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Neat, sweet and petite: The holiday mini-pie made in a muffin tin

By Noelle Carter

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 27 2012 4:42 p.m. MST

¾ cup sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated, plus extra for dusting the finished pies

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

3 eggs, separated

3/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

12 pre-baked mini-pie shells, still in the muffin tins

Whipped cream, for garnish

1. Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Set aside until the gelatin is fully moistened, at least 3 minutes.

2. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the pumpkin, one-half cup of the sugar, the ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, and the salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until the mixture is thick and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Scrape the mixture into a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process for 1 minute. With the motor running, add the milk, processing until incorporated. Add the egg yolks one at a time, processing just to incorporate, about 5 seconds after each addition. Add the gelatin mixture and pulse in.

4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened slightly (160 to 170 degrees), about 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and set aside.

5. Chill the pumpkin custard by placing the bowl over a larger bowl of ice water, with about 1 tablespoon of salt added to the ice water to speed chilling. Stir occasionally for the first 10 minutes, then slowly but frequently for about 10 minutes longer.

6. No more than 20 minutes before you put the pies together, make the meringue: In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites over low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Gradually beat in the remaining one-fourth cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.

7. When a small amount of the custard dropped from a spoon mounds very slightly on the surface before disappearing, immediately remove the bowl from the water bath and, using a whisk, fold in the meringue just until blended. You will have about 5 cups filling.

8. Place the filling in a pastry bag fitted with a large tip, and fill each pie with a generous one-fourth cup filling. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours, before serving. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg.

Each of serving: 314 calories; 5 grams protein; 35 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 17 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 59 mg cholesterol; 11 grams sugar; 378 mg sodium.

MINI PECAN PIES

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, plus cooling time for the pies

Servings: 12

Note: Makes enough filling for 12 to 14 mini-pies or 1 (9- to 10-inch) pie

3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

1 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) melted butter

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon or substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla plus 3 teaspoons water

2 ¼ cups pecan pieces

12 unbaked mini pie shells

Prepared egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins in each alternating cup.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Whisk in the corn syrup and sugar, then the melted butter, salt and bourbon or vanilla with water. Stir in the pecan pieces.

3. Fill the pie shells: Brush the edges with the prepared egg wash and fill with the pecan filling, about one-fourth cup filling for each shell.

4. Bake the mini-pies, one tin at a time, in the center of the oven until the filling is set and the crust is puffed and golden brown, about 25 minutes.

5. Cool the pies, still in the tins, to room temperature, twisting them gently every few minutes so they do not stick to the pan.

Each serving: 619 calories; 7 grams protein; 57 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 42 grams fat; 15 grams saturated fat; 141 mg cholesterol; 18 grams sugar; 455 mg sodium.

Distributed by MCT Information Services