Monday, November 5, 2012

Miniature Pumpkin Pies

The weekend before Halloween, I hosted a pumpkin carving party at my apartment. With Hurricane Sandy blowing her way toward the Northeast, we opted to move the party indoors instead of enjoy the crisp fall air and colorful leaves outdoors. I have to admit I'm a little disappointed that Mother Nature created the most beautiful party decorations and we were unable to take advantage. Maybe next year. Inside though, with all of our guests, we were comfy and warm and filling our bellies with some of the best autumn foods before setting to work carving our pumpkins.

The menu included: turkey chili, corn bread (made by a guest), garlic hummus with veggies, chips and salsa, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, spring rolls (made by a guest), caramel covered apple bites, home-brewed pumpkin beer and my favorite: miniature pumpkin pies with freshly whipped heavy cream.

When it comes to pumpkin pie or pumpkin roll, I always turn to Libby's for a guaranteed good recipe. The pumpkin pie recipe is posted online as follows:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk

The directions are incredibly simple, and Libby's rates the recipe level as "easy:"

In a small bow, mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves. In a separate, large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir the pumpkin and the sugar-spice mixture into the large bowl. Slowly stir in the evaporated milk.

Easy? They weren't kidding.

All that's left to do is pour the pie filling mixture into the pie shell and bake. The recipe recommends a 9-inch unbaked pie shell with a 4-cup volume, but I was making an easy-to-eat dessert for a party with 9 adult guests and a 4-year-old. To accomplish that, I found Keebler's miniature graham cracker pie crusts. Not traditional for pumpkin pie, but everyone loved the graham cracker crust. I made a dozen miniature pies, and had extra pie filling left.

Baking instructions are to preheat the oven to 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350. Bake the pie for 40-50 minutes and cool on a wire rack for 2 hours.

Given that my party preparation time for making the food was a little tight, I skipped the preheat time and baked the pies at 400 until they were done. They came out juuuust fine. Also, instead of the individual measurements of separate spices, I added 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice.

To make freshly whipped cream, I put a metal bowl and the beaters for an electric hand mixer in the freezer for about 15 minutes. I'm sure there's a kitchen-science reason for this, but I do it for the reason a lot of us probably do many things in the kitchen: "because that's how mom always did it." When the bowl and beaters are cold, pour heavy cream into the bowl and beat on high until it turns from liquid into a firm but fluffy consistency - whipped cream!  

I really loved having the mini pies as opposed to one large pie. They were the perfect serving size for one person, were in their own foil pie tins so no need for an extra plate, and they make sending leftovers home with guests easy as...pie!


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