pumpkin-tartletsAs far as holidays go, Thanksgiving ranks as one of my most favorites. I love everything about it–being thankful for the closeness of family and friends, and especially the food! My family knows that when I start my cranberry chutney and pie crusts, it’s definitely Thanksgiving.

Preparations for this year’s Thanksgiving overwhelmed me. I think it was because the fall went by so fast and the holiday almost seemed to sneak up on me without me even realizing it.

My family loves apple pie, pumpkin pie, and ALWAYS something chocolate (I think they get that from me!). So this year I made a large free-form apple walnut tart, individual pumpkin tartlettes and a dreamy chocolate cream pie with a bruleed marshmallow topping.

My youngest daughter arrived a few days before the big day.  I love when she helps me, because we get to catch up on each other’s lives while we bake.

It was her idea to make smaller pumpkin tartlettes this year, and they were amazing. I made a pumpkin pie filling enough for a 9 inch pie shell. Then I made a flaky pie crust dough. I rolled out the dough and cut out circles which I placed into standard muffins pans. We ladled some pumpkin filling into each one and baked them in only a fraction of the time that a normal sized pie would have taken.

One important tip before I continue. Knowing when a pumpkin pie is done can be tricky. Since it is a custard style pie with eggs as the thickening agent, you must be sure it is cooked all the way through. The best way to do this is to stick a small sharp knife into the center and see if it comes out clean. Also, the pie should not be jiggly when you gently shake it, except in the center. The carry over baking once it is out of the oven will firm the filling up. Remember: a custard pie is WAY OVER DONE when the top becomes cracked.

Back to my tartlettes! They were so cute after they came out of the oven. After chilling them overnight in the fridge, I dolloped each one with some vanilla whipped cream and garnished each one with a small leaf pastry topper.

To make the toppers, I re-rolled my pastry scraps leftover from my pie dough. I then cut out tiny leaves with cookie cutters. Any shape will do, but they should be very small. You can even do different shapes depending on the holiday. The best part? You can freeze them for a few months in an airtight container. After egg washing and sugaring them, I baked them for just a few minutes or until they were barely light brown. And voila! simple, gorgeous garnishes to top my tartlettes. You can see how adorable they are!

My motto is that nothing should go to waste, especially a flaky pie dough. You hear all about those chefs that use the entire animal (like snout -to-tail for a pig, for example) and then create various dishes with all of those parts? Well, I feel the same way about any of my pastries and doughs. Nothing should go to waste!

If you are going to go to the trouble and bake from scratch you might as well get the benefits. The food that comes from your kitchen, that you prepared with your own hands, really does taste better and you know what is in it! And if you combine that with your kids helping you, well, that’s just time well spent around!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail