Bourbon Pecan Pie Bites

DSC_0245So help me God me if I ever see red velvet again. After last week’s red velvet pile-on – however delicious – I have now consumed enough red velvet to last me until Christmas. I needed to switch gears, and fast. Thankfully, the wedding I’m baking for this weekend provided the perfect escape. The groom loves pecan pie, and the happy couple had requested that I somehow incorporate a bite-size version into the dessert spread. Sean and Amanda – THANK YOU. You two little lovebirds have allowed me to salvage what’s left of my appreciation for red velvet, while instilling in me a new appreciation for pecan pie in the process.

DSC_0230When I bake for clients, I don’t take any chances. I want to be 100% certain that the recipe will work (ya know, provided that I don’t do something genius to screw it up), and both look and taste great. Given that these little pecan pie numbers would be a test-run for a wedding, I really wasn’t messing around. Special occasions like this call for desserts that present well and taste even better, but that are also easy to eat. When assessing the options, I went back and forth between “mini pies” and “hand pies.” After considering those factors, along with display options, ease of transport and the prep/bake time needed in light of all of the other desserts I’d be providing, I opted for these bite-size pecan pie numbers. These were elegant enough for a wedding, classic enough to evoke the comforts of home, and compact enough to provide an optimal ease of consumption (a very technical consideration, of course).

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Now that I had the pecan pie vehicle down, I needed the ideal recipe. I wanted something rich and gooey with the depth of flavor that people depend on pecan pie for. Brown butter: check. Brown sugar: check. And bourbon because…well, because bourbon. We had a winner. This filling is perfect. It’s so rich and brown sugary and gooey, with a hint of bourbon flavor to give it just the right amount of kick. And the brown butter. I just love baking with brown butter. It’s deep, nutty aromas add such a wonderful depth of flavor to whatever you add it to. It’s ideal for pecan pie. To balance out the richness and density of the filling, I paired it with a very basic light, flaky pie crust. The simple flavor and airy texture counteract any richness overload that may have occurred (if there is such a thing). As an added bonus, I just used store-bought pie crusts, which actually make these fairly simple to put together! I might prefer to tweak the crust a little in the future, but, for this occasion, it’s on the mark.

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One of the issues I’ve always had with pecan pie in its classic form is that it’s always a blessing and a curse. A blessing because, well, those flavors. A curse because, well, those flavors. They’re so show-stoppingly delicious in all their rich, nutty, stick-to-your-gut gooey glory (especially during winter!), but by the time you’re finished with a piece of pie you usually can’t imagine ever eating it again. It can just be a little much. Well, these little mini pies (and desserts like these Bourbon Pecan Pie Brownies) are the perfect solution. You can get your pecan pie fix without feeling like you need a crane to move you afterwards (ok, maybe not the case with those brownies, but, I mean, details).

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These little bites of gooey richness brilliantly balanced with a light, flaky crust are perfect for any upcoming event you may have this winter (or any time really). Whether it be a wedding, bridal or baby shower, bible study, book club or a cocktail party, these are sure to be a hit. They’re hearty enough for the guys, but dainty enough for the girls; pretty, but still a little rustic; and add just enough fancy without being fussy. Bottom line: make these! They’re like little bites of cozy, comfort food heaven – a perfect remedy for the sub-zero (literally) temps outside. Plus the oven will keep your house warm. What more do you need?

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 Bourbon Pecan Pie Bites (from Beth Cakes)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter
3 large eggs
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla from Harris Teeter)
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 cup bourbon
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 (9-inch) pre-made pie crusts

INSTRUCTIONS

1. First, brown the butter. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally. Once melted, the butter will start to foam and bubble and turn a light golden brown. This should take a few minutes, but the exact time will depend on your stove. Moral of the story – make sure to watch it! It will go from brown to burned in a hot second if you’re not careful. Once it’s an amber color and has that wonderful nutty aroma, remove from heat and set aside to cool. Again, do not allow butter to burn!

2. While the brown butter is cooling, prepare the pecan pie filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs at medium speed until blended. Gradually stir in syrup, sugars, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt, and beat until smooth. Add the bourbon, stirring until blended. Fold in the brown butter until combined, then fold in chopped pecans.

3. Time for the mini pie crusts. Unroll the prepared pie crusts onto a clean surface (I used parchment paper). Using a 3-inch circle cutter (I used one with fun ridges), cut mini pie crusts out of the dough. Combine the excess pie dough scraps and, with a rolling pin or fondant roller, roll them back out to 1/8 inch thickness, and cut out additional mini pie crusts.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and line each cup with a mini pie crust, taking care to not tear the dough. You might have to work the dough slightly to shape it in the individual cups. There’s no right way to do this, just be gentle! You can shape these so the dough sort of folds over itself for a ruffly effect, or you can shape them so the dough is perfectly forms to the cups – whatever you prefer. Once finished, carefully fill each mini pie with the pecan filling. Slow and steady is key here, as spilling the filling all over the sides and/or overfilling these little guys could result in sticking during baking and make them super difficult to remove from the pans.

5. Bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until the exposed edges of the pie crust just start to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to wire racks to finish cooling. You can use a sharp knife to held dislodge them if necessary.

6. Serve and enjoy! And good luck not eating six in one sitting.

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