Several months ago, I became mildly obsessed with miniature cooking videos. It's a genre that is exactly what it sounds like. Creators film videos of themselves making miniscule versions of average meals: bacon and eggs, shoyu ramen, a chocolate layer cake.
Most of the videos, made by Youtubers like Cookin' Little and Miniatura Cuisine, have a certain routine. A diminutive stove is lit with a match, as fingers — which look giant compared to everything else — reach into dollhouse-sized kitchens and proceed to mix miniature boxes of cake batter and cut out tiny fondant flowers. But the process and creations are inherently impressive based solely on scale.
They are also immensely popular.
As Jessica Leigh Hester wrote for the Atlantic in 2017, the videos have an ardent following that began in Japan and then spread globally.
"Miniature Space, to take one example, has more than 1 million subscribers; its most popular video — a strawberry shortcake made from a single berry — has been viewed more than 8.5 million times," she wrote. "The videos are addictive; there's something at once mesmerizing and weirdly funny about a gigantic hand trying to chisel a tiny sliver of meat, or smooth whisker-thin coats of icing on a multitiered 'cake' cut from a single slice of bread."
Currently in the comments section of many of these videos, there are a lot of newcomers, like me, who have found the videos comforting amid the pandemic. There's something relatable about the act of taking an activity that can typically border on mundanity and transforming it into something foreign — to parrot a now oft-used phrase, kind of a "new normal."
While I don't have the skill or the setup (yet) needed to pull off tiny cooking content yet, I was however inspired to miniaturize a seasonal favorite, the apple pie. No need for any special equipment. All you need is a muffin tin. The extra addition of bourbon — and replacing white sugar with brown — gives the pies an unforgettable caramel flavor.
Recipe: Miniature Bourbon Apple Pies
Makes 12 miniature pies
- 2 premade pie crusts, like the Pillsbury variety
- 5 medium apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 3⁄4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of bourbon
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter, chilled and grated, plus extra for greasing the muffin tin
1. Grease a standard muffin tin with butter. For additional ease when it comes time to remove the pies, feel free to cut and place small parchment rounds into the bottom of the slots.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
3. Roll the pie crusts out to about 1/8" thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using a 4-inch cookie cutter — or a small cup — cut out 12 circles from the pie crusts. Re-roll any scrap pieces of pie dough as needed to cut out the circles. Reserve any remaining dough in the refrigerator.
4. Place each dough round in each muffin slot, gently pressing the center into the bottom and up the sides like you would a normal pie.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped apples, bourbon, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and grated chilled butter in. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mixture into each miniature pie crust.
6. Use your remaining pie crust from the refrigerator to decorate your pie tops, if you like. They'll also bake up just fine without a top.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pie crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow the pies to cool in the muffin tin for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove the pies from the tin — gently scooping them out with a large spoon can help — and transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a generous topping of whipped cream.