Category Archives: pumpkin

Pumpkin Mini Tarts with Walnut: Real (No) Brainers

”America is all about the speed” and so is the American Halloween.  You have to be really fast to catch up with the pace of this holiday, which is not only about weird costumes and all kind of omens celebrating death, but primarily about sweet treats and candies.  Halloween is kids’ favorite and who can blame them: when else can you munch on chocolates all night, let your imagination go wild with costumes and tricks and share a scary story?  
Mini tarts (that can be both, an appetizer and a dessert) idea has been haunting me for a while now. These little pumpkin treats make delicious and super-speedy compromise between anything too sweet (you can control the amount of sugar, or just replace it with a mix of maple syrup and marzipan (almond paste)) and so-good-for-you pumpkin fiber. And to add some Halloween mystery to the cracked, like a desert, filling I decided to top each mini-tart with half walnut which has a shape of a brain, hence the title: (no) brainers.
And here is my quick improv(ization) story for the Beggars Night ”trick” – feel free to skip this paragraph if you wish – it’s just a little abracadabra inspired by the shape and look of the pumpkin mini-tart ”treats”. 
 ”Aliens vs Cannibals”
Draft sketch:
Planet Earth in the unknown future…. Two aliens, Pen and Pan, are crossing the desert and run into a dead owl. The eyes of the owl are covered with two pumpkin mini-tartlets. ‘’Wow, brain tarts, what a catch! I was told they taste really good and might even contain some dried gene of a human genius…’’ says Pen. ‘’Don’t be silly, if you eat this s..t you will become blind or insane.  It’s useless, just like those old human coins we find in the ruins. ..We better move on, I smell the cannibals coming. It’s a bait, check for the traps around.’’ Pan kicks the owl’s head and runs. Eventually, he falls into the cannibals’ trap and awaits his sad destiny. Cannibals arrive and start chewing Pan without delay. They find him unpalatable and spit him out. One of his connection horns is missing and he is trying to find it…
In the meantime, Pen eats both treats and returns to the spaceship in a weird mood. The crew immediately registers the change in his behaviour and locks Pen behind the bars with a piano waiting for him to play Mozart. Instead, he starts singing ”I’m a Lonely Little Petunia” and asks to be put behind the candelabra.  He then switches to Spanish and demands ¿me da mi calaverita?  The Alien Chief begins to suspect that cannibals tricked them with the bait and replaced the genius brain gene with the surrogate(to be continued)
So far so good for my entertaining story, please feel free to continue the way it pleases you as I have to go and decide if I will be a Cat in the Hat or a Lady in Red tonight.
And don’t forget to take these little treats with you. They are truly the crowd-pleasers.  I used commercially bought mini tart shells, which cost almost nothing and save you a lot of time.  I started cooking them according to the instructions on the package (15-20 minutes at 350 F), but then extended the time to 45 minutes to make them golden crisp. Another way to improve the tart crunch is to bake the shells for about 10 minutes first, then fill them out with filling and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Garnish the tarts with nuts around 10 minutes before the end of baking, so they don’t burn.
 Enjoy your Halloween and have a great trick or treat!
Yields: 24 mini tarts
2 of 12 mini tarts, store bought (see note for a homemade dough below)
2 cups of freshly cooked pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup almond paste (homemade or store bough)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 5-oz small can evaporated milk
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp grated ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
24 walnut halves for topping
Cut a small pumpkin in pieces and bake covered in the oven at 350F for about 30 minutes. Let cool and scoop the pumpkin flesh out.  In the blender, combine pumpkin puree, egg, sugar, almond paste, evaporated milk and spices.
Pre-heat the oven to 350F and bake the mini-tart shells for 10 minutes. Fill out each mini-tart with the pumpkin mix and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. You will see the filling growing and cracking, which is OK. Top each mini-tart with half walnut and bake for another 10 minutes or until the walnuts are golden brown. Enjoy warm or cold.

Note:  this is a fool-proof tart dough recipe from Barefoot Contessa in case you decide to make your own dough.