Monday, October 22, 2012

Contest Recipe: Mini Pumpkin Pie Tartlettes (And Strawberry Tartlettes)

Saturday was Stouffer's Fall Festival and baking contest. Despite having never entered a baking contest before, I won! There was intensely fierce competition (okay, actually only two entries total in the whole contest) but my opponent's marbled brownies looked super delicious. In the end, I walked away with my prize: an old Stouffer Move-in Day t-shirt.

Because the Stouffer contest was a fall festival baking contest, I thought it was natural that the treat should be fall themed. Pumpkin pie immediately came to mind. Pumpkin pie is traditionally spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, sweetened with brown sugar and enriched with evaporated milk. A classic pastry crust usually envelops the creamy pumpkin custard filling. I wanted to create a twist on the original using honey and almonds as the theme. To make the treats more portable, I decided to make individual pumpkin tarts in muffin tins. Crushed up honey grahams and ground almonds were the base for my crumb crust. For the filling, I decided to use honey instead of brown sugar and heavy cream instead of evaporated milk for extra richness. Finally, to top it all off, I baked candied cinnamon spiced almonds to add a contrast to the creamy filling and provide crunch.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe:

Mini Pumpkin Pie Tartlettes and Honey Almond Fruit Tarts

1 package Honey Graham crackers (about 1 1/2 cups crumbs)
½ c. ground almonds or almond meal
6 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
3 large eggs
¾ c. heavy cream
½ c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice or substitute:
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. salt

Fresh whipped cream
1 c. heavy cream
4 tbsp powdered sugar

Candied Almonds
2 tbsp melted butter
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp flour
7 oz. sliced almonds

Whipped cream cheese filling
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ tsp. almond extract pinch of cinnamon
2 tbsp honey ½ c. whipped cream

Fresh Fruit (blueberries, strawberries, diced peaches, whatever you like)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line 21 muffin cups with paper or foil liner.
Crush graham crackers into fine crumbs. Mix crumbs together in a bowl with almond meal, butter, and sugar. Press mixture evenly into prepared muffin tins.
Bake 5 minutes and let cool completely. Set aside 6 tart shells. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Blend together pumpkin, eggs, honey, vanilla, spice, and salt. Pour and divide evenly among 15 tart shells. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until filling is set. Let cool completely on a wire rack and chill in the refrigerator.

To make whipped cream:
Chill bowl and beaters for at least ten minutes in the refrigerator and make sure the heavy cream is thoroughly chilled as well before beginning. Beat heavy cream at med low speed with a hand held mixer for about one minute. Increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in powdered sugar.

To make Candied Almonds:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together butter, sugar, honey, cinnamon, salt, and flour. Add sliced almonds and toss until evenly coated. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray nonstick with cooking spray. Spread almonds in a single layer on prepared sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely on wire rack and break apart.

To make whipped cream cheese filling:
Beat together, softened cream cheese, honey, almond extract, and cinnamon. Fold in 1/2 c. whipped cream by hand until well incorporated.

To assemble:
Make sure the pumpkin tarts are cooled completely. Fill a pipet or ziploc bag (just cut off a small section of corner) with the remaining whipped cream. Pipet small rosettes on top of the pie and sprinkle a generous dose of candied almonds on top. Divide the cream cheese mixture among the remaining six tart shells. Top with fresh fruit and candied almonds. Enjoy!

Makes 15 + 6 extra tart crusts

Notes: Feel free to scale down the recipe so you don't have to make two kinds of tarts. Just decrease the crumb crust recipe by 1/3 and only make the pumpkin filling. You can also make extra tart shells and double, triple, or quadruple the cream cheese filling recipe to accomadate. I don't know...improvise! That's what I did. Good luck!

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