So I can’t believe how many people dislike or even hate pumpkin pie. What?! I have heard it described as “flavorless”, “cardboard”, “slimy”, and worst of all “barfy”. I honestly don’t get it. It’s a rather popular opinion though. I have such vivid memories of making holiday pumpkin pies that my adoration for them almost brings me to tears. Now that doesn’t mean much--because everything brings me to tears--but still. I love the sameness of pumpkin pie. The cans of Libby’s never change, I love their rusty palette and homey font. The first thing I ever made in my beloved KitchenAid mixer was pumpkin pie filling, and getting to that point always signifies the home stretch of Thanksgiving prep. For me, pumpkin pie is precious.
On the other hand, I don’t think anything is ever immune from improvement. Except of course my shredded abs. If you believe that, you shouldn’t be on the internet. The funny thing about my best friend M is that she hates everything. I kinda hate everything too, except I make up for it by really loving the things I love. She is by no means subservient in nature, but historically she follows my lead because she can’t be bothered to pick a direction. If you ask her east or west, she might shrug her shoulders, look away, and ignore you if you ask again. This contributes to our balance. As I always have figurative directions mapped to the most inane detail. So usually I lead and she follows. But early in our Thanksgiving co-cooking, we hit a snag on menu planning. She refused to serve pumpkin pie at her family’s Thanksgiving. This, naturally, sent me into an emotional tailspin. How could she? Is that even legal? How dare she do this for all of god and country to see?! Of the 20 of us, my cousin is the only one who likes it. Everyone else hates it, it’s gross. I made an extra one and put it in her trunk so at least her poor cousin could uphold some Thanksgiving dignity.
Because M hates everything, I figured this was an isolated opinion. Not until I began asking did I hear the cold truth. I began tweaking the classic Libby’s recipe. I doubled the spices, bloomed them in butter, eventually learned the magic of duck eggs, and thought I had really fixed the problem. My sister would say things like I mean, it’s definitely the best pumpkin pie I’ve had, but it’s still, like, a pummmmpkin pie. What the fuck?
Last year when I was picking up my turkeys from Elizabeth (she has four unclaimed turkeys if you didn’t pre-order one on November 27 last year like I did), we got chatting about pumpkin pie. This was two days before Thanksgiving. She mentioned that she made hers with heavy cream instead of evaporated milk. Obviously a chance to add more fat to something got me excited. I hadn’t ever heard of this! What?! And that she’s less scared of the extra fat than whatever goes into evaporated milk. Now why the fuck hadn’t I ever even considered this myself? My entire theory and practice of cooking revolves on control at an elemental level, and yet I’ve been dumping canned shit into the storied star of my Thanksgiving dessert? I’m good with canned pumpkin, it’s a whole ingredient. But canned milk? What even is evaporated milk? I don’t know. She also mentioned that she uses brown sugar instead of white and that the pie is so so much better than a normal pumpkin pie. Hers is based from a Nancy Silverton recipe. So I made a last minute decision to switch my pumpkin pie recipe and try this tweak. Elizabeth quite wonderfully sent me her recipe. As I went to pull up the email, my phone died. So I improvised from the back of the can Libby’s recipe. I used the same amounts of brown sugar and heavy cream in lieu of white sugar and evaporated milk.
|The pumpkin is from Aero, which has apparently now moved to the Design Center at 200 Lex|
If you or someone you love or merely host also finds pumpkin pie to be barfy, you may wish to try this deviation. While we’re at it, I will also share my pie crust recipe. The truth about me is I tend to make things harder or more involved than they need to be. It boils down to tiny details for me that really don’t matter. So, yes, my pie crust is a bit more involved than others. Why do there need to be two kinds of flours? Well, you want enough protein but not too much. Duck egg whites have more protein than chicken egg, so if you were to use all AP flour, the pastry would be tough. Why duck eggs? They have a far more neutral flavor. I hate a pie crust that tastes like egg. Gross. That goes for egg wash, too. My kitchen gets very hot, and pastry can be temperamental. The cream cheese helps with strength and ability to handle. Why does it need oil, too? Oil helps hydrate the flour and makes the baked crust shiner and softer. Why do I add liquor to almost all my recipes? As I learned years ago on Sara’s Secrets, liquor amplifies flavor. It’s like feeling the sun through the canopy of the trees. Also, liquor is a better choice for liquid in a pie crust. It steams and evaporates quickly, leaving flaky pastry behind. With all the liquid in this recipe, it is a wet dough. I like that because when I brush it with egg wash for color, it better absorbs the egg wash than the egg wash sitting atop the baked crust and being a foul-tasting discernable lacquer coat vs a cohesive crust that mimics laminated pastry like a croissant. Have I made my case? I knooooooow I know, it has a lot of ingredients. I know my go-to recipes by heart but I even have to check the list to make sure I didn’t forget any. So if you object to certain things about normal pie crust, try this. If you don’t, you might not find it to be worth the extra effort. This is more like a pie crust pastry and danish pastry combination. Once I have the disc rolled out, transferred into the plate, and trimmed, I let it rest in the freezer about ten minutes before crimping. All that butter, cream cheese, and oil is easier to work with cold.
My favorite pie plates are these: less fussy than glass, clean white design, and doesn’t scratch or show when cut like stoneware. I first used one in a vacation rental house and kind of scoffed at using a cheap Corelle pie plate vs Le Creuset stoneware that I had at home. I couldn’t believe how much more I liked it!
