Pumpkin Pie Recipe
There is a great tradition of serving Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving Day in both the United States and Canada. It all began when the European settlers first came to the New World and were introduced to the pumpkin by the American Indians. Once the settlers realized the pumpkin’s wonderful versatility they began using this new fruit in both sweet and savory dishes. For guidance on how to make a sweet pie using pumpkins, the settlers turned to their English recipes and substituted pumpkin for the thick pulp of other boiled and spiced fruits that were called for in their recipes. Today the pumpkin pie has evolved to an open-faced single crust pie shell that is filled with a smooth custard-like filling made with pumpkin puree, eggs, cream or milk, sugar, and spices (mixture usually consisting of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves). It is considered a “soft” pie because it is made with an unbaked crust and uncooked filling that is baked until the crust has browned and the filling is set. After letting the pie cool to room temperature, it is usually served with a dollop of softly whipped cream.
There are many opinions as to what constitutes the best pie crust. My personal favorite is this Pate Brisee (short crust pastry) recipe, as I like its’ wonderful buttery flavor and crumbly texture. Now, Rose Levy Berenbaum in ‘The Pie and Pastry Bible” gives us a great idea to make our pumpkin pie taste even better; and that is to sprinkle a layer of crushed gingersnaps and ground pecans onto the unbaked pie crust. The advantage of doing this is twofold; it adds flavor, and it prevents the crust from becoming soggy. After pressing the nut mixture onto the unbaked pie crust, all that is left to do is to make the pumpkin filling. The main problem everyone has with pumpkin pies is that the filling has a tendency to crack. There are, however, a few things we can do to minimize the amount of cracking. The first is that the ingredients should not be mixed too vigorously, so I find it best to mix the ingredients together by hand, not in a mixer or food processor. Another reason for cracks is over baking of the pie so make sure you remove the pie from the oven when a knife inserted about 1 inch (2.54 cm) from the side of the pan comes out almost clean. But do not be surprised if you notice the center of the pie still looks wet as this is how it should be. Now, to make our lives easier we really do not have to make our own pumpkin puree as there are excellent brands of canned pure pumpkin on the market today. Just make sure you do not buy the pumpkin which already has the spices added to it. That being said, if you have the time and are so inclined, you can make your own puree using the smaller pumpkin varieties like Sugar Pie, Baby Bear or Cheese Pumpkin (approximately 5-7 lbs., 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 kg.). To begin this process, first cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise, remove all the seeds and stringy fibers, and then place cut-side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) for approximately 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours (depending on size) or until easily pierced with a knife. Scoop out the pulp and puree in a food processor until smooth. You do need to extract all the liquid, so strain the pumpkin through a cheesecloth lined strainer and then cool the puree before using.
For those unfamiliar with the American Thanksgiving, it began in 1621. When the Pilgrims came to America in 1620 they encountered many difficulties. The American Indians helped the Pilgrims by teaching them how to farm and fish. In the Fall of 1621 the Pilgrims wanted to give thanks to God for all they had and decided to celebrate with a great feast. This celebration became known as Thanksgiving and is celebrated at the end of November in the States (Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October).
Pate Brisee: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.
Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.
After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 13 inch (33 cm) circle. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9 inch (23 cm) pie pan. Brush off any excess flour and tuck the overhanging pastry under itself. Use a fork to make a decorative border. Alternatively, you can trim the pastry to the edge of the pie pan. With the remaining pastry make decorative cut-outs (leaves, pumpkins, etc.) and with a little water, attach them around the lip of the pie pan. Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes before pouring in the filling.
Pecan and Gingersnap Layer: Toast pecans in a 350 degree F (180 degree C) oven for 8 minutes or until lightly browned and aromatic. Cool and then place the pecans in a food processor and process until finely ground. Combine the ground pecans with the crushed gingersnap cookies. Press this mixture evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of the unbaked pie crust. Cover and return the pastry to the refrigerator while you make the pumpkin filling.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place rack in bottom third of the oven.
Make the Pumpkin Filling: In a large bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and place on a large baking pan to catch any spills. Bake the pie for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust has browned (the center will still look wet). (A knife inserted about 1 inch (2.54 cm) from side of pan will come out almost clean.)
Place the baked pie on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with maple whipped cream. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.
Makes one 9 inch (23 cm) pie.
Make the Maple Whipped Cream:
Place the heavy whipping cream and maple syrup in bowl of your electric mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the cream until soft peaks form.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts