Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope you had a wonderful day of turkey and family and being thankful. I’m so glad that we have a whole day dedicated to being grateful for all of the wonderful things in our lives. And not just the big things – the little things like when a sales clerk is nice enough to scan an extra coupon for you behind the counter that you had no idea about, when you run into an old friend unexpectedly and getting a chance to catch up about life, when you get a really sweet, genuine compliment that puts you in a happy mood all day. Things that people really didn’t have to do, but they chose to do so anyway just because they could – these are the things that I’m most thankful for on Thanksgiving because they’re wonderfully small reminders of how blessed our lives really are.
(And of course, teeny tiny pecan pies.)
Which brings us to the dessert du jour (de semaine?): mini pecan pies baked in foil tart tins. We start with a basic pie crust recipe, then fill with a generous layer of custard filling and crushed pecans, and top with a slightly neurotic array of pecan halves. The custard is more or less the standard pecan pie filling, plus a few extra special additions (aka nutmeg and a generous pinch of salt) to bring these tiny tarts to the next level for your next holiday party (because now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s basically Christmas Eve, right? Or New Years Eve, if that’s more your speed.)
Another benefit to these mini pies – the crust doesn’t need to be blind baked (aka pre-baked) before you add in the filling. The pies are so small that the crust takes about as much time to brown as the filling does to set, so you can just bake them on the bottom rack and get perfect pies every time!
So for your next holiday potluck, bring an array of teeny tiny pies (this recipe is great for any custard-based pie filling – think pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, butter tarts – which pretty much means that you should make them all). Hope you (and your fellow guests) enjoy!
Happy Day-After-Black Friday,
Mini Pecan Pies
Makes 12 mini pecan pies in 3.5″ mini tart tins
240 g all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
11 tbs butter, chilled and sliced into thin pats
3 tbs vodka
3 tbs ice water, as needed
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup corn syrup, any kind
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
96 pecan halves (aka 8 for each mini pie)
- Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse lightly to mix.
- Add in the cold butter and pulse just until the flour is fully incorporated and the mixture resembles very coarse corn meal with a few larger clumps.
Tip: Whenever a recipe calls for cubed or sliced chilled butter, I let the butter soften to room temperature, slice it up while it’s soft, then chill it again in a bowl to avoid trying to cut rock-hard cold butter.
- In a large bowl, add the vodka to the flour-butter mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until just mixed. At this point, keep adding ice water as needed just until the dough just comes together and isn’t crumbly. I didn’t add any water, but you might need up to 1-2 tbs.
- Mold dough into a roughly rectangular shape about 1″ thick, cover in saran wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Tip: If you’re pressed for time, you can also chill in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board in a layer about 1/8″ in thickness. Using little aluminum tart tins as a reference, cut out circles that are about 1/3″ larger in diameter than each tin, then line the tins and crimp the edges into a wavy pattern by pinching the edge of the pie along the inner edge of the tart tin. Re-roll the dough as needed to line 12 tart tins.
Tip: If you need more than a light layer of flour, your dough is too soft! If your dough starts getting too sticky, pop everything into the refrigerator for 15 minutes or the freezer for 5 minutes. Make sure your butter doesn’t melt, or else the pie crust will be tough and dry instead of crisp and flaky!
- Pop the pie crusts back into the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the pies. Just prior to assembly, brush the edges of each pie crust with egg yolk.
Pie Filling and Assembly:
- Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.
- Divide the chopped pecans among each of the tart tins.
- Whisk together the corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, egg, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well incorporated, then pour the mixture into each of the tart tins on top of the chopped pecans.
Tip: The chopped pecans will float up. That’s okay – we only laid them on the bottom to make sure that they would be coated and saturated in the liquid filling mixture.
- Top each mini pie with a pattern of 8 pecan halves.
- Arrange the mini pies on a large baking sheet, then bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the tops of the crusts are golden brown and the filling looks set. Allow the pies to cool, then serve. Enjoy!