There are endless food-focused theories detailing how best to promote health and wellness. Some preach eating a diet that is protein rich, others carbohydrate free. The only way I have ever been able to eat is moderately.
I practice moderation by indulging every so often in decadent miniatures as I know neglecting dessert is not easily done. Thus, this week's edition of Northern Skillet is a set of Pumpkin Cutie Pies using my Lodge Mini Cake Pan. This pan embodies my belief that a little bit of something lovely, is superior to none at all.
As I endeavor to become a better baker and cook, I've been reading more cookbooks and refining my technique. While any pie crust and pumpkin filling recipes will do for this "cutie" pie, I used a recipe from a recent acquisition from Williams-Sonoma called Bake Good Things. It's a concise collection of traditional, dare I say basic, recipes for the everyday. After all, it's quite a feat to beat a classic.
- 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 4 tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary
- 1 can pumpkin puree (15 ounces)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 whole large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 4 teaspoons all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch of salt
To prepare the crust
Combine the flour and salt with a fork in a bowl. Add the butter cubes and toss with a pastry blender, or two knives. I picked up a pastry blender along with this book, as I knew the pie crust making would be habitual. It's a very helpful tool.
Cut in the butter until the mixture forms large crumbs. Drizzle the ice water and toss with a fork until the dough is evenly moist. If the mixture is too crumbly, add additional water, a spoonful at a time until the dough comes together in a rough ball. Form a disk and wrap the disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
Turn out the disk onto a floured surface, and flatten with a rolling pin. I used my late grandmother's rolling pin, an old able beauty. It felt comforting to channel her as I rolled.
Cut out circles that are roughly 5 inches in diameter. I used a bowl and a pasta cutter here.
Coat your Mini cake pan with Pam, and line each section with a dough round. Form a decorative edge as desired. Freeze the dough lined pan for 30 minutes, and preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
While the crust is setting, use the remaining scraps to cut out the word "Cutie" repeatedly, with cookie cutters. Reserve your crust cutouts for later. You may want to refrigerate them. Note: If you have not yet gotten your mini cake pan, you may use a cupcake or muffin tin. Adjust dimensions accordingly.
Remove the pan from the freezer. Line the pies crusts with foil, and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and foil, and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes until golden.
To prepare the filling
Let the crust cool while you prep the filling and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Combine the pumpkin, cream, brown sugar, eggs, yolk, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour roughly 1/3 cup of filling into each crust.
Bake the pies for 50 minutes. At 50 minutes, remove the pan and quickly but gently spell out cutie on each pie. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes until the filling is set, and letters cooked. Let cool.
Once cool, the pies come easily from the pan. Impress your loved ones with these darling cutie pies. The guilt that accompanies these treats is proportionate to their size - very small.