Sunday, December 6, 2015

Mini Pecan Pies

These pies gave me such a hard time at first! I pre-baked the pie crusts in my muffin pan, as I usually do for these type of recipes; but this time, the crusts "sunk" a little bit more than usual. So I decided to over-fill the crusts with the pecan filling in order compensate for the lost height.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well - a lot, actually: The overflown filling stuck to the muffin pan so bad and could not be removed (who would have thought that a gooey filling based on sugar, corn-syrup and eggs would stick to anything?...) - I actually had to throw away my muffin pan!...

Before I threw away the pan, I scraped whatever I could from it and tasted - and it was absolutely divine!
Saddened by the ruined pan, yet encouraged by the wonderful taste of (whatever I could salvage from) the pies, I did what anyone else is supposed to do after throwing away a ruined pan - I bought two new pans! A regular muffin pan, identical to the one that I had before, and another pan especially for mini-tarts! Oh, special-mini-tarts-pan, where have you been all my life?...
The second time around went much much better! The secret is - you guessed it - do not overfill the pies' crusts! And use a mini-tarts pan when making mini-tarts. Kind of a no-brainer...

I initially tried to go for a neatly folded edge for my mini-pies crust, however it was quite challenging to do (at least for me....); so I ended up doing a more "rustic" folding (which kind-of opened up in the oven anyway...); eventually - they turned out rustically-cute!

The crust recipe is based on a chocolate "porcupine" recipe by Micky Shemo.
The pecan filling recipe is based on the Pecan Pie recipe from Gimme Some Oven.
None of the reference above is to blame in any way for my first attempt mishap! (sadly and shamefully, I take full responsibility for that one...). 

Mini Pecan Pies
Yields: 12 mini pies

for the crust:
  • 50 grams sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 210 grams (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • [optional, if mixture is too dry] 1-2 tsp milk
  • [optional, if mixture is too soft/wet] 1-2 tsp flour
for the pecan filling:
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (180 gr) light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • a (larger) pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/paste
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (170 gr / 6 ounce) roughly-chopped pecans, divided to 1 cup (4 ounce) and 1/2 cup (2 ounce). 
for the frosting (optional):
  • 2 heaping tbsp cocoa-hazelnut spread (e.g. Nutella)
  • 200 ml heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 heaping tsp vanilla pudding mix (powder)

  • Prepare the Crust Dough: Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl.
  • In a food processor or a mixer with a flat beater, mix together butter and sugar until well combined. 
  • Add in egg and a quarter of the flour mixture. Mix for a few seconds. 
  • Add in the rest of the flour mixture. Mix until a large dough-ball is formed, not beyond. 
  • If mixture is too dry and not solidifying into a ball, add 1 or 2 tsp of milk, as needed. 
  • If mixture is too soft/wet and not solidifying into a ball, add 1 or 2 tsp of flour, as needed. 
  • Form the dough into a 1/2 inch thick disc shape. 
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the "Crust" stage (at least 30 minutes). 
  • Prepare the Pecan Filling: Put the butter In a small saucepan; place over medium heat until butter is melted plus 4-5 additional minutes, stirring occasionally, until butter darkens and has a nutty fragrance (but be careful not to burn it!). Remove from heat, set aside. 
  • Whisk together (vigorously - the corn syrup is quite stubborn!) corn syrup, sugar, salt, cinnamon and vanilla until well combined. 
  • Whisk in the eggs, one at a time (don't add the second egg before the first one is well-combined into the mixture) until well combined. 
  • Slowly pour the melted butter into the mixture, while whisking constantly; continue to whisk until everything is well combined. 
  • Stir 1 cup chopped pecans into the mixture. Set mixture aside. 
  • [the mixture would be gooey and liquid-y; if you plan to pour the filling into the crust (that's what I did), I recommend transferring the filling mixture into a vessel with a pouring tip; alternatively, you can spoon the filling into the crust (no need to transfer the filling into a different vessel in that case)]
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (F)
  • Crust: Remove refrigerated crust dough from plastic wrap, and knead/mold a little with your hands, to warm it up a bit. 
  • Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough to be ~3-4 mm thick on a generously-flour-dusted surface. 
  • Prepare one mini-pieUsing a 4-inch-diameter cookie/biscuit cutter or a similar tool with which you can cut round shapes (e.g. a small bowl), cut a disc out of the flattened dough. 
  • Line one cavity of a mini-tart pan with the dough disc (no need to oil the pan or line it with paper liners), pressing the disc to the bottom and sides of the cavity to form the mini-pie crust. There should be a ~1/2 inch dough edge hanging out of the cavity.
    Make sure that there are no tears in the dough, do not puncture the dough. 
  • Give the filling a good stir (the pecans tend to float to the top of the filling; stirring will evenly distribute them again within the filling) and pour into the mini-pie-crust ~1 tbsp of filling. I cannot stress this enough - do not overfill the crust!
  • Sprinkle some chopped pecans (out of the 1/2 cup of pecans that didn't go into the filling mixture) on top of the filling. 
  • Freely (yet gently) fold the dough edges that are hanging out of the cavity inwards to cover the cavity edges on top of the filling. Be careful not to get the filling spilled out of the crust and into the metal cavity in the process. 
  • Repeat the "Prepare one mini-pie" process for the other 11 cavities in the pan. 
  • [Leftover dough? Make some jam sandwich cookies!]
  • Baking: Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for ~25 minutes until crust is golden and filling is set. 
  • Remove pan from the oven and let it completely cool down in room temperature, at least 1-2 hours. 
  • At this stage, you can enjoy the mini-pies immediately, or frost them. In any case, this would be a good time to take them out of the pan.  
  • Frosting (optional): Using a mixer with a whipping attachment, whip together all frosting ingredients on high speed until firm. 
  • Transfer the frosting into a pastry bag with a star tip attached, and frost a "star" on top of each mini-pie. 
  • Enjoy immediately! 

Leftovers? If you haven't frosted your mini-pies, they can be kept for a few days in an airtight container in room temperature. If you went decadent and frosted your mini-pies (of course you did!), keep the mini-pies in an airtight container in the fridge. Since these mini-pies are at their best in room-temperature, take them out of the fridge for 15-30 minutes before digging into them. 

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