I always feel bad for the desserts on Thanksgiving. By the time dessert rolls out, people have gorged themselves on appetizers and turkey, and either skip desert altogether or eat very little of it. Even when I do eat a whole piece of pie, I'm generally on taste overload and can't really give dessert my full appreciation.
So, although pie is the traditional favorite for Thanksgiving dessert, after years of seeing half-eaten slices scraped into the trash, I have decided that maybe bite-size treats are the greener way to go.
Luckily, bite-size doesn't mean giving up the tastes we love. Whether you love pumpkin, apple, or pecan pie, there is a bite-size option out there. And with tiny portions, you can enjoy one of each!
In seeking out miniature dessert options, I discovered that the bar and the tartlet can replace most traditional pie recipes, providing similar flavor and texture in smaller bites. "Tartlet" can refer to anything smaller than the standard 9-12" tart, however, for bite size treats, I like to use mini muffin tins.
Apple Options. I think apple pie is the hardest to turn into a bite size option because of its yummy gooey consistency. If you want a traditional apple pie consistency and taste, you will need some time and patience—but the results are adorable and memorable. I would definitely recruit Ben and Be to help with this project.
Take your dough, and using a round cookie cutter, cut out dough circles that are slightly larger than the top opening of one mini-muffin cup. Push the dough gently into each muffin cup. Dice the peeled apples into small cubes and add the sugar and other ingredients as usual. Put a dollop of apple mixture in each cup and bake. (If you are really patient and have plenty of time and/or help, you could cut out mini tops for the mini pies. Just be sure to cut slits in the top.)
Keep an eye on them, because the baking time will be shorter than for a whole pie.
If this seems too time consuming, a French apple tart, which can be made in a square or rectangle baking dish, has a better consistency for bars. There are also a lot of recipes for apple puff pastry and apple bars out there—I did a quick internet search and found more than I knew what to do with!
Pumpkin Options. The consistency of pumpkin pie means that it can be easily translated into a bite size bar—simply take your favorite recipe, and instead of putting the crust in a pie plate, put it in the base of a square baking dish. If you use purchased pie dough, this may take a little manipulation, as the dough is generally round. Prepare the pumpkin mixture as usual, pour it into the square dish, and bake as usual. When the pie is cooled, cut into bite size pieces and add a dollop of whipped cream!
For a little bit healthier pumpkin pie, substitute low fat ricotta cheese or Neufchatel for the full-fat cream cheese, and if you make your own pie crust, substitute up to 1/3 of the white flour with whole wheat pastry flour.
If you have ever wondered how to make a pumpkin pie from actual pumpkin, as opposed to a can, pickyourown.org has detailed instructions with photos here.
Pecan Options. Pecan pie also has a consistency that lends itself to easy conversion into a bar using a similar method as suggested above. If you want to explore a new pecan bar option, I would recommend this Barefoot Contessa recipe—it is definitely an indulgence, with all that butter and sugar, but the end product is really beautiful and melt-in-your-mouth tasty.
Non-traditional Options. We recently had an "appetizer and dessert" Thanksgiving celebration with friends and got to sample some great non-traditional dessert items. Our friend Andi made amazing pumpkin whoopie pies that are a unique break from the traditional pie-based Thanksgiving dessert fare. Another friend, Erin, made mini cheese cakes that were delicious. Acai berries, which has been picked from a tree in a friend's front yard, were added to the dessert spread—a simple, local, and unique addition.