Tiny Pecan Pies and a Pie Crust Tutorial

Until a couple of months ago I was absolutely terrified of making my own pie crust. Any and all desserts that involved pie crust started with one out of the freezer aisle in the grocery store. Then one of my coworkers asked if he could order a pie as a treat for his family for Rosh Hashanah. My first instinct was to say no, after all, I had never made a pie crust, and didn’t want to try it for the first time on a customers. But as I have mentioned before, I never like to turn down a customer, so I did some research, and I said yes. I explained that it was going to be my first time making a homemade pie crust, and he agreed.

I spent a long time searching the internet for advice and information related to making homemade pie crusts, and came upon this phenomenal tutorial from Brown Eyed Baker (who happens to be one of my favorite baking bloggers, I trust her and her recipes completely. I took some step by step pictures and will try to make it as simple as she did, but really, if you want to learn about making homemade pie crust, I urge you to check out her post.

Two important things to be aware of before starting your dough:

1) The fat and water needs to be very cold to ensure flakiness and,

2) The less you work the dough, the more tender it will be.

Additionally, a little advance planning will help you tremendously in the process. When I know I am planning to make flaky dough, the first thing I do is cut my butter and/or shortening into small cubes and place them in the freezer.

Shortening doesn’t form the prettiest cubes, but don’t let that trouble you.

About an hour later, you are ready to begin. Combine your flour, salt and sugar in the food processor, pulsing a few times to combine. Toss in your frozen butter:

Pulse the flour and butter together using short on/off bursts, about ten times, until the mixture resembles coarse and uneven crumbs.

Again, it is important not to overwork the dough, so only pulse this until it resembles the crumbs above, not more. Next, add your ice water. I put a couple of ice cubes in a bowl, then add water, and let it sit while I form the dough until this point, so the ice has had enough time to melt somewhat, and the water is very cold. Pulse the dough, again using short on/off bursts, until the dough just comes together. If it appears slightly crumbly, don’t worry- that’s how it should be! (Note, however, that a little more water is probably better than not enough, so err on the side of more. The trick is to use a bit of water at a time, so you don’t get a goo-ey watery mess.)

If you aren’t sure if the dough is good, try grabbing a bit in your hand. If it comes together nicely, it’s ready. If not, add a bit more water.

Once the dough comes together nicely, it is ready to chill. Form the dough into two discs, and wrap each in a plastic bag. Place in the freezer for about an hour.

These are the basic instructions for making pie crust. Beyond this point are the step-by-step instructions for making these gorgeous and absolutely adorable Itty-Bitty Pecan Pies.

The first thing you will need to do is find a circular cutting device that will cut the correct shape for the mini-muffin pans. The way I did this is I flattened out a paper liner for the mini muffin pan, and measured some things against the full circumference. This cup fit perfectly:

Once you have that all figured out, it’s time to make the filling. There are way too many pictures on this post already, so I will let you figure out what it looks like to whisk together the filling ingredients, toast the pecans, smash them into small pieces with a heavy wooden rolling pin, then add them to the filling. The final product should look something like this:

Once that’s done, you are ready to roll out your dough. Grease a mini muffin pan well with baking spray. Spread a bit of flour on a clean and dry surface. Use a heavy wooden rolling pin to roll the dough out as thin as possible. (Especially when the pie will be so small, you don’t want to have the dough too thick or it will take up half of the cup!)

Cut circles out of the dough using the circle cutter you measured earlier. Set aside the scraps to use for the garnish. Place the circles inside the mini muffin cups, forming a cup up the sides. Try to stretch the dough to come up exactly to the edge of the cup.

Fill all of the cups with the pecan filling. Make sure to use enough of the actual pecans, not just liquid, or the pie won’t hold up. (I had leftover liquid from the filling at the end, but no extra pecans.) Once the cups are all filled, it’s time to cut the dough for the garnish/topping. Here are the two types of topping you could make:

The full top with the flower cut-out seems nicer in theory, but I liked the way the three-flower look baked better, so I wound up using mostly that method. Here’s what you need to make either of these:

A 1-oz shot glass was the perfect size for the full-top. I used a mini cookie cutter for the flower. For the first method, I used a shot glass to cut a circle the size of the top of the pie. I then used a mini flower cookie cutter to cut the circle out of the top. Then, I placed the circle carefully over the pie, and pinched the edges together a bit.

For the second method, I simply cut three mini flowers out of the scraps and connected them on the top of the pie.

Once you top all of your pies, brush them with a bit of egg and sprinkle some sugar on them. Bake them for about 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Cool before removing from pan.

Itty Bitty Pecan Pies:
Filling recipe adapted from the Karo Syrup bottle.
Ingredients:

1/2 cup of butter or margarine, cut in small cubes

1/2 cup vegetable shortening (crisco), cut in small cubes

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 Tablespoons sugar

5-8 Tablespoons ice water

Filling:

1 Cup dark corn syrup (Karo Syrup)

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups toasted pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Follow instructions above to make pie crust and create mini pie cups.

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the filling except for the pecans until smooth. Add pecans and stir to combine. Fill cups and top as directed above.

Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know what you think! Oh, and come back soon, I have some phenomenal recipes to share with you!

-Miriam

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