SOMETIMES, a cave is exactly where you want to live.
Okay, replace “you” with “I” and that probably becomes a truer statement, but maybe you’re interested in some subterranean, poorly-lit, drip-decorated real estate, too.
In any case, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. I’ve done what I normally do when I’m feeling claustrophobic in my own skin: I retreat into YA lit. It used to be that, during exam time in college, I’d hie off to the local public library and stock up on L.M. Montgomery books. I still do fall back on Anne (though I never quite cottoned to the Emily series), but these days I’m wandering deeper into the world of YA fantasy.
A number of other books aside, I’ve been making my way through Kristin Cashore’s Graceling books. The nuances of the world she’s created are marvelous and terrifying, and I’ve been absolutely enthralled. She’s chosen not to write three books in direct sequence, but instead explores different aspects of the same world through three very distinct heroines. Each book builds on the ones before it, but stands by itself as an exploration of this world she’s imagined and built. It puts me in mind of Robin McKinley, and reminds me that YA stories can be contained and fulfilled in one single volume; that attention can be gathered, caught, and satisfied within the covers of a single book; and that story lines don’t have to spin out, punctuated by lurching endings, in order to tell meaningful tales of loss, betrayal, and growth.
Today, shaking out of my Bitterblue-haze (thank you, public library!), I was wondering what sorts of foods fit into caves and into small, cupped hands. Our fridge has been home to a bowl of sadly ignored strawberries and a handful of almost-forgotten raspberries, and my mother has been complaining about the Betty Crocker pie crust taking up space in her pantry. Without really having enough fruit for a pie filling, I figured I’d make do and create some mini pies. They’re perfect for wrapping up in wax paper and tucking into the back of satchel, or for warming gingerly over a night fire while watching the moon rise over an unfamiliar landscape. Something an adventuress might have with her as she rides out from the only home she’s ever known; or perhaps a treat shared among friends coming together after months apart.
I guess these have been called hand pies by other bakers, or two-bite pies. But I’m calling mine cave pies, because that’s what they are and that’s what I need them to be. Maybe tomorrow I won’t need or want this cave anymore; but this evening, it’s time to build a blanket fort and read The Blue Sword by flashlight.
[And if you've the time or inclination, send me a few of your fave YA reads; I love recommendations]
Strawberry-Raspberry Cave Pies
- 2 pie crusts (I’d recommend using Simply Recipe’s pâte brisée recipe, but I cheated this time and used store bought. I’m blushing as I type this, I am)
- 2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp bourbon (Don’t want to use bourbon? Vanilla is a good sub here)
- smattering of orange zest
- 1/2 cup strawberry-raspberry mix
- 1 egg, beaten and set aside
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, brown sugar, cornstarch, bourbon, and orange zest. A stand mixer or hand mixer would be ideal here, but it’s not necessary. Then mix the fruit in, so that the strawberries and raspberries are mashed but not wholly incorporated into the mixture — you want some heft here, to give your filling texture and weight.
Roll out your pie dough on a floured surface. With a biscuit cutter or an empty (clean!) jar, cut out a series of circles, around 2 inches in diameter. Set aside. Gather up the spare bits of dough; reshape into a ball; roll back out; cut more circles. You’re going to need an even number of circles, so keep some sort of count. I’m an absolute tragedy with a rolling pin, so I only managed to make 30 circles in total — which comes out to 15 cave pies. If I’d rolled my dough thinner or used a smaller jar, I maybe could’ve stretched it out to 20 pies.
I chose to assemble my cave pies on the lined baking sheet, which certainly saved time and clean-up. Spoon half a teaspoon of filling into the center of one of the dough circles. Brush the edges with the beaten egg, and press one of the other circles on top. Seal, and use a fork to crimp the edges. Repeat until you’ve used either all the circles or all your filling (hopefully the circles run out first!).
Brush the tops with egg. If you have sanding sugar, you can sprinkle some on top.
Bake at 350F for about 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool for a few moments, sneak them into your cave or den or blanket fort, and enjoy!