Dessert Made Simple: Mini Apple Pies and Mini Peach Pies

Recently, at a friend's BBQ, someone made these incredible mini apple pies. They were comforting, homey, crunchy, sweet -- everything a good pie is. Even though I was full, I scarfed down a few of these suckers, unable to contain myself. Between mouthfuls of pie, I vowed I was going to make these at home. But then I recalled watching my friend make them. Dough, eggwash, pie filling, apples, spices and flour were spread all over the counter as she hurriedly filled and pressed together pieces of dough. It looked like... So. Much. Work. Don't get me wrong -- the pies came out perfect. They were little, golden, crusty pockets of heaven. But between working full-time and going to school every evening, I wouldn't be able to justify spending several hours on pie, particularly when much of the labor is in the assembly process. So I cut a few corners, partially working off the back of my Pillsbury pie crust box and this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. My recipe includes both an apple pie filling and a peach pie filling. Read on and you'll learn how to make these mini pie cookies in no time.

Serves: About 6 Prep time: About 45 minutes Cook time: About 25-30 minutes

Ingredients: 1 9-inch roll of Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust 1 egg, beaten 1 teaspoon water

For apple filling (for 6 mini pies): 1-1.5 Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples 1/4 cup white sugar 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg Small pinch of kosher salt (less than 1/4 teaspoon) A few squirts lemon juice, optional (to prevent apples from browning)

For peach filling (for 6 mini pies): 1 8-ounce can peaches 3 tablespoons white sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare pie dough: Roll out the pie crust to about 1/4 inch thick. Get two differently sized cookie cutters (or drinking glasses) and cut out little circles. Cut out six 3" circles and six 3.75" circles.

3. Prepare eggwash: Beat the egg in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon water and mix.

4. Create apple filling: Mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Peel and chop apples into little squares (about 1/8" thick, 1/4" squares). If they start to turn brown, squirt with some lemon. Toss apples into the sugar-spice mixture.

4. Or create peach filling: Drain the peaches. In a bowl, combine with sugar and cinnamon.

5. Assemble the mini pies: Put some water in another small bowl. Roll up a paper towel and dip it in the water. Moisten a 3" circle of pie crust with the paper towel. Spoon a small amount of filling onto the circle. Cover with a 3.75" circle of pie crust and press the sides to close. Crimp the edges with a fork. If desired, cut three little slits on the surface of the mini pie (refer to picture.) Repeat on all the dough.

6. Brush each mini pie with egg wash. Place pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Bake in oven until light golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

My Notes: Why Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples? These apples are pretty sturdy, so their firm texture holds up during the baking process. Plus, they both have a crisply tart taste. Golden Delicious apples tend to be a bit sweeter, while Granny Smith ones tend to be more on the sour side. Simply choose the variety you prefer.

Why canned peaches? Aside from requiring less preparation time and effort, canned peaches are much softer and sweeter than the fresh kind. As a result, you'll have a gooey, sweet filling for your mini pies.

But the Pillsbury Pie Crust box says to use a baking time of about 425 degrees: Baking these tiny pies at a lower temperature ensures they get cooked through and reach a lovely golden brown before getting a chance to burn.

Why use egg wash? This egg-water mixture provides a glossy finish to the pies, and helps keep them from burning.

Can I use different filling? Of course! You can use whatever filling you'd normally use in a pie.

What do I do with any extra filling? Um... eat it!