Several years ago, long before 2.0 came into my life, I lived in a large apartment building that overlooked the Halifax Common. I shared the building with a man I liked to call Hot Wheelchair Guy (because he was hot and he rocked a wheelchair). He lived just up the hall from me. One day, when checking my mail in the lobby, I saw Hot Wheelchair Guy getting into the elevator. I decided it would be the perfect time to get an up close, face-to-face look at him – to confirm hotness. I waited for the elevator doors to close behind him, and then made a break for the stairs. I ran past the first floor apartments, past the gym and pool, and headed into the stairwell. I took the stairs three at a time. I ran incredibly quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I beat the elevator up to the second floor. But because I didn’t know just how fast I could move, I also didn’t know that I had arrived on the second floor before the elevator.
When I burst through the end door of my hallway, I couldn’t see Hot Wheelchair Guy. I assumed that I had missed him as he came off the elevator, and that he was safe and sound in his apartment. (That had happened in the past – the man was almost as fast as this gal, and his apartment was right beside the elevators.) So, I continued to run at full tilt up the hall toward my apartment at the opposite end. Super Speed Mode was now fully engaged, and unfortunately, I was unable to slow down as Hot Wheelchair Guy slowly rolled off the elevator at the mid-point of the corridor. Impact was inevitable. As I tried to swerve and avoid collision, I launched my body off the right side of his chair, flipped through the air, and crashed into a wall.
Imagine his surprise.
Now imagine the sound my body made when it hit the wall.
I didn’t even get a good look at him. In hindsight, it probably would have made more sense to ride up in the elevator with him, but that didn’t occur to me until after the… incident.
Hey, you know what makes people run fast? Cranberries. Because they’re healthy and stuff. But all that healthiness has to be balanced with sugar and butter, so you should shove some cranberries into a wee pie and consume ’em that way. Better yet, top that mini-pie with ice cream and then run around your neighbourhood. Goodness knows who you might run into. The toasted walnuts in the streusel topping balance the sweetness of the jammy cranberry filling in these pies, AND: maple syrup comes from trees, which means it’s probably good for you, and there is maple syrup in the filling. I’m not saying these mini-pies will help you win a marathon or anything. I’m just saying they might help you win a marathon.
. . .
Cranberry Mini-Pies Topped with Walnut Streusel
recipe: adapted slightly from Better Homes and Gardens’ Holiday Baking Issue 2012
Yields 10 mini-pies.
For the streusel:
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons rolled oats
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons cold butter, chopped into small pieces
For the pastry:
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Mise en place – begin by getting organized. Measure out all of your ingredients. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant (about 3-5 minutes) and allow to cool. Place the ingredients for the filling in a small saucepan so you can make the pie filling while the pastry is baking.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Make the streusel topping by combining the toasted walnuts, brown sugar, flour, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon and cold butter in a small bowl. Rub the ingredients together with your fingers (or a fork) until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the 1/2 cup butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Stir in the 1 cup flour until combined. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions (about 1 ounce each). Form each portion into a ball. Using your fingers, lightly press the dough balls from the centre outward into the bottom and up the sides of 10 ungreased wells of a standard sized muffin pan (2.5 inch diameter). Bake for 15 minutes (the pastry may shrink slightly as it bakes). Do not turn the oven off when you are finished baking – you will be returning your pies to the oven shortly.
While the pastry is baking, make the filling. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, cranberries, water and maple syrup. Cook until thickened and bubbly, mashing the cranberries slightly as they cook. Be careful – you don’t want to spray hot cranberry juice on your skin. The filling should be thick and jam-like. Set aside.
When the pastry is finished baking, remove from the oven and immediately spoon the filling into the hot pastry cups. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the filling, dividing it equally between the cups.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden and the filling is bubbly. Cool in the muffin pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the pies from the muffin wells (a small pallet knife works well for releasing them), and allow to continue cooling on the wire rack.
Serving suggestion: warm, with a scoop of ice cream and a dusting of cinnamon.