Some people can look at the leafs outside and say fall has arrived, well in Southern California we go to the grocery store to notice the seasons changing. You know what I’m talking about, in late September the grocery chains start to bombard you with pumpkins, scary ghosts and lots of Halloween candy! Pumpkin is the essential ingredient of autumn, so its no surprise that you can find pumpkin everything… pop tarts, cheesecake, oatmeal, flavored beer and lattes luring you into the holiday spirit!
There is one thing that I absolutely crave this time of year and that’s classic pumpkin pie with delicious creamy filling and warm spices that go perfect with a buttery crust. Its hard not to stop by the bakery aisle and pick up a few samples, wink, wink! To satisfy your pumpkin craving and inner child, I created some delicious pumpkin hand pies with pecan streusel topping. These little pies are just the right serving size so that you never have to share!
The pecan streusel topping is a simple mixture of flour, brown sugar, butter and pumpkin pie spices. This adds a big flavor punch and nice crunchy texture. You can drizzle salted caramel sauce on top of the pecan streusel topping for more decadence, but be warned you will want to add the sauce to everything!
The great thing about this recipe is that you can customize these pumpkin hand pies to your desire. You can omit the streusel completely and just brush the dough with egg wash for the traditional look, or sprinkle a touch of cinnamon and sugar on the top. You can use round or fluted cutters, or even create pumpkin shapes to give your pumpkin hand pies a festive look.
This pie crust is my go-to recipe whenever I’m making pies. It’s tender, flaky, and easy to work with. For this pumpkin hand pies recipe, I wanted to create a filling that had flavors that captured the essence of a classic pumpkin pie. For the spices I used a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. No need to buy the pre-made pumpkin pie spice anymore!
Whenever I have my first bite of pumpkin pie, I know that fall is here and I can’t help but smile. It’s funny how a particular food can remind you of all the great nostalgic memories of the holidays like trick-or-treating during Halloween, turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving and unwrapping presents from Santa on Christmas! With all of the holiday parties to come this recipe is simple to make, easy to eat, and minimal clean up with no plates and forks needed!
TIP #1: Pumpkin pie uses a custard type of filling. Eggs and evaporated milk help to give that creamy texture which can be cut perfectly with your fork. Be sure to keep the egg in the pumpkin hand pies as the protein helps the filling set and keep its shape. You want to avoid adding too much moisture to the filling so instead of adding evaporated milk use a small amount of heavy cream to give a little more creaminess to the pumpkin puree.
TIP #2: Why do I have to chill the pie dough so many times in between each step? Pie dough contains flour, butter, water, and some times a pinch of sugar. When proteins in the flour are hydrated with water, gluten bonds form creating strong elastic network of proteins creating the malleable pie dough. This allows dough to be rolled out, stretched and manipulated. Chilling the dough in between kneading, shaping and baking allows: 1) The moisture in the dough to evenly distribute, 2) The proteins to relax so the dough is not too tough, 3) Allows the fat to firm and be easier to handle when shaping.
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for rolling
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 ½ sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces, chilled
- ¼ cup of ice water
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup whole pecans, chopped to small pieces
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 15 ounces of pumpkin puree (I used Libby’s)
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Sift flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl, and then whisk to combine.
- Add the cubed butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like wet sand and there are no butter pieces larger than a pea remaining.
- Gradually add the cold water, mixing the dough until it just holds together when pinched. You may not need to add the entire ¼ cup of water, the dough should not feel too wet and sticky.
- Knead the dough three to four times until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated, do not over mix or the dough will become tough. If the dough is too sticky to handle, add more flour a teaspoon at a time to aide in kneading.
- Shape dough into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm. You can also freeze for 30 minutes to speed up the time.
- In a medium bowl, mix together flour, pecans, sugar, salt and spices. Add the softened butter, and using your fingers, press together until streusel clumps and the butter is blended. The mixture should hold together when pinched. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
- Lightly beat egg in a large bowl. Whisk in pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, spices, vanilla and heavy cream. Refrigerate until ready to fill hand pies.
- Remove the chilled pie dough from the refrigerator. If the dough is too hard to roll, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Generously flour the work surface and rolling pin. Lightly dust the disk of dough with flour and roll out to about ⅛ inch thick. Roll outward from the center, rotating the dough frequently and adding a little flour to the work surface or dough as needed to prevent sticking.
- Using a 3- ½ to 3- ¾ inch-wide cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out circles. Carefully transfer the cut outs to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You should be able yield at least 16 rounds. You can rework the dough to create additional rounds if desired, however do not over knead, as the crust will become tougher. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
- Heat sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, until the sugar is dissolved. If needed, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan.
- Increase the heat and bring to a boil, without stirring, about 5 to 6 minutes, until the syrup is a deep amber color.
- Remove the sugar from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble. Stir in the unsalted butter, and salt. Set the caramel sauce aside, keeping the sauce at room temperature.
- The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, reheat before serving.
- Line 1 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a metal spatula, carefully transfer 8 chilled cut outs to the parchment paper, evenly spacing each piece of dough. Return the remaining cut outs to the refrigerator.
- To make the egg wash, in a small bowl whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water.
- Brush the borders of the cut outs with the egg wash. Add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin filling to the center of each circle.
- Remove the remaining cut outs from the refrigerator. Carefully place another circle on top and gently press the edges around the hand pie, to seal the edges and remove all of the air. Using the tines of a fork or the back of a small knife, crimp the edges to seal. Use small knife to create 3 vents in the top of each hand pie. Cover and freeze for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Remove the pies from the freezer. Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash. Add 1 tablespoon of pecan streusel topping on top of the pies, gently press to adhere the topping to the dough. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the streusel and crust has browned, and the bottoms are golden brown (thicker and larger hand pies may require a few more minutes of baking). Transfer pies to a cooling rack.
- Once cooled, drizzle hand pies with salted caramel. Refrigerate pies for up to two days in a closed container.