Halloween pumpkins look like the king of the mountain next to diminutive pie pumpkins, which are the ones needed to make a pumpkin pie.
Every fall my husband, who’s an accomplished bread maker, launches into his one dessert specialty, pumpkin pie from scratch. (Well, he did once make a cake for his own wedding party, but that’s another story.)
Pies made from a can of Libby’s are so good it’s hard to imagine that the effort of baking and pureeing the pumpkin will be worth it. But it is, if only for the experience of finding out what goes into that can. Using the whole food, the pumpkin itself, is a great cooking adventure with kids who might be enlightened to know that pumpkin pie begins with an actual pumpkin and the can comes later. Plus, it’s made by hand in your own kitchen, baking the pumpkin is easy, and the end result is delicious.
Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Many pumpkins are great jack-o-lanterns, but not suitable for pies. They’re too watery and bland in flavor. A pie pumpkin or any sweet squash will do, a butternut for example.
Cut in half and remove the seeds from one medium pie pumpkin or sweet squash (two pumpkins if you want two pies). I’m told these seeds are not so good for toasting. I’m experimenting anyway. Place cut side down in a shallow casserole with a little water and bake at 350º until tender, 35-45 minutes.
When done, allow to cool, remove seeds and strings (or remove before roasting), and scoop out the pumpkin. You’ll need 1 1/2 cups per pie. Puree the pumpkin in a blender or by hand with a potato masher.
Make your favorite pie dough. *Alice Water’s version is below.
Ingredients & Directions: Whisk together 1/4 cup cream and 2 teaspoons flour/ Heat this mixture over low heat until it thickens/ Then slowly whisk in 3/4 cup more cream/ Continue to whisk until it reaches a boil and remove from the heat – it will be fairly thick. Set aside/In a medium bowl whisk together 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree and 3 eggs.
In another small bowl mix 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, or 2-3 T if you like things on the sweeter side, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon each cloves & ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper.
Stir the sugar and spices into the pumpkin mixture along with the thickened cream/ Whisk together vigorously/ Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of brandy if you like.
Pour pumpkin mixture into pie pans, right to the top. Bake at 375º for 45 – 50 minutes. Test with a sharp knife or toothpick to determine if it’s done – knife should be clean when removed from center of pie.
Allow to cool. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.
*Alice Waters’ pie dough Recipe
From the Art of Simple Food. This is enough for one double-crust or two single-crust pies. It really is simple – you’ll need butter, flour and ice water.
Ingredients & Directions: Prepare 1/2 cup ice-cold water/ Mix together 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt if you’re using unsalted butter/ Add 1 1/2 sticks of cold butter cut into small cubes/ Work this mixture of butter and flour by hand with a pastry cutter, pulse it a few times in a food processor, or use a mixer with its paddle attachment/ Pour in most of the 1/2 cup ice water while still working the dough/ Add the rest of the water only if needed – dough should stick together when lightly pinched/ Pour into a bowl and gently form into one large piece, then divide that in two/ Gently form each piece into a ball and wrap in plastic/ Using the palm of your hand, flatten each wrapped piece into a disk shape and refrigerate for at least one hour. Roll it out and fill with something delicious when you’re ready.
It can be deceiving when using a food processor, which I’m hooked on now for crust. The mixture appears to be fine and crumbly and not yet the right consistency. Check it before processing further. Gather just a bit between fingers to see if it will easily form a small cohesive piece. If it does, it’s ready. If not, add a little more water and process only briefly. Pie dough should be handled as little as possible – it’s OK if there are small bits of butter visible, in fact that’s desirable. As previously stated, form into two disks, cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to roll out. If dough has been refrigerated for several hours and is very chilled it helps to let it sit at room temp. for 5 minutes before rolling out.
Roll out a thin circle of pie dough large enough to fill the pie pan and the sides with a little extra hanging over. Pinch the edge all around and trim away any extra. With the tines of a fork, poke the bottom of uncooked crust in 5 or 6 places. Cover with plastic and refrigerate again until filling is ready.