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eat, drink & be eerie: 
miniature pumpkin pies Mini pumpkin pies make for a perfect fall party hors-d'oeuvre, and save you the hassle of having to wash up plates, forks and the like, since they're sized as finger food. You can prepare the pies as far ahead in advance as you like, saving just the last baking step for the day of your get-together.

4 cups flour
3 sticks butter, chilled
2 Tbsp. sugar
2/3 cup ice water
1-1/2 cups (small can) pumpkin puree
12 oz. evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
pecan halves, broken in half again to make a sliver

for the crust
The easiest way to make the crust is in a food processor. I divide the ingredients in half, then use my mini-processor to make the dough in two batches; if you have a normal-capacity processor, you can do it all in one go. Alternatively, you can do it the low-tech way, using either two knives (cutting in opposite directions until the butter is just-incorporated) or a pastry blender.

Pour the flour and sugar into the food processor bowl. Cut up the chilled butter into " cubes, and toss them in as well. Give the mixture a dozen or so good pulses until the butter is just barely worked into the flour, and looks like coarse cornmeal. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. If there are any big butter chunks left, quickly rub them into the flour using your fingers. Add ice water tablespoon by tablespoon, until you can gather the dough into a coherent ball using a spatula and your hands. Wrap in plastic; flatten into a disk; refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.

for the filling
Combine the sugars, cinnamon and ginger in a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs and stir in the pumpkin; add the evaporated milk and mix well. Refrigerate if you aren't using it right away.

prepping the pies
You'll need a mini-muffin pan and mini-muffin liners. Take your chilled dough and break off a piece about the size of a walnut. Form it into a ball. Press it into a lined tin using your thumb, then press the dough up the edges of the liner until you've formed a nice, not-too-thick crust. Continue doing this until you've filled your muffin pan, then toss the pan into the freezer. After about twenty minutes, the crusts should be good and firm. Remove the crusts from the muffin pan and place them on a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer. Pour in the pumpkin mixture to fill each crust, and return the pies to your freezer to chill until firm. If you have room in your freezer, you can make and freeze more crusts; otherwise throw any remaining dough and pie filling in the refrigerator. When the prepared pies are frozen solid (this takes several hours), transfer them to a large plastic container, and arrange in single layers separated by waxed paper. Freeze until party time.

baking the pies
Just before party time, preheat your oven to 350F. Bake the pies for 30 min, until the filling is puffed-up and set. Place a sliver of pecan in the center of each, then bake for another 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, and serve.


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