Mini Pie Crust Shells
These mini pie crust shells make the perfect bite sized pies. Fill them with savory fillings, and they’ll be the hit for your next cocktail party. Fill the shells with sweet fillings, and you have mini dessert cups.
Many years ago, before the mister and the kiddo were around, I’d throw myself big birthday parties. Lots of people. Four birthday cakes. And tons of finger food.
I remember making gougeres. And olive poppers wrapped in cheddar cheese pie crust. And mini pie crusts filled with mushrooms. That memory is what brings these mini pie shells to you now.
Flight school: the shrinking pie crust
One of the challenges of making mini pie shells is shrinking pie crust. Pie crust shrinks when the gluten is over-worked or when the dough is warm when you start to bake it.
Tips from the wise quacker to prevent shrinkage:
1) don’t overwork your dough
2) chill before baking
3) blind bake
Even if you do all the right things, baking pie crusts in a mini-muffin pan can be particularly frustrating because shrinking pie crust means there’s no room for filling (below photo, right). Some recipes call for baking the pie shells on the backside of the muffin tin to take advantage of gravity. But those still end up misshapen and now not so miniature (below, left).
So, what’s the solution?
Step by step
Making the pie dough
Make the pie dough as you typically would. This recipe is slightly adapted from the flaky cream cheese pie crust from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I find the food processor to be the easiest way to make pie crust, but you can also use a stand mixer or mix by hand.
Combine the flours, sugar, salt, and baking powder (Panel #1, below). Then add the cream cheese and pulse 10 times (Panel #2). Cream cheese makes pie crust easier to work with than an all-butter pie crust.
Add the butter cubes and pulse another 10 times (Panel #3, above). Then add the cream and cider vinegar and pulse only until the pie dough starts to come together (Panel #4).
Turn it out onto your clean countertop or into a large bowl and press it together gently with your hands until there are no more dry crumbs. Divide the pie dough if you need to. You will need about 300 grams of dough to make 24 mini pie crust shells.
Shape it into a ball (or balls if you have made extra) and then press down to make a disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Making the pie shells
To make the shells, roll out your pie dough on a lightly floured surface to an eighth of an inch. Use a 2.5 inch cookie cutter to cut out rounds.
Center the round on your mini muffin cup and use your thumb and forefinger of both hands to ease the round evenly into the cup until it reaches the bottom. Try not to stretch the dough as you ease it down. It should fill the cup without pushing.
Re-roll the scraps and cut out more 2.5 inch circles until you have 24 mini shells. If your dough starts to warm and get soft, roll it up in plastic wrap and let it chill again for 15 minutes.
Once you have your shells, place another mini-muffin tin on top (photos below). Gently press down so that the bottom of the second tin is firmly in place. This second tin is going to prevent the dough from sliding down the muffin cup as it blind bakes.
Chill your dough in the freezer for at least an hour before baking. You do need to weight down the shells with the second tin before freezing because otherwise you won’t be able to insert the second tin as far down.
Baking the pie shells
To blind bake the shells, bake the pans in a 375 degree oven for 14 minutes. Then remove the top pan and finish baking for 2 to 3 minutes until the shells are golden and fully baked on the bottom.
How to serve
- Sweet fillings: make mini blueberry pies or use any other jam or pie filling topped with whipped cream, mini curd tarts like this citrus curd and fresh seasonal fruit or blackberry curd tart, pudding, Nutella, etc.
- Bite-sized savory pies: use eggs, sauteed mushrooms or tomatoes and fresh herbs.
Variations and substitutions
- Use 100% all-purpose flour instead of a 50% AP-cake flour mix. Your crust will be slightly less tender.
- Reduce or omit the sugar for savory pies.
- You can use ice water in place of the heavy cream.
- Mix the dough in a mixer or even by hand.
- Check out the table below for how to scale up this recipe for other pie crusts. If you’re dividing that double or lattice pie crust into top and bottom, I aim to roll out about 360 grams of this pie dough for my bottom crust. But I do tend to make more pie dough than I need so I can freeze the remainder for pot pies or make pie crust cookies.
|Lots of lattice|
|AP flour||62 grams||75 grams||125 grams||167 grams|
|Cake flour||62 grams||75 grams||125 grams||167 grams|
skip if savory
½ if savory
1 if savory
1.5 if savory
|Baking powder||¼ teaspoon||¼ teaspoon||½ teaspoon||½ teaspoon|
|Salt||¼ teaspoon||¼ teaspoon|
½ if savory
½ if savory
½ if savory
|Cream cheese||64 grams||77 grams||128 grams||170 grams|
|Unsalted butter||85 grams||100 grams||170 grams||227 grams |
|Heavy cream||1 tablespoon||1.5 tablespoons||2 tablespoons||3 tablespoons|
|Cider vinegar||½ tablespoon||½ tablespoon||1 tablespoon||1 tablespoon|
Unbaked pie dough can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days before rolling out and baking. Unbaked pie dough also freezes perfectly, double wrapped in plastic and in a freezer bag, for three to six months.
Yes, baked and unfilled pie shells can be frozen for a month or so. Stack them one inside the other in a freezer bag. And be sure to put them on top of everything else in your freezer so they don’t get smashed!
Do you love pastry? Check out other recipes from the pie and pastry archives like this rainbow fruit tart, chocolate rugelach, strawberry apple pie, or leek and squash quiche.
Have extra pie dough? Make pie crust cookies!
Mini Pie Crust Shells
- Food processor or stand mixer optional
- 4 12 cup mini muffin tins or two 24-cup mini muffin tins
- ½ cup (62 grams) bleached, all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (62 grams) cake flour
- ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 4½ tablespoons (64 grams) cream cheese cold, cut into cubes
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter cold, cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- ½ tablespoon cider vinegar
- Add the dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt) to your food processor or mixer and mix briefly.½ cup (62 grams) bleached, all-purpose flour, ½ cup (62 grams) cake flour, ½ tablespoon granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon table salt
- Add the cream cheese cubes and pulse 10 times.4½ tablespoons (64 grams) cream cheese
- Add the butter and pulse another 10 times.6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
- Add the heavy cream and vinegar and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.½ tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or into a large bowl and press the pieces together gently with your hands. You aren't kneading the pie dough. You just want all the little pieces to be able to stick into a single ball.
- Once you have a single mass of pie crust, shape it into a ball and then press down with your hands to form a thick disk. Wrap this disk in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Making the mini pie shells
- Take your pie dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured countertop until it is ⅛ inch thick.
- Use 2½ round cookie cutters to cut out pie crust rounds and gently insert the round into the mini muffin pan cup. Try not to force and stretch the round.
- Re-roll any scraps and repeat until you have filled all 24 mini muffin cups.
- Take your empty mini muffin tin(s) and lay them over top of the mini pie shells. Gently push down so that the empty tin sits snuggly in the filled one.
- Freeze the muffin tins for at least one hour to chill the dough.
- Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake the mini pie shells with the empty tin on top for 14 minutes. Then remove the top tin and continue baking for 2 to 3 minutes until the shells are a golden brown and the bottoms are fully cooked.
- Remove the shells to a cooling rack and let cool completely before filling.
If you make this mini pie crust recipe, please leave a comment and rating here. Don’t forget to tell me what you filled them with!
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