I have to admit that my Halloween spirit was at a low this year. I think it had something to do with the fact that my good friend Katie, whom I have celebrated Halloween with the last several years and who is really into dressing up and having a good costume, moved away earlier this year. I truly wish I was one of those crafty people who can’t wait for the chance to get out the sewing machine or hit the thrift store in pursuit of a great costume, but I tend to be more of the lazy last-minute type who is frantically digging in my closet at 6pm Halloween night.
Seeing as how I didn’t get dressed up, I figured the least I could do was try to get creative with some Halloween-themed food. We were invited to a casual dinner of Turkey Chili at our friends Jeff & Megan’s house, so I decided to bring a dessert. I have to mention that even with a 7-month-old baby, these two manage to pull off hosting a great party with delicious food and make it seem effortless. Makes me feel that I need to work on my time management skills! (By the way, the chili, which was excellent, was made from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook; they just added ground turkey to the veg recipe.)
Being short on time, I needed to find something that would be relatively simple. I was flipping through an old copy of Martha Stewart Living and found a recipe where she had taken layers of puff pastry, filled it with cheese and mustard, and used pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters to cut out each pastry. Since I was enlisted to bring a dessert item, I adapted the recipe to be sweet rather than savory. Everything I used was store-bought, so it was more of an assembly than actual baking. The finished product wasn’t as pretty as something Martha would have made, but considering that I was winging it I thought it was not so bad. I got many compliments from the other party guests, so I guess taste won out over good looks. I know Halloween is over, but this idea could be adapted to any holiday really, just by changing the shape of the cookie cutter and/ or the filling. I definitely want to toy around with it some more and will update if I hit upon a superior method.
Pumpkin-Pecan Puff Pastry Bites with Orange Glaze
1 package store-bought puff pastry (see note)
1 jar pumpkin butter or pumpkin pie filling (about 6 or 7 oz)
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs butter
1 tbs natural orange flavor
red+yellow (or orange) food coloring
flour, for dusting
Preheat oven to 375. Defrost puff pastry if necessary (it will thaw quickly at room temp; don’t let it get too warm). On a clean countertop or piece of parchment paper, sprinkle a light dusting of flour. Lay one of your squares of pastry on the flour. Spread the pumpkin butter on the pastry, leaving about an inch around the edges. Sprinkle on the pecans. Place the second piece of pastry on top. Lightly dust a rolling pin and roll the two sheets out until they are about 30% larger than their original surface area (keep the size of your cookie cutter in mind and try to maximize the number of cutouts). If at any point the pastry seems too sticky or hard to work with, put it in the fridge to chill for a few minutes. When you’re done rolling out, put the pastry in the refrigerator while you make the glaze.
Melt the butter in a small bowl; when it is melted, stir in the sugar, orange flavor, and a couple drops food coloring to make a nice pumpkiny orange color. If the glaze seems too grainy, you can nuke it on LOW power for 10-20 seconds at a time; this should help melt the sugar. Just be careful; melted sugar is extremely hot! If you don’t want to bother making a glaze, you could just melt some apricot jam in the microwave with a little water and use that for the glaze. Another glaze alternative would be to brush the tops with beaten egg white and sprinkle with orange sugar (just omit the butter from the glaze recipe).
Take a couple cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper (optional, but will make your cleanup a heck of a lot easier). Use pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many shapes as possible. Lay them on your cookie sheet. If you like, you can take a sharp knife or razor blade and make little vertical slashes for the pumpkin ridges. (I also cooked the scrap pieces; those are the cook’s treat!) Bake for 15 minutes in the middle of the oven. Take the pastries out and brush with the orange glaze; return to the oven for another 5 minutes. (I put my glaze on when they were still cold, but I think they would have turned out a little better if I had waited; that way you don’t risk the sugar burning.) Let cool for 5-10 minutes before eating. (These are best eaten warm, and will get slightly soggy if you have to put them in a closed container.)