Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is, hands down, my FAVORITE Thanksgiving dessert. I cannot go a year without eating it. And, it’s actually one of the very first things I learned to make in the kitchen! I remember helping my mom make it as a kid, and my favorite part was that there was always too much filling for the pie crust, and she would pour it into a gratin dish and bake that off. Then I would get to eat the gratin pumpkin custard with a spoon. With whipped cream on top, of course.

After I graduated college, I made this pie all on my own (a feat at the time) for Thanksgiving that year. I took it to my aunt, who was hosting my dad’s large family, but of course I kept that extra custard gratin all for myself.

Now, when I first learned to make it, I took the easiest route possible. I used a can of pumpkin puree and followed the directions on the back of the can. I used a store-bought, frozen pie crust. You know, the kind that is already made and rolled out and crimped into an aluminum pie plate. It was simple, yet always my delicious pumpkin pie.

I’ve grown up a bit since graduating college, and my cooking has most certainly evolved. A lot! I decided it’s high time for my pumpkin pie to evolve, too. I did a 180 degree turn from my first pie. That was the simplest pumpkin pie ever, and this was quite possibly the most complicated pumpkin pie ever!

First, there was no canned pumpkin. Nope, I roasted, peeled, and pureed a whole sugar pumpkin. Secondly, no condensed milk. And thirdly, I made the crust from scratch too. Honestly, I loved doing it this way. It felt pure and clean, and it served as a wonderful reminder of how far my cooking has matured. A very concrete way to cement just how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished in the world of cooking and baking. And it reinforced how much passion I have for cooking and baking from scratch.

I can’t say I’ll never make pumpkin pie using a can of puree again, but I am very happy to have done it starting with an actual pumpkin at least once.

(Why yes, please – I’ll have some pie with my whipped cream!)

Source: adapted from Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh, by Emeril Lagasse

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbs unsalted butter, chilled
3 to 4 tbs ice cold water

1 (4-5 lb.) sugar pumpkin
Vegetable oil, for drizzling

1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbs pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Whipped cream, for serving

Place the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work it in with a pastry blender until it is the size of small peas. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, and combine everything with a rubber spatula until it comes together. Use more water if needed.
When the dough has mostly come together, knead for about one minute in the bowl. Shape it into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour.
When it is well chilled, transfer the dough to a floured surface. Flour your rolling pin and hands. Roll out the disk until it is about 12 inches around and 1/8 inch thick. Carefully fit it into a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp the edges decoratively. Then refrigerate the shell, lightly covered, for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the stem off the pumpkin and discard it. Cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and either discard or save for another use. Cut the halves into quarters, and cut the quarters in half. Transfer the pumpkin pieces to the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with vegetable oil. Toss to coat well. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the pumpkin is tender (the tip of a sharp paring knife should go in easily), 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it aside until the pumpkin is cool enough to handle. Then peel the skin off (if it doesn’t pull off easily, use a paring knife to slice it off) and chop the pulp into pieces. Transfer to a food processor and puree until completely smooth.
Push the puree through a sieve and discard any lumps or fibers left in the sieve.
Place the sieve over a clean bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Transfer the pumpkin puree to the cheesecloth and make sure the bottom of the sieve does not touch the bowl. Refrigerate overnight, letting it drain any excess liquid. Discard the liquid.
This will yield 2 to 2 1/2 cups.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Lightly coat one side of a piece of parchment paper with cooking spray. Position it, greased side down, on top of the chilled pie crust. Fill the crust with pie weights or dried beans and blind-bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment. Working quickly, use a pastry brush to brush the egg white all over the crust. Set it aside to cool, about 20 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.
Combine 2 cups of pumpkin puree and all remaining ingredients (except the whipped cream) in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake until the custard is set and the crust is lightly golden, about 1 hour.
Let the pie cool completely, then serve with whipped cream.
Note: original recipe calls for a 10 inch pie plate, but most pie plates are 9 inches, including mine. So I had a tiny bit of leftover filling, not enough for a separate gratin. Boo.

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