)
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1/2 cup icy cold water
- Mix flour, salt, and flaxseed in a food processor. Add cold butter and cut in using a pastry blender, or pulse in the food processor. Mix water, egg, and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water mix at a time, until dough forms into a ball. Gather up and pat into a disc. If possible, cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before rolling out. When ready to use, roll dough out on a lightly floured surface.
- 2 cups chopped figs. (Cut the ends off and rough chop I used the beautiful ‘brown turkey’ variety.)
- 2 peeled, cored, and chopped apples
- 1/3 cup evaporated cane sugar or sucanat
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- a splash of vanilla extract
- 1 – Chop and mix fruit and walnuts.
- 2 – Add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix well.
- 3 – Roll out pastry dough and measure your pie circles. Be sure and use the wide-mouth mason jars for an easier time filling.
- 4 – Press dough in and fill.
- 5 – Measure your top using the mason seal. Either press the top on or fork press it like I did for a rustic look. Cut a a design on the top for venting during baking.
- 6 – At this point you can put the lid on for freezing, or if baking right away, brush a little heavy cream on the top (optional) and sprinkle a little sugar over the top.
- 7 – Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.