My First Pumpkin Pie

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I love Thanksgiving as much as the next person, but truth be told, if I had to list my favorite things about the holiday, pumpkin pie wouldn’t even make it into my top ten. Now that I think about it, that list would consist of hardly any food items, but rather things like going to see the new blockbuster movie with a group of twenty cousins after the meal, getting up early for the parade the next morning, or the fact that thanks to this holiday, my late November birthday hardly ever falls on a work day (because we all know the Wednesday before Thanksgiving should not be considered a work day). And even in terms of food items, as much as I have a sweet tooth, I’m not really a pie person. Couple that with the fact that by the time dessert rolls around on Thanksgiving day, I’ve already consumed so much wine and chex mix turkey and mashed potatoes that I really can’t even bear the thought of one more bite, and somehow pumpkin pie never sounds that good.  I know I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two months going on and on about my love for pumpkin, but for whatever reason it’s never really translated to the most quintessential of all pumpkin desserts – until now.

Technically, this isn’t my first pumpkin pie. I made one once when I was little, although I’m sure it was the recipe on the back of the Libby’s can with a frozen store-bought crust. The details are hazy, but something went wrong and my mom threw it away.  And I really haven’t had the urge to try again, until this year. My aunt is hosting Thanksgiving for about 45 of us, so she sent out an email asking people to bring certain items, and for some reason I decided to sign up for pumpkin pie on a whim (along with sweet potatoes, which I think I’m going to try to do three ways – am I crazy?).   Despite the advice of many to just stick with the Libby’s recipe, I found this variation when I went to do a trial run for a “Practice Thanksgiving”/”Friends Thanksgiving” last weekend, and I’m so glad I did.  It’s a little more work than your basic pumpkin pie recipe, but if you’re in the mood to branch out this year I think this pie is worth it.

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To make homemade pie crust, or to buy store-bought? People feel pretty strongly about this, one way or the other.  Obviously the true food-blogger answer (even the true wannabe-food-blogger answer) should be homemade, but to tell you the truth, I’ve had some pretty delicious pre-made frozen pie crusts (you can buy really high quality French ones now, although my grandma has lived her whole life using Marie Callender’s and I don’t think anyone has complained). Having said that, it only takes one “did you make this crust from scratch” inquiry to make you feel like it’s worth the extra effort to do it yourself. I thought this crust looked perfect going into the oven, but somehow one half baked up perfectly while the other kind of shrunk – broke my heart, but it still tasted delicious.

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Cooking the pumpkin-and-yam-mixture on the stove really adds a depth of flavor to the pie. You can mash the sweet potatoes as you cook them (as the recipe suggests), or just puree the mixture with an immersion blender when you’re finished cooking it, as I did. Another note that I’ll add here, for lack of a better place to put it: it seems one of Cook’s Illustrated’s goals in tweaking this recipe was to make a pie that wasn’t overly spiced. While I can appreciate that, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg seemed almost under-spiced to me, so I doubled both amounts (and list the range in the recipe). I also added a tiny pinch of cloves. I thought my pie turned out perfectly, but you could definitely go with the lesser amounts if that sounds good to you. I also used ground ginger, as Deb suggests, mainly just to save myself the hassle.

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The straining step was kind of a pain, and I’m not sure it was necessary (especially since I used the immersion blender), but I will say the custard was incredibly smooth and creamy.  We’ll see if I do it again next week.

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I had read in the comments to Deb’s post that the pie takes a lot longer to cook through than the recipe suggests, so I was prepared for it to take longer than the 30-45 minutes listed. Mine took well over an hour though – probably closer to an hour and a half – so I was glad I had the temperature instruction as well. And leftover pie dough to cut into tiny pumpkins and leaves to cover the hole that my candy thermometer made in the middle of my pie.

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Pumpkin Pie, from Cook’s Illustrated by way of Smitten Kitchen

A half recipe of your favorite pie crust, chilled (Deb recommends hers, here; I also like Melissa Clark’s, here or here – or you can always buy one, I won’t tell).

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams, from a 15-ounce can
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, which is what I used)
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used 1 teaspoon)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
Pinch of cloves, optional
1 teaspoon table salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

To prepare the crust:

Roll out your dough on a generously floured work surface to make a 12″ circle about 1/8″ thick. Roll dough loosely around your rolling pin and unroll into your pie plate, leaving at least a 1″ overhang all around the pie plate.

Working around the circumference, ease the dough into the pie plate by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing into the plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Trim the overhang to 1/2″ beyond the lip of the pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; the edge should be flush with the edge of the pie plate. Using your thumb and forefinger, flute the edge of the dough (or finish it however you like, with fork tongs or otherwise). Refrigerate the dough-lined pie plate until firm, about 15 more minutes.

To par-bake the crust:

Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and line it with greased foil and pie weights (or old dried beans). Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes; remove the foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5-10 more minutes, until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove the crust and baking sheet from the oven.

To make the filling:

While the pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine pumpkin, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves (if using), and salt; bring to a sputtering simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Continue to simmer, constantly stirring and mashing the yams against the side of the pot, until thick and shiny, 10-15 minutes (I didn’t worry too much about mashing the yams, as I used my immersion blender at the end).

Remove pan from heat (and use your immersion blender here if you want to – or put the mixture in a food processor or blender – or skip this step entirely). Whisk the cream mixture in slowly, until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through a fine (or medium) mesh strainer and re-whisk.

To bake the pie: 

Pour the warm filling into the warm crust. Return the pie, on baking sheet, to oven and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges are set (and instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), about 20-35 more minutes. NOTE: in my oven, this took over an hour past the 10 minutes at 400. In many of the comments to Smitten Kitchen’s blog post, people complained that it took a lot longer to set, or that it never set. When I make this pie again next week, I’ll only turn my oven down to 350 rather than 300, and still budget about an hour of baking time. A thermometer is helpful to gauge when it’s done so that you don’t worry that you’re over-cooking it, but if you don’t have one, you’ll be able to tell it’s done when the center of the pie looks almost set and not too jiggly.

Once the pie is finished baking, transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. The pie will finish cooking with the resident heat; to ensure the filling sets properly, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.  You can serve the pie warm, cold, or at room temperature, but I’ve realized I like pumpkin pie a lot better when it’s chilled.  Top with lightly sweetened whip cream, cinnamon, and maybe a mini pie-dough cookie.  Or if you’d rather, just stick your pie on the dessert table and head out to the late showing of Catching Fire.  Something tells me it would make a pretty amazing pre-parade (or pre-shopping) breakfast on Friday morning as well – if there’s any left.

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4 thoughts on “My First Pumpkin Pie

  1. Pingback: Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumble Crust and Bourbon Chantilly Cream | Blueberries & Basil

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