What better way to follow up Jenn’s wonderful guest post on the perfect Thanksgiving turkey than an entry about pumpkin pie? No traditional Thanksgiving dessert lineup is complete without pumpkin pie, after all. And yes, store-bought is fine, even delicious, but there’s something comforting about making a pie, and buying it from the store doesn’t produce that same “look-I-actually-made-a-pie!” feeling. People are always impressed by a homemade pie, but it’s not that hard: I’m going to confess to my shortcomings as a baker in this entry, in hopes of convincing those of you who are afraid of baking pies from scratch to give it a try.
Years ago, a friend introduced me to this recipe for a pumpkin pie with toffee-walnut topping. The pie is delicious with the topping (and, for those who crave a twist on a “plain” pumpkin pie, it’s perfect!), but I felt that the topping distracted from the awesome flavor of the pie. I prefer it without the topping, so I’m going to write it that way (if you want to try it with the topping, just click on the link to the original recipe). With or without the topping, you can’t go wrong. I’ve made this pie more than a dozen times, to rave reviews each time.
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons (about) ice water
- 1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
- 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
- 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Put the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk together thoroughly. (The recipe says to blend it in a processor, but a) I only have a mini processor, b) I’m too lazy to get it out, and c) if I’m too lazy to get it out, I’m not about to process the dough in two batches! The whisk works well for me.) Add butter and shortening and, with a pastry cutter or two butter knives, work the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Here, I must pause and say two things: One, I highly recommend getting a pastry cutter. It’s a small (and inexpensive) gadget, so I don’t mind storing it even though it’s not something I use often. It’s just so efficient when it comes to combining butter and dry ingredients to result in great pastry. Two, when I first ventured into making pie crusts and biscuits, it really annoyed me when recipes would reference the butter/flour mixture resembling “coarse meal.” What is coarse meal?! Sounds like something I’d be familiar with if I were a character in the Little House on the Prairiebooks. So, here’s what “mixture resembling coarse meal” looks like:
Basically, there are still some small lumps of butter (and, in this case, shortening) in the flour, but the flour has started to kind of come together. Once you’ve reached this stage, add 2 tablespoons ice water and work that into the dough with the pastry cutter, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. (I always use the whole three tablespoons and sometimes a tiny bit more.) Gather dough into ball — the dough will seem somewhat crumbly and dry; that’s fine. If it has the consistency of Play-Doh, it’s too wet. Press the crumbly bits into the dough ball. Since you’re going to be wrapping the dough in plastic wrap eventually, it might help to lay a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface, then lay your dough ball on it.
Flatten the ball into a disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 30 minutes.
After the dough disk has chilled for 30 minutes, position a rack in the bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a 12-inch round. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter pie dish. Fold overhang under, forming high-standing rim. Crimp edges decoratively. Here I must pause and say a few more things.
I love to bake, but I’m really, really bad at anything requiring delicate handiwork. Want me to bake a cake? Fine. Decorate a cake? I’m not the person for the job. With practice, I can get better at something, but anything requiring really awesome coordination is beyond me. It’s not just with cooking, either — my four-year-old’s drawing and clay-shaping abilities have now surpassed mine, for instance. I must have arrived late when they were distributing the hand-eye coordination skills. 😉 I do have a point — it’s that this crust recipe is practically foolproof, because even though I never transfer the dough into the pie pan in one piece, it always comes out fantastic. Look at the sorry state the dough is in when I transfer it to the plate:
It’s not the recipe’s fault, either — I’ve made many other pie crusts, and I just don’t have the dexterity to manage rolling and transferring, no matter what tricks I try. But, hey, it’s fine! No need to panic, because with a little pressing of the seams and reallocation of the bits that broke off, we have this:
Look! “High, crimped edges” and everything. The filling covers the bottom and sides, so no one has ever seen evidence of my ineptitude when it comes to crust transferring.
Now that your crust is in the pan, set the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then, brush crust all over with the beaten egg yolk. Bake until crust is set but still pale, about 15 minutes (I find that 13 is plenty). Cool slightly.
While your crust is baking, you can whip up the filling. It’s super easy: Just dump all of the filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then blend with a hand mixer until smooth. Once the pre-baked crust is out of the oven and slightly cooled, pour the filling in.
Bake for 55 minutes or until the filling is set (I’ve taken anywhere from 50 to 55 minutes). Let it cool on a rack. This is best served slightly warm, but it can be made six hours ahead (let it stand at room temperature).
This is so, so good. I promise that the effort of a homemade crust is worth it — it’s buttery, flaky and ever so light. Oh, and it almost goes without saying that the pie ought to be served with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Since the filling calls for whipping cream, you might as well use the remainder to make homemade whipped cream. Simply put a cup of whipping cream in a large bowl, add 1/3 cup sugar (or less, to taste), and a couple of drops of vanilla extract. Then, whip with a hand mixer until peaks form (depending on the speed you’ve got the mixer going at, anywhere from 2-5 minutes).