Autumnal / Thanksgiving Baking: Pumpkin pecan muffins and mini pumpkin pies

Of course, I couldn’t just stop experimenting with muffin fillings after the apple crumble muffins. And once I’d spent a hysterical amount on a 425g can of Libby’s pumpkin, imported from the USA, I wanted to get my absolute money’s worth out of the rich orange paste.

Why not use fresh pumpkin? Because I haven’t before, and frankly it looked too much like hard work. Here’s what I made.

Pumpkin and Pecan Muffins

Pumpkin and pecan muffinsThe old Rachel Allen 30 day muffin recipe came out again. I made a fresh full batch and used 500ml to make 22 mini muffins (again baked at around 170-180 for fifteen minutes until risen and spongy. Added to the 500ml was:

200g pumpkin pure
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
75g chopped pecans (walnuts work just as well)

I reserved some entire half pecans to put on the top. Now, this comes out very savoury. I prefer it this way, and would probably make maple buttercream icing (see below), then pop a half pecan on top. I didn’t have any maple syrup, and was short of time, so I just served them as is.

Alternatively, you could add 50ml or so of maple syrup / 50g of brown sugar direct to the pumpkin mix before stirring into the muffin batter; I haven’t tried it but expect that would work just as well. Or you could warm a little syrup and, when the muffins were still hot from the oven, prick the cakes on top with a toothpick and spoon warmed, runny syrup over the top, then serve as sticky cakes with vanilla ice cream.

Mini Pumpkin Pies

mini pumpkin piesThis meant making a batch of my shortcrust pastry, then following the recipe Libby’s give for pumpkin pie, making changes where I didn’t have the spices they suggest. I also had to make my own evaporated milk because I was out, which meant putting twice the amount of milk I needed in a saucepan and simmering gently – not boiling – until it reduced by half.

It worked out to:

225g pumpkin
1/4 pint evaporated milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Stir those all together into a relatively runny batter. Roll out the pastry to no more than 3-4mm at most, and stamp out circles, pressing them gently into tartlet molds. Pour a spoonful or so of filling into the hollow of the pastry, and bake at 180-190 (depending on oven) for 20 minutes, then check. At this point they might need another 5-10 minutes, or might be perfect, depending on the oven. They’ll be ready when the filling has set and just started to brown at the edges.

For the second batch of these, I made a buttercream icing (using golden syrup as I still hadn’t got round to buying maple, recipe below) and had some fun doing some cack-handed amateur icing. I also made a batch of slightly bigger mini-pies using an average-sized cupcake tin. They took around 35-40 minutes to cook.

Simple Buttercream

mini pumpkin pies with buttercreamIt’s best to make this with butter but if needs (or diet) must, margarine will do. It’s a little oilier, but it works. The icing pictured is made with it, as I was out of proper butter. It also needs to be last minute – although it will keep perfectly well overnight in the fridge it is a dairy ingredient and ought to be treated with respect from a food hygiene point of view. Oh, and don’t even try and cut corners and ice before the baking is completely cooled; you will just end up with a melted, messy, hard-to-handle blob (the thicker the paste, the easier it is to control the piping bag, and what I’ve pictured is slightly more melted and runny than I would usually like, due to tiredness and impatience!).

1 part butter – for 14 mini tarts I used 3 tbsp
Flavouring – in this case, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 golden syrup (maple syrup would have been more seasonal)
Icing sugar
Colour

Once the butter has been beaten with whatever liquid flavouring you’re using, start mixing in heaped tablespoons of sugar until a thick, pipe-able, pale, fluffy icing has formed. It will warm up from your hand in the piping bag, so a stiff icing is essential. You’ll need at least three times as much icing as butter. When it’s at the right texture, add whatever colour you want, or just leave it to its rich, buttery, natural yellow.

I piped most of them round the edges, but also did some comedy ones, spelling out Ash’s name or trying a swirl in the centre (a mistake – the piping nozzle I’d chosen was too small for a centre piece, and it looked a little like the icing monster had had an ‘accident’ on the pie).

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