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Pumpkin Pie Recipe & Video

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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 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 has 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, 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 a knife 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 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 the last Thursday in November in the United States, and Canada celebrates Thanksgiving the second Monday in October.

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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.

Pecan 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 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 45-55 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. 

View comments on this recipe on YouTube

Adapted from:

Stewart, Martha. Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts. Clarkson Potter. New York: 1985. 

Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces

1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water

Pecan and Gingersnap Layer: (optional)

1/4 cup (25 grams) pecans, toasted and ground

1/4 cup (25 grams) crushed gingersnap cookies

Pumpkin Filling:

3 large eggs

2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 - 15 ounce can (425 grams) pure pumpkin

1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup (110 grams) light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Maple Whipped Cream:

1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

 
 
     
 

 

 

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