I shared this last year, but it bears repeating. I loooooove my marble rolling pin! I got mine while unshowered and hungover at an outlet mall on a sweltering August morning in Cincinnati when I was 19, so it always makes me laugh and cringe. A less emotionally confronting way would be to order this one. I keep it in the freezer. Makes such a difference in a hot kitchen. Just don’t leave it on the counter where it can roll! Your toes will be smashed and frostbitten.
SAJ Too Many Ingredient Pie Crust
Makes 2 crusts
1 ½ cups AP Flour
1 ½ cups Cake Flour
2 Duck Eggs
2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, sliced and frozen
½ bar Cream Cheese, cut into 1ish inch chunks
3 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
½ teaspoon Kosher or Sea Salt
¼ teaspoon grated Nutmeg
¼ cup Bourbon Whiskey
¼ cup ice cold water
-Add everything except water and whiskey to food processor
-Combine water and whiskey
-Pulse ingredients in processor twice
-Begin pouring water/whiskey in a slow stream while food processor is running. Pour until dough begins pulling together. Turn processor off and check with fingers if dough incorporates readily. If not pulse a few more times, adding a bit more liquid. You will likely not use all the liquid.
-Divide in half, cover in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator about one hour.
Not Barfy Pumpkin Pie Inspired by Elizabeth Inspired by Nancy Silverton
Makes two not barfy pies
1 29oz can Libby’s Pure Pumpkin OR 29-30 oz Hubbard Squash Puree
3 Cups Heavy Cream
1 ½ cups packed Dark Brown Sugar
½ cup Bourbon Whiskey
4 Duck Eggs
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground Ginger
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
½ teaspoon grated Nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground Cloves
-In medium sauce pan, melt butter over a medium flame. Add spices to butter and reduce flame to low. After about 30 seconds, add heavy cream. Stir mixture on low about two minutes and transfer to mixing bowl. Let cool about five minutes
-Add pumpkin or squash puree and sugar to cream mixture. Combine,
-Once combined and the bowl is cool to the touch, mix in eggs, whiskey, and vanilla. Mix until smoothly incorporated.
-Mixture is ready to bake. If prepping ahead, refrigerate filling in mason jar until ready to use. Do not fill pie shells until you are going to bake.
To bake, have oven preheated to 425F. Fill unbaked pie shells with pumpkin filling and bake on bottom rack for 25 minutes. If your crust’s edge is highly ornamented and you’re worried about burning, use one of these (if silicone, check that it can go above 400F). Bake for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes, reduce heat to 350F. Bake another 45-60 min (this depends on how quickly your oven cools down). Mixture will still be jiggly in the middle but cracked and set on the sides. Remove and let cool at room temperature at least 2 hours.
|I think even snarky Paullywood would approve, a very good bake|
|You can see that the molasses rises and caramelizes beautifully|
|The back, clearly destined for my collection|
Okay, don’t get mad at me but I have another tweak…only if you want it! So as you know, I am emphatic about the farmers market. I am not one of the assholes who goes and strolls and views it as free entertainment, meandering through with my dog and scorched Starbucks coffee all while not intending to buy a single leaf of lettuce. Buy things! Over the years, many of the vendors have become good friends. They pretty much all know how obsessed with Thanksgiving I am. Early this summer, Pam and I were talking about pumpkin pie. She said that she finds the traditional little pie pumpkin to be disappointing. She actually preferred the flesh of the Hubbard Squash. Whaaaaat? The green thing? That’s not a fucking pumpkin, Pam. But I am much too curious about these things to turn a blind eye. So I got one when they were mature two weeks ago. I did the whole song and dance of slicing, gutting, roasting, and extracting the beautiful orange Hubbard flesh. The first thing I noticed when pureeing was how smooth the mixture was. So smooth it almost seemed congealed. I baked a Hubbard and a Libby’s pumpkin pie right next to each other and got as many opinions as I could. Including the FedEx guy who is always smart to raise his eyebrows and ask what are you cooking today? He didn’t have time to eat then but I put a note on Tupperware that said HUBBARD/LIBBY’S denoting their placement in the container. So it’s not exactly a Cornell study, but it’s close. Though the difference is very, very subtle. The Hubbard has a better flavor. It’s a little brighter and showcases the spices ever so slightly better. The difference is so marginal that if the thought of gutting and roasting a squash doesn’t entice you, don’t bother. On the other hand, if you’re perusing your farmer’s market with no intention or idea of buying, buy a Hubbard Squash and give it a go.
The process is quite straightforward. Slice the squash in half. Make sure your knife is sharp! I make cuts like this by sticking the knife in the middle at 90 degrees and rotating down toward the cutting board and then repeating on the other side. Remove the seeds and stringy middle flesh. I coated mine in a little oil and honey but I doubt that’s necessary. I roasted at 375 for about an hour. Let it cool or be stupid and impatient like me and burn your poor, ugly hands and scoop the flesh out of the skin. Puree until very smooth. No straining or sieving necessary. If you wanted to do this now and have it prepped for Thanksgiving, put the puree in a plastic container, press plastic wrap onto the surface, pressing out air pockets, and freeze until the day before you want to bake your pies. For two pies, you would want two squashes.
|Hubbard Squash, not as much cracking, but small craters|
|Libby's canned pumpkin|
|Research is hard. The Plates are Adams "Fairy Villas"|
Tell me, do you like pumpkin pie? Have you ever found it to be barfy? Don’t forget the stabilized whipped cream!