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.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

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6 thoughts on “Classic pumpkin pie

  1. I LOVE pumpkin pie. We went to Nova Scotia this year for Thanksgiving, and Livy’s and my biggest concern was finding a store-bought pie that would measure up to our exacting standards. We ended up checking the Halifax farmers’ market (sold out), Livy’s local bakery (sold out), and another store with well-regarded desserts (sold out). So we ordered one from our Hackett’s Cove local bakery. I kept second-guessing this idea, since the bakery has lots of great items, but we haven’t loved their pie in the past. The day before our Thanksgiving dinner we were in Mahone Bay, and I saw a lone pumpkin pie sitting in a showcase at a food store from which we’ve bought very nice dishes — though never pies — in the past. I impulsively bought the pie, and it turned out to be the best store-bought pie we’ve ever had. Whew!! (The one from our local bakery was okay, though the crows did end up getting a fair bit of it.)

    My own favourite homemade pumpkin pie recipe is an adaptation of Amelia Simmons’ recipe, published in the Colonial United States in the late 1700s. Amelia and I both agree with you, Alana, that good pumpkin pie needs molasses! (And it should never be made in those lousy commercial pie shells.) I am intrigued by your minimalist approach to spices. I usually put just a bit of allspice, mace and ginger in my pumpkin pie, in addition to cinnamon and nutmeg.

    Thanks to your post, I bought a pumpkin pie at Pan Chancho Bakery here in Kingston. No, it isn’t homemade, but it is pretty good.

  2. Great recipe, Alana! I can’t wait to try it. I have to say I agree with your mom on the old Tenderflake standby. That still is my go-to recipe, even if I decide to make all butter or use other shortening. The all-butter crusts do have great flavour, but it’s hard to get them as flaky. I’ve tried using my mom’s trick with apple cider vinegar (fully or almost fully replacing the water — I forget now exactly what the proportions are) and that makes a nice flaky crust.

    Now I think I’m going to have to make a pumpkin pie this weekend. It certainly is pumpkin season here in Switzerland.

    Keep posting!

  3. I have to admit…I love pumpkin pie so much that there is no such thing as “bad” pumpkin pie in my mind. However, I do separate them into the categories of “good” and “amazing” and I rarely find a pie that’s amazing. I’ve also never made my own pumpkin pie before so maybe I should give this one a try! I like the idea of molasses.

  4. I made pumpkin cheese scones for Mark and Lois’s annual Pumpkinfest last week, and with the leftover pumpkin I made your famous muffins last night, Alana…Post that recipe too! 😀

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