Classic pumpkin pie

Alana Hardy

Thanksgiving may be long past, but it’s still pumpkin season, right? Perhaps you have a Jack O’Lantern whose services are no longer required. Or maybe you bought a can of pure pumpkin on a whim. Or you have a butternut squash you don’t know what to do with (trust me, no one will know the difference once the squash is cooked, mashed and spiced up with cinnamon and nutmeg!). What better thing to make than pie?!

Blog Alana's pie

Pumpkin pie is my favourite and has been for some time. But I’m very finicky (and a bit of a snob) when it comes to pumpkin pie. Not just any pie will do. I’d rather go without than eat a store-bought pie. It took me years to figure out why a grocery store pie wouldn’t cut it. Initially I thought it was the pastry, but that turned out to be only part of it. The filling always lacked something, and I eventually put my finger (or tastebuds?) on it. Molasses. Many pies (homemade and storemade) don’t contain molasses. As a result, I think they lack the depth and nice, rich colour of the pumpkin pies my mom would make for Thanksgiving.

If you’ve been exposed to from-scratch pies and other baked goods, you know that anything made in a grocery-store kitchen is not likely to measure up. My mom never bought pie shells. Pastry was always made at home. I’m not loyal to a particular pastry recipe, and I usually just take a look through my cookbooks for a recipe that will make enough for a single crust (my mom swears by the recipe on the Tenderflake box, which makes enough for three double-crust pies. I love pie, but that’s a lot for a gal to consume, even if I freeze some of the pastry! And even if I have the help of my fella, Tim, to eat them!). This time, I halved a recipe from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I like her blog and thought I’d give this all-butter pastry a go. While the end result wasn’t as light and flaky as I’d hoped, I’d try it again. Her recipe can be found here: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/11/pie-crust-102-all-butter-really-flaky-pie-dough/.

Now, the main event: the custard filling. My mom’s recipe, which is the one I always use, came from a cooking encylopaedia set we had at home. It’s simple and yields a deliciously smooth and creamy pie.

Pumpkin pie filling ingredients

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

3 tbsp molasses

1 ½ cup mashed, cooked pumpkin

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup milk

1 cup light cream (I used 18% table cream this time, but have used 10% and 5% in the past)

Mix everything together in a blender and pour the filling into your pastry-lined pie plate. You’re going to have more than will fit (don’t overfill! It WILL get messy!). If you have any scraps left from trimming your pastry, you might be able to make some small individual pies. Otherwise, pour the custard into small ramekins and bake along with the pie. You could place them in a bain-marie, if you like. They tend to get a little dry if you don’t. But they still taste good! I suppose that if you didn’t want to go to the trouble of making pastry, you could bake all the filling this way. Now that’s a thought…

I usually put the pie plate on a cookie sheet (before filling),. This makes it easier to transfer the pie to the oven, and catches any mess in case othere is some overflow. Place the pie in a 500°F oven for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for 55-60 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted into the filling comes out clean. I find that I usually end up baking it for an extra 10 minutes, until the centre doesn’t jiggle too much. If you’ve blind baked your pastry shell, place the pie in a 325°F oven and bake for 55-60 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream, if you wish, but I like to enjoy it all on its own.

Alana lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her two adorable cats. She loves baking and is usually thinking about her next meal.
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After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

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