Tiny but mighty, these adorable bite-sized pies are small in size but certainly not short on flavor, with a crisp, buttery crust and a rich, fudgy filling that packs a boozy punch.
Bourbon and chocolate go together like… well, name any number of ubiquitous food pairings or famous couples and you have your answer. They were meant to be enjoyed together, in my opinion, and a recipe like this, with a deeply chocolate filling spiked with a generous glug of bourbon, is sure to make your Thanksgiving table that much more exciting.
A fudge pie, sometimes called a chocolate chess pie, is little more than sugar, butter, eggs, and chocolate. I’d describe the texture as falling somewhere in between a fudgy, slightly-undercooked brownie, and a chocolate cream pie or baked custard.
I made a fugde/pecan pie mashup a few years ago, and it’s always been one of my favorite recipes, perfect for those who think Thanksgiving should include a little more chocolate.
Anyway, I wanted to revisit that recipe and give it a bit of a new twist. I may have also received a not-so-subtle hint to maybe, pretty please bring something chocolatey and boozy to ceramics class next week (please and thank you). And I’m certainly not one to ignore a request like that. As it turns out, bourbon provided the perfect medium for such a mission.
Of course, I’m no stranger to baking with booze, and these little guys are no exception. And we’re not talking a measly teaspoon or two of bourbon here (I mean, if you’re going to be stingy you might as well just use vanilla). No, you certainly won’t miss the boozy kick when you pop one of these morsels in your mouth.
Additionally, if you’re of the mindset that if some is good, more is better… might I suggest adding a tablespoon or two of bourbon to your whipped cream as well?
If you know me, you know that I do so love bite sized morsels. From charming cheesecakes to little layer cakes to teeny tarts and quaint quiches… the smaller the better, I say (all the more you can eat, my dear).
These pint-sized pies are the perfect size for a party, one bite morsels of delight that’ll have your guests clamoring for more.
Although I’ll admit, mini pies are Tedious with a capital T. You’d think that they’d be easier, what with not having to deal with finicky pie crust and crimping and the like, but as it turns out, it’s incredibly tedious cutting out and shaping individual crusts for three dozen mini bites. (I promise you I seriously tried to make a press-in crust work here, but it just wasn’t as good).
The task is a bit more manageable in a standard muffin tin as opposed to minis, one muffin-sized pie being a perfect single serving, really. The minis are easy to pop three of four in your mouth as you walk by, so ultimately probably the same number of servings (lol). Minis would be worth the effort for a bigger crowd, or a situation where plates and utensils just aren’t practical.
The recipe as written will make about 10 standard muffin-sized pies, or about 32-26 minis.
I also think it’d work just fine in a full-pie pan as well (make 1x the crust and 2x the filling for a standard 9-inch pie pan). It’s basically the same filling as my Chocolate Fudge Pecan pie (just without the pecans and with a generous glug of bourbon). The crust is also slightly different, more of a shortcrust pastry (which includes an egg) vs a straight up pie dough. I found the egg added a bit more structure to the crusts and made them easier to work with, especially in more diminutive sizes.
Baking with Bourbon
Bourbon is (quite obviously, if you’ve known me for any length of time) my favorite booze for baking, the subtle woodsy vanilla notes complement other sweet flavors so beautifully.
While I don’t actually drink bourbon myself, I always have a bottle that’s specifically designated for baking (you know, to avoid me accidentally using one of Taylor’s good bottles in a baking project. Not like that’s happened or anything. I’m just saying.)
I typically prefer a sweeter bourbon for baking, one with strong notes of vanilla, oak and caramel. Nothing too dry or spicy (so probably not a rye whiskey in this case). Buffalo Trace and Four Roses (just the bottom of the line blended bourbons) are my go-tos, usually in the $20 range. Heck, even straight up Jack Daniels, albiet technically a whiskey, would work beautifully in this recipe. It’s ok if it’s got a bite to it like most cheaper bourbons do, as that tends to bake out in the oven, leaving only the sultry flavors behind. For gosh sakes save your good stuff for sipping.
That said, this recipe can easily accommodate other liquors on the sweeter side of the spectrum. Maybe a nice spiced rum, or a decadent Irish cream, or even something fruity like creme de cassis or chambord. Really, if it’s a flavor that’ll compliment dark chocolate, it’d work well here.
I should also mention that the bourbon is definitely optional, the recipe will turn out just fine without it. Just swap in a tablespoon of vanilla instead (although, you know vanilla extract is… technically alcohol, right?)
Shaping Mini Pie Crusts
When shaping mini pie crusts, you’ll want to roll your pie dough much thinner than you would for a standard pie. I’m talking about 2-3mm thick (less than 1/8 inch). Otherwise, your mini pie will be disproportionally crust and not nearly enough filling.
Cut out rounds of dough, about 3.25-inches for minis, and 4.25-inches for standard muffin sizes.
Tip: Use a lightly floured pastry cloth; it provides a much less sticky surface than your countertop or even parchment or waxed paper.
You can simply ease the rounds into the muffin cups, and accept the creases and folds that naturally form, or you can crimp around the edges of the dough, almost like you would a dumpling, nestling it perfectly inside the tin (see below left… while this crust was not par-baked first, so it’s a bit pale, but you can see the lovely shape that crimping makes).
But if you want very clean looking mini crusts like mine, I found the best way to do that is to cut three wedges out of the round, draping the cut shape into the muffin cups, gently pressing where the dough overlaps. The resulting pie crusts are clean and modern and allow for the maximum amount of filling.
