Monday, December 2, 2013

Mini Pumpkin Pies

I recently treated myself to a mini Tartlet Baking Set from Williams-Sonoma that I had had my eye on for well over a year.  The set includes a pan with wells for 12 miniature tarts and a coordinating cutter and tamper for shaping almost any sort of pie/tart dough imaginable.  I first tested out the pan using some leftover graham cracker dough I had on hand and made little graham cracker tarts that I filled with a lemon-cream cheese filling and topped with whipped cream.  They were adorable and a hit.

I was thrilled with how easy and effortless the Tartlet Baking Set was to use and I couldn't wait to use it with more recipes.  Recently I catered a little spread of desserts and sandwiches for a friend's baby shower and among the desserts, I made these Mini Pumpkin Pies for the very first time.  I adapted a Bakerella recipe for use with my new baking set and topped mine with a stabilized Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream (the stabilizing technique picked up from Baked Bree has become my favorite way to insure long-lasting whipped topping on all my homemade treats).

The Mini Pumpkin Pies were utterly adorable, perfectly tiny 2-3 bite treats and they were a huge hit with the folks at the shower.  I fell in love with the look and the recipe and I couldn't wait for an opportunity to make them again.

Fast forward a few weeks to this past weekend and I decided to whip these up to take to a late Friendsgiving dinner.  Fortunately I had several leftover and could take a few photos to share with you all here on the blog.  These Mini Pumpkin Pies are a new favorite of mine and I expect I'll make them quite a lot over the coming years.  Don't let the small size of the pies full you, they pack a punch of flavor along with their stunning presentation.  Give these a try even if you're not a fan of pumpkin pie (I'm not usually), the filling gets a unique twist with the addition of cream cheese and these are almost a pumpkin pie/cheesecake hybrid.  So freakin' delicious!

I know Thanksgiving is over, but these would be perfect for any holiday gathering or just because... even in the middle of summer... because they are that good.

Mini Pumpkin Pies
adapted from Bakerella and Baked Bree
yield: 3 dozen mini pies

For the Pies:

3 Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts (1.5 packages)
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat your oven to 350°.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, canned pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined (but don't over mix).  Set aside.

Unroll one of the prepared pie crusts onto a sheet of wax paper or a lightly floured surface.  Using the cutter from the Williams-Sonoma Tartlet Baking Set, cut out 12 portions of dough from the crust.  Center each piece of crust on top of the wells in the tartlet baking pan, then use the provided tamper to carefully compress and shape each individual tart (making sure to press gently, but firmly until the crust reaches the top of the pan).

Spoon the pumpkin filling into each prepared crust until about half full (1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling per crust).

Bake the filled pies in the preheated oven for 14-16 minutes, until the filling is puffed and the crust is lightly golden.

Allow the pies to cool for a minute in the pan, then remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Place the baking pan in the freezer to quickly cool it, and repeat with the second and third pie crusts.

Allow the pies to cool completely, then store in the refrigerator while preparing the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream topping.


For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:

1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 cup very cold heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and stir.  Let the gelatin stand for a minute until it is absorbed by the water.  Microwave the gelatin mixture on high for 15-20 seconds, or until the gelatin has melted and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, begin whipping the heavy cream with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until it begins to thicken.

Gradually add in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue whipping until soft peaks form.

Next, add in your vanilla bean paste and liquified gelatin mixture and continue whipping until stiff, silky peaks form (do not over whisk or the mixture will become curdled).

Transfer your whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe a small star of whipped cream atop each Mini Pumpkin Pie.  Serve immediately or refrigerate up to three days.*

*Similar to a cheesecake, I have found that the texture and taste of the pumpkin filling is best after these have had 6-8 hours to chill in the fridge.  These can certainly be served immediately, but the pumpkin filling is more mild in flavor until it has chilled in the fridge for a few hours.  Therefore, I recommend making these the night before you plan to serve them.  With the stabilized Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream, these keep exceptionally well for up to three days.  Around the third or fourth day, the crust begins to soften a bit and separate from the filling, but they are still delicious.

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