February is the month of love, and nothing says “I love you” better than your sweetheart’s favorite pie. Unfortunately, I’ve never mastered making a good pie crust. Mine always tear or come out dry, not tender and flaky. That’s why I love shortbread pastry dough. Because this dough has lots of butter, it’s soft, easy to work with and quite forgiving. It makes terrific pies, tarts and turnovers, and the crust is tender, almost like a shortbread cookie. So I was delighted when Crystal Anstey of Experience Twillingate in Newfoundland offered her grandmother’s mini pie recipe made with delicate shortbread crust.
We met Crystal, a visual artist and tour guide, on a motorhome trip of Newfoundland’s eastern coast. She lives on the island of Twillingate, on the edge of “Iceberg Alley,” the watery path giant pieces of glacial ice take southward from Greenland.
Crystal and her family have lived in the Back Harbour region of Twillingate for generations; so long, in fact, that Anstey Point is named for her ancestors. She grew up exploring its shores, foraging its bountiful food sources and enjoying food from the sea and shore on its beaches. “I’ve grown up here, with the sound and smell of the ocean and its beautiful landscape, and it’s influenced my art, my cooking and my outlook on life.”
Wanting to share and preserve her historic and authentic experiences of Newfoundland, Crystal began Experience Twillingate (www.experiencetwillingatenl.com), a local tour company that gives visitors a “sea-to-plate experience, right on the beach.” The menu is wild and local — with hints of rustic sophistication. She serves cocktails cooled by chunks of 12,000-year-old icebergs. The menu features shellfish and fresh fish, and locally foraged berries and edible plants.
Guests dine on the beach with delicious fare like sautéed scallops and mussels, and whole Maine lobsters steamed in seawater. It’s all cooked over an open fire and served on Crystal’s rustic handmade pottery. There are no fancy linens, no suits nor evening dresses. Just authentic food in an unparalleled setting that invites visitors to relax and enjoy.
And, if you’re lucky, for dessert you’ll be offered Nanny Anstey’s Mini Pies. Crystal says, “My grandmother grew up eating and baking these pies. She spoiled her children and grandchildren with this recipe. On my tour I serve a trio of different flavors of jam pies. You can make them yourself and share them with those you love and cherish.”
Have a favorite pie recipe you’d like to share? Email Bobbie with “pie” in the subject line.
Mini Love Pies
Makes 24-36 tiny pies (depending on how thin you make the crust)
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons powered sugar
- ½ pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
- Jam (one or several flavors)
- Whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
- Mix together ingredients. (Don’t overwork or dough will toughen.) Pinch off pieces (about 1 tablespoon) and flatten between your hands. Press firmly into the bottom and sides of mini muffin tins. Bake for 10-12 minutes until light golden.
- Cool and fill each pie with 1 teaspoon of your favorite jam/filling.
- Whip cream and top each pie with a dollop of cream.