Like many American families, my family had distinct Thanksgiving traditions and rituals, particularly around food. This mini pumpkin pies blend new traditions and old, giving a nod to healthier eating with small portion sizes, along with sharing two traditional pumpkin pie recipes from my maternal and paternal grandmothers.
As a child, I had a weird relationship with pumpkin pie. I can remember being as young as three or four and absolutely hating pumpkin pie – I don’t know if it was the texture or the taste that was the problem, but I was not having it. Somewhere around the age of five, though, my maternal grandmother decided to tell me that pumpkin pie was really chocolate pie. I could buy it – the color was right, and that year, I ate pumpkin pie. I don’t know exactly when they told me the truth, but I do know that by the time I was older, pumpkin pie was one of my favorite holiday treats.
I was very close to my maternal grandparents and less so with my paternal grandparents. My grandma on my mom’s side was the primary Thanksgiving chef, though it was my grandfather’s responsibility to mash the potatoes and my mother usually made a pumpkin praline pie each year to contribute to the feast. My grandma made the most perfect pie crust and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized her secret was adding in just a bit of apple vinegar to help the crust puff. Her pumpkin pie had more sugar in it – I’ve cut the sugar down quite a bit, as too sweet is not to my taste.
The pumpkin praline pie was my paternal grandmother’s recipe. It’s not a recipe I’ve seen widely reproduced, so I’m not sure if she got it from her mother or from a cookbook or a friend. I do know that it is a rich, beautiful recipe that blends brown sugar, pecans, and butter in a layer under the pumpkin, giving the pumpkin a hint of nuttiness. My paternal grandmother would make the recipe with either walnuts or pecans. The variation with walnuts was born of thrift – pecans could be too expensive for the era in which this pie was conceived.
This year, I decided to create a homage to both grandmothers and to both my younger and older selves by making mini pumpkin pies with four variations: a pumpkin pie using my maternal grandmother’s recipe, a praline pumpkin pie using my paternal grandmother’s recipe, a chocolate pumpkin pie (for my five year old self), and an eggnog pumpkin pie to celebrate changing tastes and the fact I’m old enough to buy and add booze to my pie. Note that if you choose to make all four variations, you’ll end up with a lot of mini pumpkin pies – each variation makes approximately 36 pies. You can, however, take the basic pumpkin pie recipe and make three of the four variations from the one pie recipe: the basic pumpkin pie, the praline pumpkin pie, and the chocolate pumpkin pie. Simply split the basic pumpkin pie mix into three bowls, leaving one without add-ins, adding the praline mixture to the base of one, and adding the cocoa powder and crème de cacao to the third. The really good news about the mini pumpkin pies is that they freeze beautifully and can be made in advance of Thanksgiving. Simply let them sit in the fridge for a few hours before dinner and they will be ready in time for dessert.
Mini Pumpkin Pies
Perfect Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups salted butter (if using unsalted, add ½ teaspoon salt to the dough)
1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
½ cup cold water
Mix the flour and the salt (if needed). Cut the butter into chunks and add to the flour. Using a fork, a pastry cutter, or your hands, mix the butter into the flour so that there are pea size chunks of butter throughout. Don’t over mix. Add the apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of water at a time until the dough starts to stick together. Use a spoon or your hands to mix the dough until it sticks together and is manageable. Put the dough in the fridge for two hours.
Basic Pumpkin Pie
½ can of evaporated milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until they are combined.
Split your dough into 36 small balls of roughly the same size. Flatten each out and either roll or stretch until they are large enough to fill a mini-cupcake/muffin pan cup. Flute the dough around the top of the cup. Pour the pumpkin pie mix into each cup, filling to the top. Note: if you have only one mini-cupcake pan, put 12 of the dough balls into the fridge, along with the remaining pie mix and bake in two separate batches.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the pie mix is set (or a knife inserted into a mini-pie comes out clean). Let cool completely. If not eating right away, either freeze or store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Praline Pie
Basic Pumpkin pie mix from above
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons butter
Combine the brown sugar, pecans, and butter in small bowl. The mix should form a crumb. Fill the muffin pans with dough as above. Place a scant teaspoon of this mixture at the base of each dough cup. Fill each cup with the basic pumpkin pie mix and bake as directed above.
Pumpkin Chocolate Pie
Basic Pumpkin pie ingredients from above
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon crème de cacao
Add the cocoa powder and crème de cacao to the basic pumpkin pie mix. Fill the muffin pans with dough as above and fill each with the pumpkin chocolate pie mix. Bake as directed above.
Eggnog Pumpkin Pie
¾ cup eggnog
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon rum
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Fill the muffin pans with dough as above and fill each with the eggnog pumpkin pie mix. Bake as directed above.
Note – if you don’t want to make mini-pies, each recipe and variation above will make one pie. If you are making one full-size pie, reduce the dough ingredients to 2 cups flour, 1 cup salted butter, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup cold water. Baking time will be 50 minutes for a full sized pie at 350 degrees or until set.
This post is linked to the Saucy Saturday #71 Linky Party. For more wonderful holiday recipes, check out the hosts’ sites: