If you had to name one dessert that is quintessentially Thanksgiving few would argue the answer is pumpkin pie. I don’t recall a Thanksgiving holiday where there wasn’t one on the menu so no need to stop now.
Some may think there is a need to return to the “days of yore” and bake your own pumpkins in lieu of canned pumpkin. Here’s a tip – put those pumpkins on your mantle or table and get the can opener out. I’ve tried it. Nope. Canned pumpkin is really better for this dessert. It has a smoother, creamier texture which will yield a more velvety custard.
Pumpkin pie is an extremely simple pie to make. The pumpkin custard in this pie has just enough brown sugar to bring out the autumn undertones of the squash. The result in no way resembles the cloyingly sweet, artificial flavor of pumpkin spice that they pump in your coffee. This is the way pumpkin should taste with hints of spice and warmth from cinnamon, allspice and ginger.
The recipe for the crust is similar to my basic piecrust, using all butter with a touch of sugar but this recipe is adjusted to make two 9-inch pie crusts. (If you only need to make one crust, you can find that recipe posted with our Caramel Apple Pie or Rustic Blueberry Tart.) This pastry dough holds up well with a custard pie and the longer baking time required, yet it still remains flaky and tender. If pastry dough is not your thing, don’t try to learn on top of the holiday – there’s already enough stress! You can find some very nice pre-made pie dough in the refrigerated section of most food markets.
A wonderful fruit pie for your holiday table – yes, squash is technically a fruit!
Let’s start with the pastry dough:
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into cubes
¼-1/2 cups cold water
In a food processor, add the flour, kosher salt and sugar, pulse about 8-10 times to mix together. Toss in the butter and process for about 10-15 seconds, until the butter is the size of small peas.
You want to see small pieces of butter. As it melts in the oven it will add the layers of flakiness to your crust.
Pour in ¼ cup of the cold water through the feed tube, adding up to ½ cup (but no more) a little at a time until the dough begins to come together about 30-35 seconds. (Humidity can sometimes be a factor when making pie dough, some days you will need all the water, some days not.) Take care not to over process the dough or your piecrust will be tough.
Dump the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper. Using the paper gently work the dough together.
Split it into two equal portions and shape into round disks. Wrap the dough up in parchment paper and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Note: If you make the dough ahead and it’s been refrigerated more than an hour, let it set out at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes to make it easier to roll. When you’re ready to roll out the piecrust, dust your surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough into a round about 11-inches in diameter.
Gently roll the dough over the rolling pin and unroll into a 9” pie plate that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray. Lift it into the pie plate, settling the dough into place. Don’t stretch the dough or it will shrink more than you plan when it’s baked!
Trim around the edges leaving about 1-1/2-2″ of dough. Turn the dough under and finish the edges. Chill until you’re ready to fill the pie shell, this helps the dough hold its shape when it hits the hot oven.
Now the really good stuff – the Pumpkin Pie Custard:
1 can pumpkin puree, 15-ounces
3 extra-large eggs, gently beaten
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed when measuring
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Place the pumpkin puree in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the eggs and the cream.
Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and kosher salt. Whisk together until well blended and smooth.
Pour into the pie shell and bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until the center is set and no longer “wet” in appearance.
Cool before slicing to let the custard set up. Serve at room temperature or chilled.