Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Extraordinaire

I never ate pumpkin pie growing up. My parents were never big on it, so it didn't appear on our Thanksgiving table.

My wife's family, however, enjoys a good pumpkin pie, so after I got married I finally tasted it. I liked it and have had a piece at Thanksgiving ever since.

All the pumpkin pies I've eaten have been store bought, perfectly round discs with orange filling. So when my wife's friend Cheryl gave her a recipe, we took up the challenge.

I started with my mother's pie crust, which is deceptively simple. For a 9 inch pie crust, freeze a stick of butter for about an hour. This is vital because key to a good crust is keeping the little bits of butter intact within the dough. If you don't freeze the butter, it gets mushy as you cut it and you end up with butter smears into of pieces.

Cut the frozen butter into small pieces (as small as you can get) and work into a cup and a half of flour with 1/4 teaspoon baking power and a pinch of salt. I use an up-and-down motion with a whisk with a bulb on the end. Add six to seven tablespoons of cold water and mix with a spoon and then by hand into a ball. The trick is to use as little moisture as possible to form the ball. The less moisture, the flakier the crust.

Flour the counter and roll out the crust. Shape into a greased a 9 inch pie plate and build up the sides. I was somewhat flummoxed by this. My wife took over. Instead of pressing the crust onto the edges as with an apple pie, you literally build a straight, up and down parapet around the circumference. You want it about an inch high from the bottom of the pie plate. Don't be surprised if you have extra dough.

As I made the crust, my wife made the filling. She slightly beat 2 eggs and then beat in 1 can of pumpkin filling (about two cups), 1/4 cup each of white and brown sugar and maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cloves and 1 2/3 cup evaporated milk. For extra bite, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of all spice. We did not.

The filling was very thin, nearly as thin as water. Fear not. All is right with the world.

Put your pie plate with the crust on a tin foil-lined cookie sheet in a pre-heated 450 degree F oven. Transfer the filling (it's about four cups) into a measuring cup or other spouted vessel and pour into the shell.

After 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 350 and bake about another 45 minutes. The pie is done when a thin knife in the center comes out clean.

The recipe worked like a dream. The pie was perfectly set after the full baking time, rather amazing considering how soupy the original filling was.

The result: the best pumpkin pie I've ever tasted. Everyone loved it at Thanksgiving.

A huge success. Thank you Cheryl!

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