Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

Is anybody else staring into space with your mouth hanging open in shocked disbelief that Thanksgiving is a week from tomorrow? That means the next time I blink my eyes it will be here, so I had better start thinking about getting ready. My job is always pies, so today I am doing a dry run of my pumpkin pie. Nah.. I really don't need practice, I just can't wait another week to eat pumpkin pie. Of course I'm mad now, because I found "pastry flour" at Whole Foods last week and wanted to try it, but just now realized that I completely forgot about it. Oh well, I had King Arthur flour in my cannister and that always works just fine.

I have several different pie crust recipes, and I'm always looking for the perfect one. Today I pushed the "easy" button and made the Pat-A-Pan Pie Crust from one of my favorite books, The Amish Cook's Baking Book. This is a great crust if you are teaching your kids to cook because you make it right in the pan, and you get to put your hands in it, but it doesn't terrorize your kitchen by leaving a huge mess. It's flaky and crispy, and super easy. It only works for a single crust pie though, you can't double it and it's too tender to roll out or transfer to another pan. For single crust pies and/or if you're in a hurry it's perfect.

Pat-A-Pan Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons cold milk

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a 9-inch pie pan and mix with your fingers until evenly blended. Mixing anything with your hand is fun, so do it. In a measuring cup (use a 2-cup one for this) mix the oil and milk with a whisk until it looks creamy.

Pour oil/milk mixture over the flour mixture and mix with a fork until is completely moistened.

Now pat the dough with your fingers until it is even on the bottom and all the way up the sides. The book says now to flute the edges, but I don't think this crust really works very well for that because it's not a real firm dough, in fact it will feel a bit oily when you have your hands in it. I'm using an old vintage deep dish pie pan which I love because all I have to do is press the dough into the already fluted edges, and it's good to go.

Now you can either prebake the crust if you need to, or partially bake it. I always partially bake my crusts when I'm making a single-crust pie, I think they just turn out more flaky on the bottom, and I hate a doughy bottom crust. To partially bake your crust, heat the oven to 450. Prick the crust all over with a fork, then place a sheet of heavy-duty foil in the pan and press it down against the crust inside the pan so it covers the entire crust. Bake it for 6 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 4 minute. Set it aside to cool while you prepare your filling. Keep a close eye on this, if it starts to puff up just poke it more with that fork.

Now for the filling. I use the Pumpkin Pie recipe from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham. No, she is not Richie's mom. This book has been my "baking bible" for years, but I am guilty of going rogue for this one because I substitute eggnog for the evaporated milk. Even if you don't like eggnog don't be afraid to try this. You can't really taste the eggnog, but it gives it a nice but subtle extra layer of flavor and creaminess that you can't beat. Don't even bother with the recipe on the back of the Libby's can, it's nowhere near as good as the woman who is not Richie's mom's recipe. Trust me on this, you won't be sorry.

Pumpkin Pie

1 partially baked pie shell
2 cups pumpkin puree, either cooked fresh (I have no idea how to do this) or canned. (I use 1 can of Libby's, be sure you get straight pumpkin and NOT pie filling.)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk or heavy cream (or eggnog)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice

(or use 3 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice instead of the individual spices)

Heat oven to 450. In large bowl, beat together the pumpkin and eggs. Add the milk/cream/eggnog and sugar, then the salt and spices. Beat until smooth. Pour into the cooled pie shell and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 300 and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the filling is almost set. A sharp knife inserted just off center will come out clean, with traces of custard on it. The center should not be completely firm. In my oven, 35 minutes was a little bit too long, so start at 30 minutes and then you can always leave it in a little longer if needed.

Even with this deep dish pie pan, the filling really fills it up. I baked this on a foil lined pan in case I spilled it because it's hard to get it in the oven without spilling. I did good this time, no spills! You would never know I could get anything in my oven without spilling, as evidenced by the number of crusty burned spots that reside on the bottom of my oven.

Finished pie:

Pumpkin pie is never complete without a healthy dollop of whipped cream. I love the "extra creamy" Cool Whip, and my brother's family swears by the canned Reddi Whip, which is actually real whipped cream. The best ever though, is the homemade whipped cream that my grandma used to make. There's no right or wrong, just whatever you like and have time for. I remember one holiday gathering when I was a kid, my Aunt Margie literally buried my slice of pie under a small mountain of that sweet, creamy goodness. She said it was because I needed to put some meat on my bones. Well, thanks Aunt Margie, it worked...

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