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mini cherry pies

Oh, excuse me... A husky voice emerged from behind me, drifting through the tight space we shared in between the racks of secondhand clothes. I glanced up and saw a shock of gorgeous purple hair on top of a smooth, curvy mocha body. I detected a distinctly feminine scent; something about the way this woman moved exuded unapologetic confidence.

I touch several tops, the wire hangers clinging together on the overloaded clothing rod. I love your hair, I said to her retreating figure. I wish I could pull off color like that.

You can, she responded, smiling back at me as she began to breeze around the corner into the next aisle. You are your own canvas; you can do anything you want, honey.

Then she was gone, and I didn't see her again; but her words stayed with me, resonating long after our brief encounter. Her positivity had taken my breath away.

Whenever I meet someone, I always wonder about that woman's stories, her life, who she is at the very core of her being.

Who was the woman in the thrift store?

What makes her tick?

What is she passionate about?

Who has she loved? How have those loves defined her?

What personal challenges has she faced and overcome?

Does she love with every ounce of her being?

Is she happy? Content? Is she treated with respect?

What makes her heart hurt? What makes her cry?

I am always fascinated by the way my own emotions seem to correlate with what I choose to bake. I find myself absently patting dough onto the flour-covered counter, rolling it out into a craggy shape, filling it with fresh fruit, brushing the whole pastry with cream and throwing a bit of sugar over the top. If I'm upset about something, the mere act of pushing the dough into submission helps to somehow validate my stress, subsequently calming me. Slowly, my heart rate slows, and the feelings of angst and panic begin to subside. Conversely, if I am already feeling content and settled, and I choose to bake something special for my family, the act of forming special pastries for them quickens my pulse. My hands tingle against my ancient wooden rolling pin; I anticipate the unmistakable scent of the browning flaky crust and the bubbling fruit permeating the entire house. It doesn't bother me when the hot cherry juices spill out of their crusts and land in charred puddles on the bottom of the pan; soon, I will happily remove the warm, imperfect pastries from their cozy beds and dollop them with cream. Imperfect pies are more interesting to me than the most carefully formed pastry that was made with disinterest and a lack of emotion.

Years ago, I discovered this book that I have since read over and over again. The author's unique prose perfectly embodies the many different aspects of cooking and baking, and the way in which our emotions are knitted together with what we create for others to eat. I have loved this book so much that I recently mailed a copy to my sister, who shares my intense love for baking.

To make these Mini Cherry Pies, use my favorite all-butter crust recipe, found here, and after chilling for about 30 minutes, simply divide the dough into 6 equal portions before rolling them out into miniature dough rounds. While rolling out the dough, think about the people you love. I promise, they will sense your emotions in the just-baked pies. Make this filling, using cherries or any other fruit you like, fill the dough rounds, brush with cream, sprinkle with sugar, and bake to golden perfection. Serve warm, with a dollop of tangy creme fraiche. Or, top each individual pie with a scoop of this creamy No-Churn Vanilla Bean Sour Cream Cheesecake Ice Cream.