Saturday, November 21, 2015


Last year we had a bumper crop of small pumpkins and butternut squashes. I’ve only just finished the last of the frozen puree from that harvest. This year we didn’t plant pumpkin at all.

A friend gave me a giant pumpkin from her garden, the kind with deeply ridged green skin and pale orange flesh. Once broached, it needs to be kept refrigerated and cooked promptly. I had just about finished it off (see below for links to other pumpkin recipes), when another one landed in my kitchen!

With such abundance, it seems only fitting that that New World squash make an appearance for the Thanksgiving feast. But, instead of the usual pumpkin pie, I’m making an easy pastry with a pumpkin filling. 

Squares of flaky pastry are filled with spiced pumpkin custard.

Pastry squares are easy to serve on a buffet table.

Serve the pastries with ice cream, if you like.

Little Mickeys” 
(Pastry Squares with Pumpkin Custard Filling)
Miguelitos con Crema de Calabaza

The little town of La Roda (Albacete province in La Mancha) is renowned for these delectable flaky pastry squares with a custard filling. They were invented by a local baker who named them after his appreciative friend, Miguelito, a name that translates as “little Mickey”. The original puff pastry is made, not with butter, but with lard, which produces a wonderfully flaky pastry. Easier is frozen puff pastry. I’ve changed the custard filling for one with spiced pumpkin.

You will need 2 ½ to 3 pounds of pumpkin or butternut squash to make 2 cups of puree. Steam, microwave or roast the pumpkin until tender, drain,  then puree it in a blender. Or, substitute a 29-ounce can of unsweetened pumpkin puree.

The usual flavoring for Spanish custards and creams is lemon zest and cinnamon, certainly good with pumpkin. Or you could use pumpkin pie spice. But, I’m on a cardamom kick, so I’ve used ground cardamom and powdered ginger.
Unfold the pastry dough, but don't roll it out.

The frozen puff pastry I’m using here is rectangular, so I cut each sheet into 8 rectangular pieces. In the US, you may find square sheets, which can be cut in 3-inch squares, making 9 pieces.

The pumpkin custard filling can be prepared a day or two in advance. The flaky pastry can be baked a day in advance. Split them and fill them only a few hours before serving.

Makes 16 to 18 pastry squares.

½ cup milk
¼ cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 cups pumpkin puree
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 (17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Make the pumpkin custard filling. Combine ¼ cup milk with cornstarch in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Stir egg yolks in a bowl. Add milk and cornstarch mixture to the yolks.

Combine remaining ¼ cup milk, pumpkin puree, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the mixture begins to bubble.

Stir some of the hot pumpkin mixture into the egg and cornstarch mixture, then whisk the egg into the pan with pumpkin.

Place the pan over boiling water and cook, stirring, until the custard thickens and is smooth, 5 minutes. Add the cardamom, ginger and lemon zest.

Thick pumpkin custard.

Cool to room temperature. (The cream can be prepared up to a day in advance and kept, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before spreading.)

Prepare the pastry squares. Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut each sheet of puff pastry into 9 (3-inch) squares. Place them 1-inch apart on baking sheet and bake 5 minutes. Lower heat to 375ºF and bake until pastry is golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove pastries to a rack to cool.

Split pastries, spread filling, close sandwiches.
When cool, split the pastries in half, using the tip of a knife to separate layers. Spread bottoms thickly with pumpkin cream and press tops lightly to sandwich the cream.

Sift powdered sugar over the tops of the pastries.

Need more pumpkin recipes? Follow these links for both sweet and savory ways with pumpkin.

And, if you’re making a more-or-less traditional pumpkin pie, try this recipe for an olive oil pie crust. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!