Codex Entry: Kitchen Electric -> The Personal Pie Maker

We're going to dive right in to the eponymous "Feeding" portion of the blog with a review of possibly the greatest kitchen-related investment I've ever made: the mini-pie maker. Hyperbole? No, and I'll tell you why.

Nerds often get tossed handily under the LAZY bus when the subject of food preparation comes into play. Though this is assuredly true on some levels (overdramatized for humorous effect here) this is also at least partially unfair. The appeal of high yielding food, epic deliciousness from very little effort, resounds with pretty much everyone.  Time is a precious precious resource and there are probably an infinite number of things we'd rather do than cook, but we don't have to resign ourselves to fingertips coated with orange artificial cheese. (Cue the "How DARE you besmirch Cheetos/Doritos woman!")

Behold, the mini-pie maker. 
This device can transform a variety of ingredients into a set of up to four personal-sized (4 inches in diameter) pies in a mere 8-10 minutes. I cannot underscore this enough. PIE. Pie that you do not have to share with anyone in pretty much any flavor you can dream up. Piping hot, flaky crusted pastry goodness that fits neatly into a single hand in less time than it takes to set up a game of Arkham Horror (ok ok, plus expansions and character selection).

To backtrack a bit, it then comes as no surprise when I confess where my loyalties lie in the eternal debate as to which confection reigns supreme, pie or cake, (note: this is not actually a debate whatsoever) but even my ardent affection faltered somewhat upon seeing the retail price for this beauty. While the siren song of personal pies beckoned relentlessly, I remained deeply skeptical of the device, not wishing to fork over $100+ for a kitchen gadget that could very well end up barely used and consigned to basement storage (see: our espresso set, fondue set and waffle iron). One conveniently timed sale and a whole heap of research later, I relented and the pie-marker was sitting on our counter. It has been a beloved feature of our kitchen ever since.

So how did the pie-maker come to this lauded position and avoid the Valley of Unloved Kitchen Electrics? Three primary reasons: versatility, facility of use and ease of cleaning. Though we typically associate pie with dessert, the pie-marker allows for myriad possibilities from both the sweet and savory realms. Alongside traditional favorites like blueberry and peach we've crafted Cornish pasties, fajita pockets, lamb curry psuedo-samosas, and bacon-laden breakfast quiches. 
The vast majority of these are incredibly easy to prepare and I'll be sharing some recipes in future posts. I've also heard, but have not attempted it myself, that the pie-maker can be used to bake personal cupcakes and muffins. 
You say 'easy', but how easy is it really? 

The degree of facility depends entirely on how you want to tackle a particular recipe. If the notion of following any recipe makes you bristle, you can still achieve fairly awesome results with canned pre-made filling. Open can, cut dough, pour filling, close pie-maker, wait, consume. That's it. Some of the best pies we've made to date were filled with leftover bits from other meals. (Note: some filings will need to be cooked before they are incorporated into a pie) That being said, some recipes are more labor-intensive and may be better attempted once you've practiced and leveled up your pie-making skills.

Cleaning is stunningly, mercifully simple. Simply wait until the pie-maker has cooled so as not to be a burn threat, but is still warm to the touch, and wipe down with a damp paper towel. Deeper cleanings should be interspersed at regular intervals (say every third or fourth batch or if you're swapping from savory to sweet pies) but 'deeper' here implies only that you swab the inside with a soft soapy sponge then rinse by wiping the area with another damp paper towel. That's really all you ever need to do aside from perhaps buffing out the occasional fingerprint.

You mentioned dough back there. What kind of dough are we talking about?
The dough that gets most frequently tossed into the pie-maker is your run-of-the-mill pre-made store-bought pie dough. You grab a box from your grocer's refrigerated foods section (the dough is typically nestled near the butter or cheese).  A box will usually contain 2 'scrolls' of dough, which is more than enough to make the tops and bottoms of four personal pies. Gently unroll the scroll and cut out the required rounds. We have also used tortillas, ready-made croissants from a can, and phyllo dough.

Wait wait wait. You said 'cut the dough'. How will I know how much to cut? What do I cut it with?
Not to worry. Most personal pie-makers on the market today come with little stamp-type cutters that are precisely measured to provide you with dough circles that exactly match the dimensions of your pie-maker. All you have to do is apply the stamp to the dough and remove any excess.

So why this model pie-maker? There are a whole bunch to choose from. Is this brand better than the others?
My pre-purchase readings led me to conclude that the vast majority of personal pie makers available for sale right now have pretty much identical functionality. The primary sources of price differentials are the number of accessories included (more on that in a moment), warranties, the composition of the external housing, type of internal coating, and, of course, brand name. Stainless steel is going to set you back more than plastic and legitimate non-stick coating is going to be more expensive than a 'non-stick surface'. Your intentions for the device ostensibly come into play as well. Longevity was an important deciding factor for me and I'd had excellent previous experiences with the Breville brand.

What accessories will I need to make some kick-ass pies?
As mentioned, most personal pie-makers come with the dough cutter stamp but you should also look for makers that include a dough press. The press is another type of stamp that shapes the cut rounds into the actual cooking surface. While you don't necessarily need the press (the weight of the filling will likely push the uncooked dough into place) it definitely makes the cooking process a little easier. Also to put under the not-crucial-but-nice-to-have file is a lifter. The pie lifter is a specialized spatula that does exactly what its name implies: hoists hot pies out of the pie-maker. Why bother with a fancy 'lifter'? To preserve the non-stick surface of your pie-maker. Could you use a couple forks to do the same thing? Sure, just take care not to scratch the actual cooktop of the pie-maker or it will quickly transform from easy-to-clean helpful kitchen droid to heinous high-maintenance electro-bitch (to be banished to the Valley of Unloved Kitchen Electrics soon after). Last thing to possibly look for: a recipe book. Some pie-markers include a smattering of recipes in the instruction manual, but most recipe books are super cheap ( <$10) and can help get the old creative epicurean juices going.

I'm kinda nervous but sort of excited about this.
Totally understandable. It's an investment and a new way of preparing food (potentially very new if you've yet to dip a toe into the proverbial World of Baking pool) but, I promise, it's very much worthwhile. A couple clicks and a trip to the grocery store and you'll be set to have pie to your heart's content.

Best of luck on all your pie-making adventures!


  1. Lisa RobinApril 15, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    Sounds yummy! I think my next kitchen gadget will be a bread-maker though! :)

  2. Amelia SmithMarch 9, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    Just saw this. Had no idea these existed, and I love little pies! May have to get one.