To me, pecans are the sweetest and softest of nuts. There’s something quite decadent and dessert-y about them; I shudder when I see them in savory applications. This reaction, I think, stems from my love of gooey, nutty pecan pie. If you want to gild the lily, drizzle the top of each pie with melted chocolate for a delicious surprise. These pies can also be made in jars.
Have two 12-cup standard muffin tins ready. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.
Lightly flour a clean work surface. Unwrap the dough, place it on the floured work surface, and flour the top lightly. Roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. It will be about 14 inch (35.5 cm) in diameter. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out as many circles 4-5 inches (10-12 cm) in diameter as possible.
Handling the dough circles gently, lift each circle and press it into a muffin cup, leaving a 1/8-to 1/4-inch (3-to 6-mm) overhang and patching any tears by pinching them together or plugging them with a dough scrap. You can crimp the dough that extends beyond the edge of the cup with fork tines or your fingers so it adheres to the top of the tin and forms a rim, if you like, but it is not necessary. Gather the dough scraps, form into a ball, and roll out, and cut out more circles. (Reroll the dough only once or it will bake up tough.) You should have 12-16 circles total. If you don’t have enough dough circles to fill every cup in a muffin tin, stagger the crusts, rather than clustering all of them at one end of the tin. If you’ve filled one tin, refrigerate it while you line the cups in a second tin, then refrigerate the second tin.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and corn syrup until light in color. Whisk in the bourbon and orange zest (if using) and then whisk in the vanilla and salt. Stir in the pecans.
Remove the dough-lined cups from the refrigerator. Fill each cup 2/3 full with the pecan mixture. Refrigerate the assembled pies for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C/gas 4).
Bake the pies until the filling is golden brown and no longer jiggles when tapped, about 15 minutes.
Let cool on a baking rack for at least 1 hour before serving. Run a sharp, thin knife around the edge of each pie to loosen it from the cup. Then, using the knife tip or a fork,gently pry each pie upward so you can grab it with your fingertips and lift it out of the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The pies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Reheat in a 350 degree (180°C/gas 4) oven for about 5-7 minutes.