To make your job easier, I’ve drawn up a digital version of the exact template I used. Download it here, then print at 100% (file includes a 1″ square for scale), cut it out, and use it to guide you when cutting out your crusts. (Also, a set of round cookie cutters is definitely recommended).
Par(bake) for the course
While my full size fudge pie does not call for the crust to be par-baked, for these mini pies it’s a necessity, unfortunately, as the filling will be done well before the crusts even start to brown.
During the par-bake, the crusts definitely benefit from being weighted down, which keeps the crust from puffing up too much or shrinking down the sides. Waxed paper candy cups (slightly smaller than mini cupcake liners, think peanut butter cup size), turned out to fit perfectly in the minis, and I filled each with a spoonful of rice to weight it down. After baking, it’s very easy to just remove the cups filled with rice, leaving a perfectly par-baked crust behind.
The pies are done when the tops are puffed, and the centers are no longer gooey looking. For minis this is a mere 12 minutes or so (see now why we had to deal with all that par-baking nonsense?) Bake them for slightly less if you prefer a gooier middle, or a few minutes more and it’ll be fully set through.
Another benefit of minis? Unlike the full size pie which needs to chill for a few hours to fully set through, these minis are ready pretty much as soon as they’ve cooled enough to pop them out of the pan.
I’d say instant gratification, but you already probably wore yourself out shaping all those mini crusts. So instead I’ll say, enjoy your spoils. You deserve it!
While the pies themselves might not look the prettiest, they are otherworldly in taste: with a slightly crisp, flaky crust and a luscious fudgy filling laced with notes of oak and vanilla and a bite of booze… elevated even more by a simple dollop of whipped cream, bringing the contrast of textures and flavors full circle. No matter if you use Cool Whip or freshly whipped organic grass-fed cream (no judgement here, that’s CW in the photos and I am not embarrased in the least to admit that).
I should have shot all these photos with whipped cream, but silly me didn’t realize just how much of a difference that mere dollop made until I’d broken down my setup and started snacking on the leftovers.
Pie with whipped cream > pie without.
Simple as that.
Storage & Freezing
These mini pies keep beautifully (store them in an airtight container in the fridge), though after a day or two the crust will lose some of its crispness (though it will come back with a brief jaunt in a hot oven if you like).
You can also freeze them (also in an airtight bag or container). Let them thaw overnight in the fridge, and then, right before serving, I’d recommend warming them in a 350-degree oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, which will help the crust recrisp a bit.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream (freshly made, or, let’s be real here, Cool Whip is pretty darn fabulous too).
Mini Bourbon Fudge Pies
This recipe makes 32-36 mini muffin-sized pies or about 10 standard muffin-sized pies. If you want to make a full size pie instead, make 1x the crust and 2x the filling, and bake at 325 degrees for about an hour.
- 1 1/2 cups (188g) all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (40g) powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 large egg (50g), lightly beaten
- 3oz (85g) good quality bittersweet chocolate (60-80%), chopped
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick, 85g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons bourbon*
- To prepare crust, combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until butter is broken up into lentil-sized pieces. Add lightly beaten egg and pulse a few times until evenly incorporated. The dough will be very crumbly looking, but should stick together if you pinch some between your fingers.
- Dump the dough out on a piece of plastic wrap and gather it together until it forms a rough ball. Wrap it very tightly, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or more to allow the flour to fully absorb the water molecules. You can also make the dough a day ahead of time and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth. Cut out rounds of dough (3.25-inch for minis, 4.25-inch for standard muffin size). You can reroll the scraps and cut out more rounds again. You can either ease the rounds into your muffin tin, accepting the rustic folds as is, you can also crimp the edges to make the crust fit inside the cup (not unlike a dumpling). Alternatively, cut out three wedges from the round (printable template here) and ease the crust down into the cup, overlapping the edges and pressing slightly to seal. Place the entire pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes to firm up.
- Line the frozen crusts with small pieces of parchment paper or small paper candy cups (slightly smaller than mini muffin size, ideally). Fill with rice or pie weights. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until puffed and edges are just starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, until cool enough to remove the paper and weights from the crusts.
- To make filling, gently melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler or in the microwave, heating in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval, until melted and smooth.
- In a bowl, whisk together sugars, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Whisk in bourbon, followed by chocolate mixture, until smooth.
- Pour or spoon into baked crusts, filling not quite to the top as the filling will puff as it bakes. For minis that’s about a scant tablespoon or 1 small cookie scoop, for standard size muffins it’s a generous 3 tablespoons or 1 large cookie scoop.
- Bake for 10 to 14 minutes for minis, or 16 to 20 minutes for standard size pies, or until crust is golden and pie is puffed around the edges and the center is a bit less so but not raw looking. If you prefer a firmer pie (more like a fudgy brownie) you can bake the pie slightly longer.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool before removing from the muffin tin. Serve at room temperature topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
- Pies (sans whipped cream) will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days (though the crust will lose some of its crispness). Let come to room temperature before serving. Pies can also be frozen for up to 1 month, thaw overnight in the fridge, then pop in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes to refresh the crust a bit before serving.
*Feel free to swap for another liquor instead, such as rum, amaretto, or even Bailey’s or Kahlúa. Or, if you’d rather leave it out entirely, simply replace with 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.