French Pumpkin Tarts


I love pumpkin pie.

I love pumpkin pie, made from Libby’s canned pumpkin and with the recipe off the back. I’ve made this for years, and so has my mom, along with her super-flaky Crisco pie crust. The cloves, the cinnamon, the powdered ginger all come together in perfect harmony along with the canned evaporated milk. It’s Thanksgiving to me. It’s home.

But we don’t have canned pumpkin over here in France, and I got over the weirdness of that a few years ago, when I was forced to either join ‘em or just go without. So I got on board. Now, pumpkin purée made from – gasp! —  real pumpkin has become my new normal.

So has purée from the chestnutty-flavored French pumpkin, the potimarron, which y’all might have noticed. I know, I just made soup with this little cutie not long ago, but when I saw a recipe for tiny tarts in a food magazine here, I was once again inspired to cut up my favorite pumpkin (or lasso X for the task). Actually, the recipe used regular pumpkin – which you can certainly do – and fresh ginger, which I would not do, whatever kind of pumpkin that you use, because I think that ginger’s strong flavor would completely dominate the dessert. So I left it out.

I upped the sugar a tiny bit in the crust, too, because I wanted it to be slightly more cookie-like and crisp, which it was because I pre-baked the shells.

The result? A four-bite dessert, which is perfect on its own, or even more fitting if your Thanksgiving includes an entire dessert buffet, which mine usually does when I’m home in Texas.

X, who asks me to make pumpkin pie more than probably anything else, took a bite and declared these little tarts his new favorite thing, ever.

Perhaps because they are light, or maybe because they let the flavor of the pumpkin shine through, or possibly because they are small – and he thinks I won’t notice how many are missing – but I happen to agree. These little handmade French pumpkin tarts are indeed wonderful, and are something to be thankful for.

French Pumpkin Tarts

Makes eight 3-inch tarts

1 cup purée of pumpkin or potimarron
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
¾ cup whipping cream
1 recipe pate brisée sucrée, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 200 C/390 F.

1. Make the tart crust, and press into the little tart shells. Prick with a fork, refrigerate for an hour, then blind bake – with foil and pie weights — for 10 minutes. Remove foil and weights and let cool completely before filling them.

2. To make the filling, whisk together the pumpkin or potimarron puree, brown sugar, egg and cream. Pour into the cooled tart shells and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the tops aren’t jiggly (they’ll puff and look like they’re ready, but wait until they begin to darken just slightly around the edges). Remove and let cool completely before serving. May make a day in advance, but not before.

Pate Brisée Sucrée

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
¼ cup butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and put in the freezer for at least a half hour
¼ cup ice water

1. Put the flour, salt and sugar in food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add the pieces of cold butter, and pulse until mixture is crumbly.

2. Add the ice water and mix quickly. If the dough is too dry, just add a little more ice water. You only want the dough to come together in a ball in your hands.

3. If dough’s super cold, you may go ahead and roll it out. Otherwise, roll out dough in a circle about 1/2-inch thick, refrigerate for a half hour, then roll out to the size that you need.