Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mini Pumpkin Pie with Whole Wheat Walnut Crust

You've done a lot of eating lately, and you're going to do a lot more. Moderation, in all things, is important, but I think it's okay to let loose the reins a bit this time of year and celebrate gastronomically with friends and family. You can always make resolutions on January 1st, right? I sampled everything on the Thanksgiving buffet (twice), but I will be trying to scale back from that Bacchanalia until Christmas feasting begins. Because it's the holiday season, I can't give up seasonal treats entirely, and this delightful little pie is perfect for indulging in modest portions without lots of leftovers. The whole wheat and walnuts make it a little more virtuous than your average crust, but it still holds the luscious filling that a pumpkin pie warrants. Cream cheese makes this pie especially rich and creamy, with sweet pumpkin eagerly soaking up vanilla, maple, and spices. A holiday tradition made miniature, this dessert is the perfect ending to an intimate holiday gathering.

Mini Pumpkin Pie with Whole Wheat Walnut Crust
adapted from Dessert for Two
serves 2 (generously) to 4 (scantily)

1 ounce (1/4 cup) walnuts
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons cold water

3 ounces Neufchâtel or cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1/2 teaspoon homemade or purchased pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. First, toast the walnuts in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant.

2. In a small food processor, pulse walnuts, flour, and sugar together until nuts are finely chopped and ingredients are combined. Add the diced butter and oulse a coarse meal forms.

3. Add the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the cold water and pulse just until a dough forms. Use the remaining tablespoon of water if dough is not coming together.

4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, press into a disc, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Once 30 minutes has elapsed, Preheat the oven to 375° and remove the dough from the fridge and lightly flour the counter.

5. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into an 8” circle. Gently move the dough to a 6-7” pie (or tart) pan. Gently fit the dough into the pan without stretching the dough. Fold the excess dough over to form a double edge. Prick the bottom with a fork in several places, and then bake on a small sheet pan for 13-15 minutes.

6. While the crust is baking, beat together the cream cheese, pumpkin and egg with an electric mixer. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until very well blended. Pour this mixture into the crust gently. Bake the tart for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1” from the crust comes out clean. Let cool and serve cold or at room temperature.

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