Pumpkin Recipe 3: Mini Pumpkin Pies

One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of fall is the beautiful in-season produce and the recipes that come with it, so this week we decided to focus on one ingredient that is very popular this time of year and put our own twists on it. If you haven’t already guessed by the title of this post (or the other posts this week), that ingredient is pumpkin! Although it is an incredibly versatile ingredient, I was tempted to go with a more traditional sweet option. 

I was inspired by a lemon curd I made earlier this year, plus my sudden urge to attempt a homemade puff pastry dough. I was pretty confident that the pumpkin curd would turn out ok (I mean, how can you go wrong with pumpkin flavor when there’s sugar and butter involved?), but the puff pastry was certainly the daunting task of this recipe. I had a rough plan in mind, but had no clue what would become of the pastry, however, I learned some tips that really helped me and I’m very happy with how delicious it turned out!

Filling!

I made homemade lemon curd a few months ago and it was far more simple than I imagined it would be. When I was deciding what I wanted to do with pumpkin this week, I thought back to when I baked some of the lemon curd into sugar cookies (it was pretty tasty!) and it occurred to me that I should just use a curd “technique” with pumpkin puree instead of lemon juice. I used very similar measurements, but was able to skip all of the squeezing and straining that I had to do with the lemon curd. The result was a rich pumpkin pie filling. P.S. if you have left over filling like I did, you can use it as a spread on bread or as you would lemon curd!

Pumpkin Curd

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c pumpkin purée
  • 3/4 c sugar (cane, brown, or a 1:1 ratio of cane and brown sugar will work)
  • 2 large, whole eggs
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (add more/less to taste)
  • Pinch of salt (*optional)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Add sugar to a medium mixing bowl (can also add directly into the pan you’ll be cooking in to save an extra dish from needing washed)
  2. In a separate bowl beat eggs
  3. Add eggs to sugar and continue to whisk until well combined
  4. Add pumpkin purée to egg and sugar mixture and mix until well combined
  5. In a saucepan, over low-medium heat, continuously whisk your mixture until you see steam (you don’t want a rolling boil).
  6. Continue whisking until sugar is dissolved and it is hot enough to cook eggs. (If you have a cooking thermometer, I read that curd is best taken off the heat around 170℉)
  7. Take off of the heat and add butter, a couple tbsps at a time. Stir in until melted and well combined.
  8. Let cool before storing.
  9. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before using as pastry filling.

*My mixture was a bit lumpy at first, but smoothed out when I kept whisking.

*If you still have some lumps or cooked eggs, put through a fine mesh strainer.

*Traditional lemon curd is done when it is thick enough to stick on a spoon without running off, and when you’re able to run a line through it with your finger, however, since pumpkin puree in this recipe is already thick to start with, you are heating mostly to cook the eggs.

Puff Pastry 

This was my first time making puff pastry from scratch so I was definitely nervous, but after making it I realize that while it can be a time consuming task, it can be done fairly easily if you prep well enough.

Tips

  • This is the recipe I used. It was fairly straightforward and easy to follow. The only thing that confused me was the folding technique. I was probably just overthinking it, but I watched some videos to get the right idea and this one helped a lot.
  • If you’re making the “quick” version of puff pastry like I did, remember to put the butter in the freezer the night before. I had already weighed out my flour and salt before realizing the butter needed to be frozen (an oversight of the recipe on my part).
  • Speaking of pre-weighing the flour and salt- I stored mine in a mason jar on the counter overnight then put it in the fridge 30 minutes before starting the pastry making, as the recipe calls for. So pre-measuring your flour might not be a bad idea if you want to save some time on the day. 
  • Make sure you have plenty of clean counter space to roll the dough out. I wiped my counter down with castile soap and water (and made sure to wipe it clean with a wet sponge).
  • When it comes to grating the frozen butter- I wrapped the end of the butter in cling film (plastic wrap) to prevent the butter from melting on my hands and making a slippery mess. You can also just use the wrap the butter comes in to do the same. I also grated the butter onto a plate before adding to the flour so that I wouldn’t mash the butter too much with my grater in the bowl. 
  • The most difficult part of this process was actually not making the dough, but figuring out how to best shape it. There are so many beautiful uses for puff pastry, but since I don’t have a lot of experience making it I wanted to start with the easiest option possible, which ended up being these pies! I attempted measuring every cut but that became pretty frustrating (and unnecessary), so I ditched that method and did it by eye. Point being: Don’t be too concerned with getting it perfect; it will taste good even if the shapes are uneven or odd looking (it is nearing halloween after all). To make the pie shape: Roll out the dough into a long rectangle, then cut into smaller, even rectangles. Put filling on top of one half, put the other half over the top and close edges, sealing them with a fork, then egg wash before going in the oven. Another option is cutting the dough into larger rectangles and folding over into “half” pies. I’ve added pictures below in case the written instructions aren’t very clear. I definitely did not get them perfectly uniform, but it did not affect the taste at all (as mentioned above). It did make me excited to attempt more shapes and techniques in the future though. 
  • I recommend making the filling the night before you plan on making the pastry dough so that it is cold, and even though this (dough) is the quicker option, it still took a while to make so I was glad the fillings were ready to go. It made the whole process relaxed and I was able to stay more organized since I didn’t have a bunch of dishes out. 

*You’ll see in the photos the pies are “regular” hand-held pie sizes, but I also did some mini pies the next day with the left over dough. The technique and baking time was the same, and I didn’t find that it made a difference either way so just go with what you prefer.

Store Bought Options

If you want to skip to the homemade dough, a premade puff pastry will work best for you. I found this at my local grocery store, and although I haven’t tried it myself, it has great reviews! Since the only ingredients in puff pastry are flour, butter, water, and salt, which you probably already have at home, the higher price of this store-bought option might be off putting for some people. Having said that, a little puff pastry goes a long way so with the right uses you can get a lot of bang for your buck. Also, a positive of store-bought is that it comes frozen so you don’t have to worry about using it right away (*although you can absolutely freeze your homemade dough as well, which is what most people do). If you’re looking for a cheaper option, Trader Joe’s brand seems to be quite popular as well.

Egg Wash

An egg wash helps add color and shine to puff pastry (and other baked goods), and while it’s not absolutely necessary, I tried it with and without and preferred the egg washed version by far. I saw egg wash recipes online that call for adding liquid to the egg, but I preferred just using a beaten egg, no liquid.

To make the pies

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Roll out and cut dough as mentioned above. *Be sure to add plenty of flour to your work surface to avoid any sticking. I found it was easier to roll and cut the dough on my table, then transfer each rectangle to a parchment lined baking sheet to fill and close.
  3. Put a good amount of filling on one half, then close and seal pastry with a fork.
  4. Brush egg wash over the top of the pastry.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Enjoy!

*I ended up adding more filling than this in my other pies, but this is up to personal preference.
Roughly sealed with a fork and egg washed
the mini hand pies!

If you’re interested, don’t forget to check out the other pumpkin posts this week. While my recipe is a sweet treat, Bethany’s Pumpkin Risotto is a savory meal option and Taryn’s Afghan Pumpkin dish meets in the middle with both sweet & savory flavors.

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