For holiday baking and easy sharing, these Gluten Free Mini Pumpkin Pies are simple to pull together. With a crispy, all the way around, pastry and creamy center, balanced spice and not too much sugar, these little confections are pure pumpkin pie bliss! gluten free + dairy free option (for dairy free follow * within the recipe) | Read notes above in the blog post for more tips!
Whisk the nut milk and apple cider vinegar together in a spouted measuring cup. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade, add the gluten free flour, tapioca flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse 5-6 times to combine. Add the butter *or solid coconut oil for dairy free and pulse until chunky, about 7-8 pulses. With the processor running, add the milk mixture, holding out about one to two tablespoons, and process about 10-15 seconds or until the mixture starts to come together (it will look crumbly). To see if the dough is ready, grab a fist-full and squeeze. If it doesn't hold together, add the remaining nut milk, one Tbs at a time. Process again and retest until it clumps in your fist.
Dump the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper. It will be loose and crumbly. Use the parchment paper to work the dough into a pliable piece, press and fold the bits together - folding and pressing the dough over and on top of itself until the dough comes together in one piece. Shape into a smooth thick disk by patting and rounding into a 1-2" thick (2.5-5cm) disk. You want the pastry to be smooth with no cracks if possible. Wrap snugly in the parchment paper and refrigerate for at least one hour (the pastry can be made ahead and rest in the fridge for at least two days or store it in a covered container and pop it in the freezer for up to two weeks). *For dairy free, rest the dough wrapped in parchment at room temperature for about 15 minutes. The dough should be tacky, not sticky. If it's sticky, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes, then bring it back out to soften a bit. It's easier to roll at room temperature.
Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and let it set to warm up a bit. It'll be easier to work with if you can give it about 30 minutes at room temperature. *For dairy free, the pastry needs to be at room temperature to work with as well, so it's ready just after about 15 minutes of resting.
Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan by throughly oiling it with pan spray or coconut oil. Set aside.
Generously dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out the pastry to just under 1/8". Add flour to the top of the pastry as needed to prevent sticking. *For dairy free, roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper using very little flour for dusting as needed.
Dust a 3 1/2" pastry/cookie cutter with flour then cut 12 discs (an inverted glass can be used here). It takes me two times rolling the pastry out to get 12 discs plus cut outs, so collect the leftover pastry, knead and reshape it then re-roll as needed. Cut any decorative shapes you'd like at this time too. Set those on a small parchment lined sheet pan.
Line each cup with a pastry disk gently nudging the disk into place by pushing the top edges down and into the cup. The pastry will not fill the cup all the way to the top. Pleat the edges as needed and press the pastry into the sides of the cup. It's okay if the bottom of the cup is somewhat rounded. *For dairy free, the dough will be crumblyish. When lining the muffin cups, patch any tears with small pieces of dough, using a touch of water to 'glue' the pieces together as needed. It's sorta like working with play dough.
Once all the cups are pastry lined, use the tines of a fork to dock the bottom of the dough, then pop the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 400F (204C). Freeze the pastry and any cut outs for at least 15 minutes.
While the pastry is freezing, arrange a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth over a small bowl. Scoop the pumpkin into the strainer and allow it to set for at least 15 minutes, stirring occassionally, to drain off excess liquid. Discard the liquid. Set the puree aside.
Par-bake (blind bake) the pastry cups on the center rack in a 400F oven for 16-17 minutes. *For dairy free par bake the cups for 18-20 minutes. The cups will be golden (for dairy free, more of a creamy color), puffy and fragrant when ready.
Immediately after removing the pastry cups from the oven, use the bottom of a shot glass or back of a spoon to gently press the bottom of the pastry down, smoothing it down to make more room for the filling.
Bake the Decorative Shapes: For the decorative cutouts, brush with milk then sprinkle sugar on top. Bake on a parchment lined sheet pan while the pastry par bakes for about 8-12 minutes or until goldenish - keep an eye on them - the smaller the cutout the quicker the bake.
While the pastry is par baking, make the pumpkin custard filling.
In a medium mixing bowl, add the pumpkin, milk, egg, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Whisk the ingredients together until they are smooth and creamy. Set it aside.
Just after the cups come out of the oven, fill each cup with about 2 Tbs (22g) of the pumpkin pie filling. Each cup should be filled to the top interior edge of the pastry.
Place the filled mini pies into the oven and reduce the temperature of the oven to 300F (150C). Bake the mini pies for 18-20 minutes just until the center is set (it will not be wobbly).
Cool the mini pies at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before gently using an offset spatula or knife to lift the mini pie out of the pan. The center will still not be set so be careful here. Or, let the pies cool completely in the pan. Cool for at least two hours before enjoying. If I'm serving the pies the day I make them, I do not refrigerate. Otherwise, they can be covered and refrigerated for up to two days. The pastry tends to get soggy however, the longer they set in the fridge.
Serve with vanilla bean whipped cream or coconut cream, a dusting of pumpkin pie spice and sugared cranberries.
To Prepare Ahead: A. Make the pastry up to two weeks in advance and store it in the freezer. Or, make the pastry two days ahead and store in the refrigerator. B. Prepare the recipe all the way through sliding the pastry lined cups into the freezer. If storing in the freezer for more than a few hours, place the entire pan in a plastic bag. Then, the only thing you'll need to do before finishing the mini pumpkin pies is to par bake the crust, whip up the filling and bake the assembled mini pumpkin pies.
A Note on Oven Temperature Variations: I enthusiastically recommend an oven thermometer! I’ve baked in commercial bakery and home ovens, old, lightly used and brand new ovens – they all have their own personalities with temperature variations and fluctuations. Knowing the temperature of your oven is important for the best outcome, especially when it comes to baking. I keep a close eye on my oven thermometers (I use two just to be sure) when testing/making recipes for the blog so that I am as accurate as possible with including the proper baking temperatures/time in my recipes.
Recipe Inspired By: Grand Central Baking Book