Something fantastic happened in my kitchen on a cold winter night last week. Something new was made, something that may have never been done before (at least not the way I did it). But let me start at the beginning. I wanted to make these adorable peach hand pies. But as peaches (or almost any fruit) aren't in season, I decided to substitute pumpkin custard. I looked up a few custard recipes online and in my Better Homes cookbook and came up with something I thought might work. The key word here is thought. No, that's not true. Before I even started I told Megan that it was going to be a fiasco.
You know my history with pie crust. Well this time, it was easy. Seriously. I read Smitten Kitchen's encouraging directions on crusts, and even though there were a few moments when I thought all would be lost, it turned out fine (as you can see below).
The real problems came when I realized my custard was too runny to lie flat in the hand pie (sort of like a jelly- or custard-filled doughnut). Shit. OK, I improvise. What if I add more of the canned pumpkin? That could thicken it. Ummm, nope. I score through the pages of my Better Homes cookbook. Corn starch! I dumped a load on top of the orangey mixture. Then rethought and scooped the powder out of the soupy mixture. I even tried mixing it on high, hoping either the eggs or the cream would thicken--you know like whipped cream or my favorite French silk pie. After five minutes of straight up whipping the "pumpkin custard," I was out of ideas. Until, stroke of genius, I recalled the muffin tray I had just bought. I lined the muffin tray with my tart dough and filled the cups with my "custard." Who says you need tart trays when everything you own is non-stick? After 22 minutes in the oven, these babies slid right out.And they were good. The crust was flaky and salty. The filling was creamy but not too sweet. To be honest, because of the ridiculous amount of eggs in this recipe my pumpkin-hand-pies were more like pumpkin quiches, a dish I'm sure some Frenchie came up with a millenia ago. And check out the kitchen: (biggest mess ever--there was custard filling on the walls, yikes) Tart Crust: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 1/2 cup sour cream 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 1/2 cup ice water Apparently the key to good pie crust is keeping everything cold, so cold butter and ice water. Smitten Kitchen even recommends throwing the bowls in the fridge or freezer (just don't forget about them like I did). Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, add butter pieces and mix with pastry blender until it is coarsely blended. Put bowl in the freezer. In a separate bowl, mix sour cream, lemon juice and ice water with whisk. Remove dry mixture from freezer and pour half of liquid into it and mix with your fingers until liquid has been absorbed. Add the remainder of the liquid and continue to blend with your fingers. (Note: my mixture seemed to be very dry and lumpy. This turned out to not be a big deal once I rolled the dough out.) Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or freeze for up to one month. To begin rolling dough, remove half of the cold dough from the fridge. With a lot of flour, roll the dough out onto a smooth surface. Using a four-inch biscuit cutter or a four-inch Starbucks mug with the skyline of New York on it to cut out circles from the dough (you can adjust the size). Place dough into either a tart pan or the wells of muffin trays. If you think your dough may stick to the sides, rub butter on the side of the trays to grease it up. K, now we move on to the filling. Pumpkin Filling: 5 eggs 3/4 cup cream (to lighten it up you could use half and half or milk) 1/2 cup sugar 1 15-ounce can pumpkin 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon ginger 1 teaspoon nutmeg Add the ingredients to a large mixing bowl and blend until the consistency is smooth (and a bit runny). Easy, right. Add about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture to each well of the muffin tray. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until tart crust is slightly browned and a toothpick pulls out clean.