Saturday, October 10, 2015

Maple Pumpkin Pies with Pecan & Cranberry Praline

Fact: before this here pumpkin pie I had only ever enjoyed it once.

Fact: this here pumpkin pie is the first I have ever made.

Fact: I had never tried real maple syrup until this year.

Fact: I really am Canadian.

There are not many Canadians around who haven't tried real maple syrup until adulthood (and I mean pretty well into adulthood). I am the minority, and probably not a very good Canadian for it. You can blame my mom for always buying Aunt Jemima, or you can blame me for not really being a huge fan of pancakes... that sort of leaves fewer opportunities to use maple syrup.

And what's with this maple snow candy business? This was not a part of my childhood. You can blame that on my hometown - I guess Windsor wasn't Canadian enough for our schools to take us on field trips to maple syrup factories. I'm suffering from a severe cases of FOMO after hearing how incredible this maple snow cone stuff is.

These photos represent the first pumpkin pie that I have ever made. You can blame that on my Italian background. Pumpkin for dessert is really strange to Italians...Before this particularly decadent caramel covered pie, I only ever tried it once and it was in Ireland, and it was made for me by a girl from Alaska living in Dublin. She baked a simple plain pumpkin pie to celebrate American Thanksgiving. That's the fun thing about being Canadian - we often have many American friends so we can celebrate two Thanksgivings. That means two reasons for stuffing, pie and leftover turkey sandwiches month after month!

Although this is the first time in my life making this dessert, it isn't the only one I made because I tested it until it was just right for me.

These are my tricks:

Let the cooked pumpkin dry out and cool completely before blending. Leave boiled pumpkin in the hot dry pan or leave roasted pumpkin in the oven uncovered for a few minutes after you turn the oven off. Drier pumpkin will make a filling with a more velvety texture and the pastry crust will remain crispier for longer.

An extra yolk for richness and reinforcement. It helps set the filling without diluting the flavour.

A touch of flour to bind moisture and keep things in order.

Whipping cream and only 35% whipping cream. We need the richness that it brings. We are making a vegetable pie afterall. Or is it a fruit? You get me...

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! I hope this makes up for the Aunt Jemima confession.

Maple Pumpkin Pies with Pecan & Cranberry Praline
Makes 4 individual pies

For the filling:
300g (about 10 oz) peeled and cooked pumpkin (boiled in chunks for 15 minutes or roasted in foil for 40 minutes)
2 tbsp (30g) packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup (60ml) maple syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 ground cloves
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
pinch salt
¼ cup (60ml) 35% whipping cream
½ tsp all-purpose flour

For the pecan praline:
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp (90g) packed light brown sugar
4 tbsp (56g) unsalted butter
3 tbsp (45ml) 35% whipping cream
1 tsp glucose
¼ tsp salt
a handful of pecans
a handful of dried cranberries

Have ready six pre-baked 4-inch round tart shells using your favourite pastry recipe. I used this one, rolled it out, cut out large rounds and fit them into mini 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms. I baked them at 375 degrees F until golden, about 12-15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Place pre-baked pastry shells on a baking tray.

To make pumpkin filling, place cooled cooked pumpkin in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Mix in brown sugar. Add maple syrup and process until smooth and glossy. Add spices and whole egg and process. Mix in egg yolk and salt. With motor running, slowly pour in cream and then finally mix in flour. Spoon into pre-baked tart shells and bake for 20-25 minutes or until filling is just set.

To make the topping, combine all ingredients except the pecans and cranberries in a small saucepan and heat to dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer while stirring constantly and then boil gently for about 2 minutes until thickened. Stir in pecans and cranberries. Let cool and spoon over tarts before serving.
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