Jack-O-Lantern Tartlets

Best Pie Bakeoff 2008 Entry #25

Recipe: Stephanie's Jack-O-Lantern Tartlets Category: Classic

Here is the second entry from enterprising pie-baker Stephanie; she also entered the Original category with her mouthwatering peanut butter and chocolate Buckeye Pie. These tartlets also have a creative flair, and we like them very much. Read on for her recipe and why this is the best classic pie recipe she's got.

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Where is this recipe from? The idea came from www.marthastewart.com. The recipes used are Cooks Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough and Cooks Illustrated's Best Pumpkin Pie recipe.

Why is this the BEST pie recipe you've got? Thanks to Cooks Illustrated's Best Pumpkin Pie recipe, we enjoy pumpkin pie many times a year because it's so good. This pie is creamier and smoother than any other pumpkin pie I've tried with the perfect amount of spices. I am convinced this truly is THE BEST pumpkin pie and believe everyone should make it their go-to recipe. Because of this recipe, as soon as the first fall chill arrives I'm asked to make pumpkin pie, and make several during the fall/winter seasons.

I saw this jack-o-lantern tartlet idea on www.marthastewart.com and think it's a great way to make individual desserts that will serve as place settings on our Thanksgiving day table, and my family was more than happy to do the taste testing this weekend!

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Jack-O-Lantern Tartlets

1 recipe Single-Crust Foolproof Pie Dough
4 (4-inch by 3/4 inch) tartlet pans
1 egg yolk

Roll out the pie dough and cut 4 (6-inch) circles in order to fill the 4 tartlet pans. Press dough into pans and remove excess dough. Freeze pans at least 30 minutes. Use remaining dough to cut out jack-o-lantern patterns, or whatever fall themed cutouts you would like to top your tartlets with. Freeze cutouts at least 30 minutes as well.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line tartlet pans with foil and fill with pie weights. Blind bake the tartlets for 15 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Begin preparing filling, as the crusts need to be warm when the filling is added. Remove pie weights from tartlets and add warm filling.

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Best Pumpkin Pie recipe from Cooks Illustrated (baking times adapted for tartlets) Recipe available here.

Note: If you do not have a food processor, the pumpkin may be put through a food mill or forced through a fine sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. Alternatively, you can cook the pumpkin, sugar, and spices together before pureeing, then whir the mixture in a blender, adding enough of the cream called for in the recipe to permit the pumpkin to flow easily over the blades. In either case, heat the pumpkin with the (remaining) cream and milk, as indicated, then slowly whisk the mixture into the beaten eggs.

Pumpkin Filling
2 cups (16 ounces) plain pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk (I use whole milk)
4 large eggs

For filling: Process pumpkin, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a food processor fitted with steel blade for 1 minute. Transfer pumpkin mixture to a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring it to a sputtering simmer over medium-high heat. Cook pumpkin, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes.

As soon as tartlet shells come out of oven, increase oven temperature to 400 degrees, whisk heavy cream and milk into pumpkin and bring to a bare simmer. Process eggs in food processor until whites and yolks are mixed, about 5 seconds. With motor running, slowly pour about half of hot pumpkin mixture through feed tube. Stop machine and scrape in remaining pumpkin. Process 30 seconds longer.

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Immediately pour warm filling into hot tartlet shells. (Ladle any excess filling into tartlets after they have baked for 5 minutes or so -- by this time filling will have settled.) Bake until filling is puffed, dry-looking, and lightly cracked around edges, and center wiggles like gelatin when tartlets are gently shaken, 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.

Remove cutouts from freezer, brush with blended egg yolk, bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes until golden brown. Place on top of cooled pumpkin tartlets. Serve slightly warm, room temperature, or chilled, with a dollop of whipped cream alongside.

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(Images: Stephanie)

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