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. As soon as the settlers
realized the pumpkin's versatility they began using it in both sweet
and savory dishes. The English settlers first made a pumpkin pie by substituting
fresh pumpkin for the
thick pulp of other boiled and spiced fruits that were called for in
their sweet pie recipes.
Today the pumpkin pie has evolved into an open-faced single crust pie shell
that is filled with a smooth custard-like filling made with pumpkin
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 has set. After
letting the pie cool to room temperature, it is usually served with a
dollop of softly whipped
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, to make our pumpkin pie taste even better; and that is to
sprinkle a layer of crushed gingersnaps and/or ground pecans over 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. One, do not over
mix the ingredients. I find it best to mix the ingredients
together by hand, not in a mixer or food processor. Second, do not
over bake the pie. Remove the
pie from the oven when it is just set, and
inserted about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the side of the pan comes out
almost clean (the center of
the pie will still look a little wet).
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
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
the last Thursday in November in the United States, and Canada celebrates Thanksgiving
the second Monday in
Short Crust Pastry: 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). Add 1/8 cup (about 2 tablespoons) water and
process just until the dough holds together when pinched. If
necessary, add the remaining water.
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. Tuck the overhanging
pastry under itself and 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.
Gingersnap Layer: Toast pecans in a 350 degree F (180 degree
C) oven for 8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant.
Cool and then place the pecans, along with the gingersnap cookies, in
a food processor and process until finely ground. Press this mixture evenly onto the bottom
and up the sides of the
crust. Cover and return the pastry to the refrigerator while you make the
Increase the oven temperature
to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place rack in bottom third of the
Make the Pumpkin
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
45-55 minutes or until the
filling is set and the crust has browned (the center will
still look wet). (A knife inserted about 1 inch (2.5 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.
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