I didn't have much time to prepare a dessert for guests yesterday, so I simplified the recipe by using refrigerated pie crusts rather than the scratch recipe from the magazine. The delicious, sticky pecan-caramel filling is the highlight of these hand pies so the shortcut didn't seem to effect the final results; they were wonderful served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of the fabulous caramel sauce that's leftover from the pecan filling.
These pies would be fun to take on a picnic or to give to a friend or neighbor as they are easily transported and, as their name suggests, utensils are not necessary to enjoy them. They would also be ideal for a bake sale or party at work since there isn't pan to retrieve afterwards. I love the fact that, unlike a traditional pecan pie, the crust stays crisp, flaky and fresh all the way around.
If you want to treat your family and/or friends to a delightful autumn dessert, pick up a package of pie crusts, a bag of pecans and whip of a batch of these Caramel-Pecan Hand Pies. I think you will be quite happy with the results!
Caramel-Pecan Hand Pies
1½ cups pecans
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup corn syrup
5 large eggs, 1 egg beaten
¼ cup turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Cool, then coarsely chop the nuts.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of water. Cook over moderate heat, swirling the pan gently every now and then, until the caramel is medium-amber, about 9 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, cream and vanilla. Transfer 1 cup of the caramel to a large bowl and let cool slightly. (Save any remaining caramel for drizzling over the finished pies.)
3. Whisk the remaining 1 cup of sugar and the corn syrup into the caramel/butter mixture in the bowl. Add the 4 unbeaten eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the pecans and a generous pinch of salt. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with vegetable oil spray. Pour the pecan filling into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until set. Let cool slightly, then scrape the pecan filling into a bowl and gently stir to recombine. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a floured work surface cut twelve 6" circles from the two packages of refrigerated pie crusts, gathering and re-rolling scraps as needed. (I cut three
6" circles from each disk of dough by folding two sides in towards the middle then rolling each piece of dough (from the center) into a 6" x 18" rectangle (I used a 6" plate as a template.) Cut out decorative shapes from leftover scraps if desired.
5. Brush the pastry surfaces lightly with some of the beaten egg. Scoop a scant 1/4 cup of the pecan filling onto each round and fold the pastry over to make a turnover. Press the edges to seal and crimp with the tines of a floured fork. Brush the tops of the pies with the beaten egg and arrange the cut out shapes decoratively, if desired. Brush again with the egg wash and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Using a sharp knife, make a small slit in the top of each pie.
6. Place the pies on 2 sheet pans that have been lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown; shift the pans halfway through baking. Let the pies cool on the baking sheets before serving. Drizzle the reserved caramel sauce over the pies when serving, if desired.
Adapted from Food and Wine