Pie 101 – Pumpkin

Pumpkin Pie should quiver, shiver, and shimmer. 

If your pie is solid and unmoving–like old jello-it’s overdone or old.  If  the filling is pulling away from the crust, it was made too many days ago.  Is it cracked?   Well, that just happens once in a while (probably overbaked)–but next time bake it for less time and see if you can avoid that.

Whatever you do ..stay away from store-bought pies.  While, big, easy, available, and portable, they were baked….when?  And are in the stores how far ahead?  This pie, full of eggs and cream, should be absolutely fresh–nearly right out of your oven.  Almost warm.  And, if not, at least at room temperature.  It’s custard.  Plain and simple.   And, if you don’t want to make pie dough or want a Gluten-Free Pumpkin “Pie,” you can bake the filling in a greased pie pan or casserole without any pastry.  Just call it pumpkin custard; that’s what it is.

NOTE:   For thorough pie-making and baking instructions, see my Pie 101 Post.

I’ve been making this pumpkin pie since I was married. It’s been baked in a dozen states and in Europe.  At sea level and at altitude. (Altitude will take a little longer.)  If you have canned pumpkin from last year, it will make better pie.  Don’t use fresh pumpkin; your pie will be stringy.  Don’t use organic pumpkin; your pie will be less tasty and somewhat watery.  Just use plain old canned pumpkin like Libby’s.  They know from pumpkin and you’ll just have to get over your feelings about processed food if you want to bake this pie.  Help yourself to a piece for breakfast the next day.  Pumpkin is the healthiest pie available.

Make it the day you’re eating it, if possible.  If not, let it cool completely, then refrigerate it overnight and bring it to room temperature before dinner.  Do not freeze this pie, though you can make the crust ahead and freeze it either on its own or in the pie pan.  If you freeze it in the pan, you don’t need to unthaw it much — if at all– it’ll bake just fine.

A shortcrust or Pâte brisée pastry made with all butter is my favorite for any custard and particularly for pumpkin. (See below.)  The leaning toward grainy or crumbly versus flaky crust is perfect for custard and remains crisp despite the milk and egg in the filling.  For the milk, I like a mixture of evaporated milk and half and half.

PUMPKIN PIE—  Basic recipe from early ‘70s Betty Crocker

For a 9″ Pie:

9” Pie crust  See below
·       2 eggs
·       2 cups pumpkin (If you don’t have quite enough, add a little applesauce.)
·       ¾  cup white sugar
·       ½  teaspoon salt
·       1  teaspoon cinnamon– or a bit more for a spicier pie*
·       ½ teaspoon ground ginger
·       ¼ teaspoon ground cloves–or a bit more for a spicer pie
·       1 2/3  cups evaporated milk or half and half
For a 10″ Pie:

10” Pie crust   See below
·       3 eggs
·       2 2/3  cups pumpkin
·       1  cup sugar
·       ¾ teaspoon salt
·       1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon* –or a bit more for a spicier pie
·       ¾  teaspoon ground ginger
·       ½  teaspoon ground cloves–or a bit more for a spicier pie
·       2 ¼  cups evaporated milk or half and half

1.    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place pastry in pie pan and crimp edges. The crust will retain its edges better if you refrigerate or freeze pie dough in the pie plate while you make the filling.
2.    Beat eggs, then beat in remainder of ingredients.
3.    Pour into pastry-lined pan. (To prevent spills, place pie pan on oven rack or on open ven door when filling with pumpkin mixture.)
4.    Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake 9” 45 minutes longer, 10” 55 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out nearly clean or clean. (Check pie at 45 min.)
5.    Don’t over bake the pie.  Pumpkin is a custard pie and should shiver a bit when moved.

Cool on rack.  If not using that day, refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before serving with whipped cream.  Store leftovers loosely wrapped in the refrigerator.  They won’t last long.

* I like Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon

Pâte brisée or Shortcrust : Into a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor, measure 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.* With a pastry blender in the bowl or steel knife in the food processor, cut in 1/2 cup (1/4 pound–4 ounces )very cold butter until you have pieces both smaller and larger than peas.  Slowly pour in approximately 1/4 cup ice water and stir or process until dough begins to cling together and form a ball.  Using hands, quickly pat the dough into a ball and then into a flat disc to firm it up.  Roll out on a floured board or counter (or between sheets of waxed paper on a damp counter) first in the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) and then in the intervening ones (northeast, etc.) until dough is about 1/4-inch thick and is 1-2 inches larger than your 9 or 10-inch pie plate (or tart pan).  Roll dough loosely around the rolling pin and then unroll into the pie plate.   You can also fold dough in half and in half again and then transfer it to the lower right quadrant of your pan.  Unfold and unfold again. Trim, crimp with fingers or fork, and fill pie while on a baking sheet on the oven rack to avoid spills.   You can also chill the empty crust in the refrigerator –or store it covered in the freezer– if not using right away. 

Cook’s Note:   Many people refrigerate the crust  a half an hour before rolling out no matter what so that it is quite cold upon hitting the hot oven.  If I work quickly and it’s not a hot day, I don’t find this necessary.

* This crust is on the edge of  being a tiny bit salty–just on the edge, mind you; you can cut the salt in half if you don’t like salt.  I don’t add any sugar as I’m fond of the juxtaposition of the sweet filling versus a tad salty and crispy pastry, but some people add a couple of teaspoons or even a tablespoon.

{printable recipe}

Sing a new song,

4 thoughts on “Pie 101 – Pumpkin

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