pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving this year was fantastic; maybe the best Thanksgiving ever. We had a small group of close friends over and a very good time was had by all. I hope that your Thanksgiving was similarly wonderful.

To start, we enjoyed lightly pickled carrots, Consider Bardwell Farm Manchester cheese with crackers, olives, spicy pumpkin seeds, colorful sliced radishes, stuffed mushrooms, and some dry bubbly.

Dinner was a very laid back affair–no rushing or freaking out. Truth be told, I am usually the one who freaks out last minute, but this year I was very organized with almost everything made ahead. Here is the menu:

Thanksgiving 2008
fennel soup
heritage breed turkey
turkey gravy
stuffing with apricots and sausage
sweet potato pudding, courtesy of Shirley Corriher’s grandmother
sauteed green beans
brussels spouts gratin with cream and bacon
cranberry sauce with fresh pears and ginger
pumpkin pie
vegan apple tart

I was very happy with the pie–not nearly as sweet as most, with just a little heat from the pepper. I made the pie in steps over three days, and that made things easy. To make the pumpkin puree, peel, seed and roast either sugar pie pumpkins or another sweet squash. Places large slices on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and cover tightly with tin foil. Roast at 400 degrees until squash is soft, but not mushy, roughly 45 minutes. Mash with a potato masher (for a more rustic pie), or puree in a food processor. You can roast the pumpkin in advance, and then keep in the refrigerator until needed. If you have extra, and you almost always do, think about freezing the squash for a rainy day.

Because pumpkin pie requires a prebaked shell, the crust can dry out quite easily. In some ways, this is just part of the pumpkin pie package, but if you are diligent about not over baking during the prebake, and then shielding during the pie bake, you might just get a flaky crust and a delicious pie.

Finally, a discussion of filling. There is a fine line between under and over cooked custard pie. As you near the end of bake time, check the center of the pie. You are looking for it to be jiggly but not watery. I pull my pies when a three or four inch diameter in the center of the pie still has movement but the rest of the pie is set. I have been known to pull pumpkin pies out, change my mind and put them back in. Follow your instincts, and if you do over bake it will still be delicious.

Pumpkin Pie(adapted from the Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)
makes one pie 

for the dough
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 24 or so pieces
1/2 cup ice water

for the filling
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
3 room temperature eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar (more for a sweeter pie)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds of black pepper

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds until ingredients are well mixed. Add the butter, several pieces at a time, pulsing once or twice for each addition. When butter has been to reduced to pea-sized chunks, drizzle in 3/4 of the water. Pulse ingredients just until dough holds together (3 or 4 times). Add a touch more water if necessary. It is fine, and even desirable, for the dough to be crumbly, although I sometimes chose to work with a slightly wetter dough because that can lead to less handling during rolling. Form the dough into a small disk and tightly wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Prepare a lightly floured surface, or use lightly floured parchment paper (an amazing product that I highly recommend). If the dough has been in the refrigerator for a while, allow it to soften to room temperature. Roll the dough in to a 12″ round. Press into the pie pan and refrigerate that for an hour. Once dough is almost fully chilled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prick the shell all over with a fork. Then place a square of tin foil (enough to overlap the sides slightly) into the center and weight with dry beans, pie weights, or rice. Place on a cookie sheet and cook the pie shell for 15 minutes; then remove the foil and cook for another five minutes, until crust is just turning golden. Remove from oven and allow shell to cool.

For the filling, whisk together 1/4 cup of the cream and the flour in a saucepan over medium heat. Continue whisking until it thickens and begins to steam. Slowly add the remaining cream and whisk until ingredients begin to steam again, then remove from heat.

In a large bowl whisk together the pumpkin and eggs. In another bowl combine the sugars and spices. Slowly add the sugar and spice mixture and the cream mixture to the pumpkin. Whisk thoroughly, and pour into pie shell. Bake on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes or more. Cover the edge of the crust with tin foil and remove when there are 10 more minutes of baking time.

Remove the pie from the oven, and allow pie to cool and set before serving. Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped, lightly sweetened cream.


  1. […] With that in mind, I’m dragging out one from the archives: classic pumpkin pie from scratch. Ditch the canned stuff, and bake up this silky, flavorful, real pumpkin pie. Real except that I frequently skip the pumpkin and use butternut or kabocha squash instead. You won’t tell will you? Here’s our recipe. […]

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