|A better Pumpkin Pie
||[Nov. 14th, 2008|08:48 am]
I'll admit it. I'm not a pie person. |
I'll wait for the shocked gasping to stop. Cooked fruit...not so much. I'd prefer it laying over meat or poultry of some kind. And mousse, custardy, flan-like textures...mmmm, not really. I can forgive it if it's chocolately or gingery and there is no hint of egg...but it's a battle. Whipped Cream, which is often half the point of a pie, I don't like either. So, really, there's not a lot of joy in pie-ville.
A tart, on the other hand, that's cool. The proportion of crust to fruit/goo is much better proportioned.
If you're thinking that's a pretty fine line...it is.
Pumpkin pie...could take it or leave it. It always felt like more of a side dish, a tarted-up vegetable, if you will. Seemed like a rip-off to use up valuable dessert-calories on something that is basically squash baked in bread product.
But I was often called upon to make pumpkin pie and I was determined to make it better. Now, you can get really fussy -- think roast the pumpkin with stuff, use a hazelnut crust, make it as a tart, add chocolate...
But most of my customers weren't going to pay me enough to make the really fussy pumpkin pie worth the extra effort. And frankly, when it comes to Thanksgiving...you need to tread lightly with people's tried and true customary favorites. I make a fabulous cranberry relish -- with ginger, and lemon zest and jalapeno peppers that is drop-dead delish. But it's challenging to a lot of people and while they might love it any other day of the year, on Thanksgiving, they tend to go "oh, that's different" and reach for my more boring, but still good maple-tangerine-cranberry relish that tastes like the one they grew up with, if they were lucky, only better.
And really, I've found, unless you are hosting a party of gourmands, you are best taking the traditional, family standbys and just tarting them up a bit. Making BETTER versions, but not dicking around with tradition too much.
Because really, Thanksgiving is NOT about you. Or your gourmet aspirations. It's about tradition. So, if you feel the need to make the insert-latest-gourmet-craze here, fine, but trust me, most of you will be more loved by your family if you also show up with a regular pumpkin pie.
But there's no reason not to tart it up a bit. Tweaks seem fine with everyone but the staunchest of traditionalists and well, you weren't going to make them happy anyway.
So take your usual pumpkin pie recipe. Oh, you can roast the pumpkin yourself, but I'm telling you, but the time it takes, the mess it makes...you're mostly just doubling your chances of the pie not setting up right because the moisture content of your pulp is not the same as the moisture content of the canned puree. And by the time you add all of the spices, etc., and then they've eaten a whole T-Day dinner, had wine...if they say they can tell the difference, they're lying. I've tested it. I would consider going to that trouble if I was having some educated palates over for a normal sized meal, followed by this as the single dessert...but unless you are overburdened with time and are just enamored of doing things the hard way, you will do fine with the unseasoned puree. And use a recipe you know works already -- or the recipe on the back of the Libby's can is just fine.
BUT. For each pie (since some recipes make two) you will add a teaspoon of vanilla. And you will make sure that no matter what it says, you will use 1 teaspoon of ground ginger. And if that ground ginger has been in your spice collection for more than two years, you will throw it out and go get a fresh one before you make the pies. You will NOT use "pumpkin pie spice", either. Sprinkle that in a small pan of water and let it simmer on the stove. That's what it's good for, scenting the house.
You will bake the empty pie crust in a 400 degree oven for ten minutes. I don't care if the recipe specifies unbaked crust. Trust me. If you have pie weights, use them with foil to keep air bubbles from forming in the center. If not, you can plop a sheet of foil on the crust and pour those old dry beans that you were never going to get around to using anyway on to weigh it down. (Note: beans may LOOK fine for darn near forever, but again, if they've been sitting in your pantry for more than two years, cook 'em up or throw them out.) After ten minutes, remove the foil and weights and let it bake 2-3 minutes more to dry out a bit.
While it's baking, you're going to melt 4 ounces of bittersweet or dark chocolate. That might be more than you need, but I'm sure you'll find SOMETHING to do with the extra chocolate. Take the partially baked pie crust out of the oven and let it cool for five minutes. Now, brush the melted chocolate all over the inside of the crust. Not up over the edges -- or it'll melt again in the oven and that's a mess. But anywhere the pie filling will go. You will be amazed at how this thin layer negates the insipidness of regular ol' pumpkin pie.
Once it's cooled (and you can do this hours ahead of time) fill with pumpkin pie filling and bake as usual. Now, on the plus side, not only does your crust have CHOCOLATE on it, but because of the par-baking, the crust won't have that vaguely undercooked taste/feel in the center. The drawback is, you will have to watch the crust edges - rip off small strips of foil and use them to shield the edges of your crust. Or you can buy piecrust shields.
Even I like this pie.