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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.

[User Picture]From: dansr
2008-11-14 02:55 pm (UTC)
I am not a pie person (minus the occasional pecan or boston cream versions). I love your post! Actually, I love just about all your posts, but that sounds a bit stalker-ish, so I'll just stop on the kvelling.

Back to the point; I am not a pie fan, but sunpony IS a pumpkin pie fan. I think that I'll try this version for him this year. My big question is, can you use premade crust, or should the crust be made from scratch. I know that from scratch will taste better, but I've never made a pie crust.

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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-11-14 03:15 pm (UTC)
Why I picked up my pre-made frozen crusts just yesterday. Again, I'm cooking dinner for a small group of friends, I'm gonna make it from scratch although even my "scratch" is Martha Stewart's recipe for piecrust made in a food processor.

But a giant ass meal where everyone's taste buds are fatigued and most people, by dessert, are eating out of a sense of duty and tradition...

Most people are so used to eating really crappy food, that a little shortcut like this, especially if you've never made a piecrust before, will never be noticed.
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[User Picture]From: sestree
2008-11-14 03:01 pm (UTC)
That's a great idea on the crust !

We always used Libby's pumpkin pie recipe (on the back of the pumpkin can - not the precanned premixed) and added extra cloves (a favourite of mine), vanilla, and nutmeg.

Then I'd usually scrape it out of the crust because the crust was icky.

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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-11-14 03:16 pm (UTC)
Now pump up the ginger - because it delivers HEAT and cuts the cloyingness of all of the other stuff.

Because I'm bossy.
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[User Picture]From: sestree
2008-11-14 03:28 pm (UTC)
Good call on the ginger - I just hadn't ever thought of going extra on it.


What would we ever do without you?

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[User Picture]From: chellebelle74
2008-11-14 03:18 pm (UTC)
That sounds absolutely brilliant, hun. I've got to try that this year...
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[User Picture]From: meapet
2008-11-14 03:41 pm (UTC)
I recently found a recipe that had extra ginger (and I add a little extra nutmeg because I'm just like that), but the chocolate and the prebaking the crust is damn near brilliant. I'm definitely going to try that for my dinner this year.

Thanks! :)
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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2008-11-14 03:41 pm (UTC)
I don't mind making pie crust, and I think the difference in quality is well worth the trouble, but sometimes it's just not happening (like this year, because we're going to a beach house on Hatteras for Thanksgiving week, and I'm not even going to think about making fully from scratch pies in an unfamiliar, probably poorly equipped kitchen). Frankly, I detest pre-made frozen crusts and the flimsy foil pans they come in, but Pillsbury makes a refrigerated already-rolled out crust called "Just Unroll" that's really pretty good. My other pumpkin pie trick: I used to always use fresh cooked pumpkin (from little sugar pumpkins I'd raised no less -- talk about OCD!) but discovered that canned pumpkin is about 95% as good if you just cook it in a saucepan for a few minutes and let it cool down before adding the eggs. It takes away that grainy texture and stale smell.
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[User Picture]From: bittibuddha
2008-11-14 04:45 pm (UTC)
OOoooOOOoooh. :) YAY! I'll see if Hubby is game to alter his beloved Grandmothers Pumpkin pie recipe, or whether I'm going to have to forge bravely ahead with a second pie this holiday.
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From: kudrasslipper
2008-11-14 04:57 pm (UTC)
The recipe I made for you guys calls for two tsp. of freshly ground. And I find that there's no substitute for freshly ground. Ginger in a jar does nothing for me. I know I told YOU this already, but for the rest of the gang, the new recipe also indicated that you should add 1 can pumpkin, 1 can candied yams (drained). It does "pump up" the pumpkin flavor. You're also supposed to heat up the pumpkin, candied yam, & spices in a pot over medium for 10 minutes while you pre-bake the crust as indicated, and let it cool back down.

The heat really gets the spices going, and it "roasts" the pumpkin and yams together to get their own sugars going as well.

My last tip - use half sugar - half GOOD maple syrup. YUM!
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-11-14 06:02 pm (UTC)
Freshly ground...you mean grated, right? Or do you have a stash of dried ginger root?
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From: kudrasslipper
2008-11-14 06:39 pm (UTC)
grated, yes... but it's a microplane, so it comes out in a paste. I *love* my microplane.
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-11-14 07:40 pm (UTC)
Ah, that's why it's two teaspoons. Fresh is double the equivalent of dried. Usually. More or less. Good enough for spices.
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[User Picture]From: pyratelady
2008-11-14 06:28 pm (UTC)
I don't like the texture of traditional pumpkin pie, and I think the flavor is a bit bland. Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte makes me very happy, though, and I recently started spiking Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Bisque with pumpkin pie spices.
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[User Picture]From: silvrwillow
2008-11-14 08:37 pm (UTC)
Do you not care for nut pies either - like pecan pie?
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-11-14 10:30 pm (UTC)
Not really. Although I've gotten to the point where I can eat a really good one. Actually, I can eat any pie...it's just that with pie, I can stop and think "is this really worth the calories? Do I want this badly enough to have to work it off?" With pie, I can ask myself that question. As opposed to chocolate anything, most cakes, most cookies...where there is no doubt and no questioning, no thinking, just eating.

I'm surrounded by people who love pie and who make great pies -- the Captain, Kudrasslipper, and Mistress Fetch just for starters -- so it feels weird not to feel the same way about pie.
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