Autumn Statement

My condo building made the switch from air conditioning to heat this week. For downtown Torontonians, this is our groundhog – the signal that tells us there will be no more weeks of summer.

Rather than burrowing under my duvet and mourning summer like I wanted to, I threw myself into autumn baking and undertook a major seasonal wardrobe overhaul. I culled or tucked away everything short and bright and rediscovered all things cozy and layered. One of those things was a windowpane print wool kilt I’d bought in London last year and had all but forgotten about. Here I’ve paired it with a prim and proper cardigan and bow belt à la Kate Spade:

Plaid Collage

Trench – Zara

Cardigan – Banana Republic

Kilt – J by Jasper Conran

Belt – Forever 21

Boots – Steve Madden

Bag – Aldo

Mini Pecan Pumpkin Pie Tarts & Chestnut Tarts

One of my co-workers is getting married in a few weeks and we threw a little party for her at work yesterday. Her wedding has an  autumnal theme, so keeping in that trend I made pecan pumpkin pie and chestnut tarts for the celebration.

Tarts

These tarts were inspired by/adapted from Sunny Anderson’s Food Network recipe. I made the ones in the image above using her crust, which is very tasty and quite sweet. In my version of the recipe below however, I’ve opted for a simpler, more savory crust. I also upped the spice game and made a chestnut version. Variations discussed below and recipe at the bottom!

Pumpkin6

I made a shortening crust using some extra fine Italian flour my boss gave me (she’s a baking nut too). It’s brighter and finer than normal flour but if you don’t have any, normal pastry flour will do just fine.

Pumpkin1

Sunny divides her crust dough into 24 individual balls and presses each of them into the tart cups. I’m not great at eyeballing dough measurements consistently, and my dough’s not meant to be over-handled, so I used a wine glass to cut out little circles.

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Sunny’s recipe called for pumpkin filling (the canned kind that comes pre-sweetened and spiced). The recipe seemed sweet as it was, and I only had regular old canned pumpkin, so I used that and added in the classic pumpkin pie spices myself (plus cardamom!),

Pumpkin11

Crème de Marrons, or chestnut spread, is pretty common in France and is used as icing on yule log cakes around the holidays. It’s harder to find here in Canada, but some Whole Foods and a few specialty stores carry it. I knew that with my double batch of shortening crust I wouldn’t have enough pumpkin filling so I thought rather than making extra, I’d try chestnut. The spread’s main ingredient, pureed chestnut, has a texture that’s not too far off from pumpkin. Also, the other ingredients are pretty similar to those in the pie filling above – vanilla, corn syrup and sugar – so I thought it would work nicely. The chestnut spread has a pretty strong flavor on its own (very nutty and spicy), so I just added a few complementary spices and and an egg to make it set. Once baked, the chestnut filling is like a thicker, more flavourful version of butter tart filling.

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One other variation – I sprinkled the chopped pecans on top of the tarts instead of mixing them in to the filling, so they wouldn’t just sink to the bottom.

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For 48 mini tarts – approx 36 pumpkin and 12 chestnut

I made this recipe 3:1 pumpkin to chestnut in case you aren’t sure about the chestnut. I promise you though, it’s even better than the pumpkin!

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Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose pastry flour
  • 1 cup Tipo “00” Italian all-purpose extra fine flour (or regular pastry flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chilled shortening (I put mine in the freezer for a couple hours)
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Pumpkin filling

  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chestnut filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canned chestnut spread
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Topping

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  1. Sift the flour into a chilled mixing bowl and combine with the salt.
  2. Cut the shortening into small 1/2 inch cubes and combine into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and coarse.
  3. Start adding ice cold water, one tablespoon at a time combining until dough holds together.
  4. Handling as little as possible, form into two balls, flatten them into disks, wrap them in plastic and chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. While the crust dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the fillings.
  6. Prepare pumpkin filling – In a small bowl, whisk the egg and yolk until frothy and then blend in all of the other pumpkin filling ingredients. Set aside.
  7. Prepare the chestnut filling – In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then blend in all of the other chestnut filling ingredients. Set aside.
  8. Chop the pecans and set them aside.
  9. Remove dough from fridge and roll out on a piece of parchment paper. Use a wine glass to cut out circles and press them into the cups of a 24 cup mini muffin pan.
  10. Spoon filling into the pastry cups and sprinkle pecans on top. You should have enough crust and filling to make about 36 pumpkin tarts and 12 chestnut tarts.
  11. Bake for about 15 minutes or until filling sets. Remove tarts from pan once cool enough to handle and cool on racks.
  12. Repeat steps 9 – 11 with second disk of dough and the rest of the filling!

Pumpkin8Pumpkin9

Next weekend is Thanksgiving and I’ve ordered a fresh turkey from The Healthy Butcher. This will be my second year cooking a turkey and I’ll have my mom around to help, so stay tuned for pictures!

Enjoy!

x Dana

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