This time of year pumpkin sweets and savories abound—pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin soup—but my favorite pumpkin item is a classic: pumpkin pie. Inspired by the Sugar Pie Pumpkins I kept seeing for sale and the “Foolproof Pie Dough” recipe I discovered on the Cook’s Illustrated iPhone app, I decided this week that it wasn’t too early to kick off pumpkin season with a pumpkin pie.
I’d never made pumpkin pie filling from scratch, so I was curious whether the $3.99 Sugar Pie Pumpkins were worth the time and money. The pumpkins seemed so small that I decided to buy two. I later realized that a pumpkin is mostly flesh and that two pumpkins were more than enough to make two pies. Making pumpkin puree from scratch is more time-consuming than it is difficult and is a good project for a weekend afternoon. There is great satisfaction in making the puree from scratch, but I’ll gladly use canned pumpkin if time is crunched.
The magic ingredient in the Cook’s Illustrated “Foolproof Pie Dough” is vodka, which allows the crust to stay pliable enough to handle easily but doesn’t promote gluten production (and consequently toughness) as water would. The pie dough uses butter and shortening, thereby capturing both the flavor of butter and flakiness created by shortening. Instead of regular shortening, I used Spectrum Organics palm oil shortening that is non-hydrogenated and trans-fat free (it’s available at Whole Foods). The shortening produced a very flaky crust, and I’ll confidently use it any other recipe that calls for traditional shortening.
Alright, enough of me—it’s time to grab your pumpkin and start baking your pumpkin pie!
15 oz fresh pumpkin puree (recipe below) or canned solid-pack pumpkin (about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
½ recipe Foolproof Pie Dough (recipe below)Make the Pie
- Dust a clean work surface with flour. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll out the pie crust dough into an 11-inch circle. To ensure a round shape, move the pie dough a quarter turn after each roll. Roll the dough circle onto the rolling pin and unroll dough onto pie pan. Lightly press the dough so it touches the bottom and sides of the pie pan. Using a knife or kitchen shears, create a border of dough that overhangs over the edge of the pie pan ½ inch. Tuck the ½ inch of dough back under itself. Crimp edge decoratively.**
- Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°.
- Gently line interior of pie crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or rice.
- Bake the pie crust on the middle rack for 20 minutes. This is called “blind baking” and ensures the finished pie has a thoroughly cooked crust. Remove pie weights and aluminum foil and bake for another 6-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool pie shell.
- In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, heavy cream, whole milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Whisk ingredients until thoroughly incorporated and pour into pie shell.
- Bake pie for 45-50 minutes until pie filling is mostly set but center is slightly jiggly. The pie will continue to set after you remove it from the oven.
- Remove pie from oven and cool. Serve with whipped cream.
**Check out this 2-minute video from Gourmet magazine to watch an expert roll out pie dough.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UjUM9tW-Bg]
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com (Gourmet, November 1999).
Foolproof Pie Dough
For two 9-inch single-crust pies or one 9-inch double-crust piePie Dough Ingredients
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12½ oz), plus more for rolling out dough
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1½ sticks), cut into ¼-inch slices
½ cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
¼ cup cold vodka
¼ cup cold water
- Process 1½ cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
- Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
Recipe from the Cooks Illustrated iPhone app.
Fresh Pumpkin Puree
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Wash pumpkin to remove dirt or dust. Cut off stem and cut pumpkin in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, ice cream scooper or your hands, scoop the pumpkin seeds and fibers from the center of the pumpkin.
- Grease a baking sheet (you can cover the baking sheet with foil and then grease for easy cleanup) and place the pumpkin halves cut-side down on the baking sheets. Cover with another piece of foil.
- Bake pumpkins for 1½ hours or until pumpkin flesh is tender soft. Remove from oven and cool.
- When cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the pumpkin flesh from the skin. Process the pumpkin flesh in a food processor or blender until smooth. Place the pureed pumpkin in a sieve over a bowl and drain for several hours or overnight. Draining the pumpkin ensures a concentrated pumpkin flavor in your recipes. Alternatively, you can place the pumpkin puree in cheese cloth and squeeze to remove excess water.
- Use drained pumpkin puree immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze.