Pies are a perfect party dessert. Unfortunately, the classic 9-inch pie tin isn’t one size fits all. For small households, there’s a serious risk leftover pie could languish in the fridge—a true tragedy. For large celebrations, one pie just isn’t going to cut it. From parties for one to full-sized crowds; here’s how to make a pie to suit any size gathering.
How to make a pie for 1-2 people
For a small crowd, hand pies are the way to go. No special equipment is required, and they’re fun to shape. Think of a hand pie like a more sophisticated Pop-Tart, customizable with the filling of your choosing.
The difference between a hand pie and a traditional pie comes down to shape. Hand pies use classic pie dough and filling, just formed into individually portioned pockets. They’re not difficult to make, but they do require a bit more handwork than a classic pie. To make this process as smooth as possible, it’s best to work quickly. The pie dough is made with butter, and handling it too much will warm it up excessively. If the dough gets too warm, the butter will melt, and the dough can become a sticky mess. By working quickly, you can keep the dough as cold as possible.
As will all stuffed foods, there’s a very fine line between too much and not enough filling. Aim for about a 1/2-inch border around the filling for a pie that’s full of fruit, but not boiling over.
Chef Lauren Katz created this strawberry balsamic hand pie recipe with small gatherings in mind. One batch makes two hand pies, the perfect amount of dessert to follow a dinner date.
How to make a pie for 2-4 people
To make a pie for a slightly bigger group. Chef Lisa Appleton recommends starting with a classic recipe, and cutting it in half, like she did with these miniature key lime pies.
Chef Lisa used four miniature pie tins to make her family-sized dessert. If you don’t have mini pie tins on hand, you could also use small ramekins, or cupcake tins. Whatever you choose to use, be sure to grease the sides of the pan very well to prevent the filling or crust from sticking.
These miniature Key lime pies with a coconut graham cracker crust serve four. If you want to adapt a different recipe to work in miniature, try halving the recipe and dividing into four equal portions.
How to make a pie for 4-8 people
For 4-8 people, you’re looking at a classic 9-inch pie pan. Try out one of our favorite crust recipes for extra flaky crust, and go crazy with the fillings. Anything from chocolate pudding to rhubarb will work well in this format.
No matter what type of pie you choose, there are a few tricks for extracting clean, beautiful slices from a pie tin. First, make sure that your bottom crust is completely baked. That way it will be able to support the weight of the slice. If you’re using a glass bottom pie tin, you can check out the bottom of your crust just by looking. It should be a beautiful golden brown. Second, make sure your pie has thoroughly cooled before slicing. Cooling gives cream and fruit pies time to set, making sure that the filling won’t run out of the pie and all over your plate.
How to make a pie for 8-12 people
For a crowd of 8-12 people, you’re going to need a lot of pie. Luckily, Chef Claire King is used to cooking for a crowd. For her crew of kids and extended family, she has perfected two different methods of large format pies.
The first is a slab pie. This rectangular pie is assembled in a baking dish or on a sheet tray. It can be fruit, pudding, or custard filled. All of the components can be made a day ahead, that way you can really focus on assembly when the time comes. The trick here is making sure you bake the crust thoroughly. It takes a very crispy crust to hold up all that topping.
One trick for forming the crust? Instead of trying to roll out and transfer a huge rectangle of dough, form two smaller rectangles. Just overlap them and press to seal the bottom of the pie.
Chef Claire’s flag pie is filled with vanilla bourbon pudding, and decorated with strawberries and blueberries.
The second method is making a deep dish pie. These slices pack a powerful punch. A deep dish pie is made in a springform pan instead of a pie tin. The resulting pie has super tall sides and tons of filling.
For this one, you’ll need to roll out an extra large disc of dough. If you’re nervous about transferring it, Chef Claire recommends rolling the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper. Once again, it’s essential to make sure the pie is cooked through. A pie this size can take up to an hour in the oven.
For an extra treat, Chef Claire layered the bottom of her gigantic pie with frangipane, a sweet French almond paste.
Try your hand at a deep dish cherry pie with this recipe.