Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and, for me, it's all about the pumpkin pie! But let's be honest, I don't wait until Thanksgiving to start making pumpkin pie. November=Pumpkin Pie Month. Pumpkin pie is easy to make, the recipe is forgiving, and its main ingredient is squash, so it's almost healthy, right? This recipe uses a real pie pumpkin because pie pumpkins are cute, and it's good to remind your kids (or yourself) that pumpkins grow in patches outdoors and not in tin cans at the grocery store. The deeper, richer flavor you'll get from the little bit of added effort it takes to roast a pumpkin is worth it.
1 pie pumpkin (2 cups pumpkin)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup milk (or heavy cream)
1 t. vanila
1/4 t. kosher salt
2 t. pumpkin pie spice mix (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cardamom)
1 package Pillsbury pie crusts (or make your own)
Step 1: Choose & Prepare Your Pumpkin
Pie pumpkins, sometimes called sugar pumpkins, are not the ones you carve at Halloween. They are smaller, sweeter, and have a better texture for pies. The pie pumpkin I used for this particular pie came from our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) through a local farm, but pie pumpkins are easy to come by in the fall where I live in the U.S. Midwest. You can find them at farmers' markets, co-ops, and sometimes at your local grocery.
I like the bright orange color of a fresh pumpkin and the less uniform texture compared to canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin also tastes slightly metallic to me sometimes. That being said, I've made plenty of tasty pies with canned pumpkin, so skip ahead to the next step if that's what you're using.
Prepare pumpkin (Heat oven to 350° F):
- Wash pumpkin and then use a large knife to cut lengthwise stem to stem into two halves.
- Scoop out seeds (save to wash and roast later, if you wish)
- Place halves cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. If you don't use a rimmed baking sheet, you'll have pumpkin juices dripping down into your oven (don't ask how I know). Sometimes I brush a little oil on the edges of the pumpkin halves to keep them from sticking to the foil.
- Roast for 45-60 min. Pierce with a fork to see if pumpkin is soft and baked completely. It should slide right through.
- Let pumpkin cool and then scoop out flesh to use in pie. This recipe only requires 2 cups of pumpkin. Depending on the size of your pie pumpkin, you may have enough for another pie or pumpkin bread.
Step 2: Make Your Filling
To make your pie filling, combine the following in a medium sized bowl using an immersion blender or hand mixer:
2 cups roasted pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream (I only had 2% on hand, but use whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream for a richer pie.)
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I make my own spice mix out of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and a bit of cardamom. Adjust amount according to how spicy you like your pie. I like to still be able to taste the spices after it's baked.)
Blend mixture until it has a smooth consistency.
Step 3: "Roll Out" Your Pie Crust
When I say "roll out" your pie crust, I don't mean with a rolling pin. I mean open the box, cut the plastic package open, and unfurl that pre-rolled crust in all its industrial glory onto your pie pan.
Ok, so you might find this step a little suspect, considering I'm advocating using a real pie pumpkin for the filling. If homemade crust is your thing, go for it! I'm not saying store-bought is as good, just that, for me, it results in more pie making. My dear grandmother once taught me how to make real pie crust, and it's a memory I cherish. But if I made my own pie crusts all the time, November could not be pumpkin pie MONTH--I would just make one very special pie for Thanksgiving...and that would be so SAD.
My grandma may have taught me to make real pie crust, but my mom taught me a few things about using pre-made crust. First, only buy Pillsbury. Do not try to save .79 on the off-brand. I tried that once, and it's a decision I still regret. (Never trust anyone who says they have no regrets). Second, take the package out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before you want to roll it out; the slightly warmer temperature will keep it from sticking to itself and it will roll out much more easily. Third, and this is the big one, roll it out into your own REAL pie pan. Seriously, if a pie is in a real pan, most people won't notice the Pillsbury Doughboy had a hand in making your pie. And Martha Stewart is not going to jump out of the bushes and tell you you're doing it wrong.
Roll out Crust:
- Take package out of fridge 15 minutes or so before you want to roll it out.
- Carefully unroll over pie pan and pat into edges of the dish.
- Fold over and neaten any loose edges of the crust and then crimp with fork or fingers.
Step 4: Blind Bake Your Crust (Don't Skip This Step!)
This step will help you avoid what (former) host of the Great British Baking Show Mary Berry calls a "soggy bottom." (She would be horrified that I didn't make my crust, but at least it would not have a soggy bottom.) Even if you're not a fan of the GBBS, this step will ensure that the bottom of your pie is fully baked and crisp, because no one likes a raw crust, homemade or not.
Pictured above, I have a weighted doo-dad made especially for blind baking pies, but you can line your crust with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans instead. The weight keeps the crust from puffing up while baking.
- Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent puffing (pictured with another pie I made; note the differently shaped crust).
- Place weight of your choice on bottom of pie crust.
- Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or so. Remove from oven.
Step 5: Fill and Bake Your Pie
Fill & bake (Turn heat up to 425°F):
After removing weights from blind baking, pour filling into crust. Don't overfill and be careful to keep the pan steady as you place it in the oven. (You can see in this picture that a little bit of my filling spilled on the crust.) Placing pie pan on a baking sheet will help you keep it steady in and out of the oven.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 375 and bake for 35-45 minutes more. If the crust starts to become too brown while baking, place a foil collar on it. If you don't have one, you can learn to make one here. Pie should be firm in center when you take it out of the oven.
Step 6: Enjoy!
I'm not even going to bother saying "let pie cool before cutting" because I can't ever wait that long. Don't cut the pie so soon that it falls apart and you get steam burns while eating it is more like it. Obviously, the longer you wait, the more firmly set the filling will be. Don't forget the whipped cream ("having some pie withy my whipped cream" is my general approach). Happy pumpkin pie month!
Epilogue: Pie rarely makes it to the next day in my house, but if you do have some left over in the morning, there is no better breakfast than a slice of cold pie and a cup of hot coffee. Enjoy!