The Pioneer Woman I am not.
If it weren’t for my love of baking for others, the only kitchen appliance I’d touch would be the microwave. My three current food obsessions – Jell-O pudding, instant cinnamon-apple oatmeal, and Subway sandwiches – require little more effort than ripping open a package or pulling off a lid.
Traditional “women’s work” has never fared very well in my house. I’ve never kneaded yeast bread – though it is on my bucket list – and I’ve never put together a pot roast. I can’t fold a fitted sheet (though honestly, besides Martha Stewart, who can?), and I’ve never ironed a shirt (put it back in the dryer spritzed with a little water, yes; ironed, no). I have made pies, albeit with the help of a food processor to turn the flour and butter into a crust.
This pumpkin pie, however, is truly from scratch. No Libby’s pumpkin puree here. I bought a sugar pumpkin at the grocery, hacked it in half with a cleaver-sized kitchen knife, and roasted the two halves on a cookie sheet in the oven.
From beginning to end, I’ve got the photos. Make the dough for the crust first, to give it enough time to chill in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, make the pumpkin puree. Start with a sugar pumpkin (also called a baking or pie pumpkin in grocery stores), not one of those gigantic carving pumpkins that have been bred to have thin, easily cut shells and a minimum of innards. Sugar pumpkins are smaller and tend to be paler, but most importantly, have more of the coveted flesh, which gets scooped out and pureed to make a pie. (You can still use a jack-o-lantern pumpkin to make pie, though its texture tends to be grainier and the puree will need to be drained longer because of a carving pumpkin’s higher water content.)
Preheat the oven to 350.
Cut the pumpkin in half with a large carving knife.
Scoop out the innards. I used a combination of a knife and a big metal spoon. Anyone who’s ever carved a pumpkin knows the drill. If you’re really ambitious, pick the seeds out of all that goop to roast later.
Rub the cut surfaces with oil (vegetable, canola, olive, whatever) and place them cut-side down in a roasting or jelly roll pan. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan. (I happen to have been roasting some acorn squash along with my pumpkin.)
Bake for approximately 90 minutes. The directions from Good Housekeeping say to bake “until flesh is tender when pierced with a knife,” but that involves turning over a very hot pumpkin, whose flesh will inevitably spill out as you’re trying to turn it over with a pair of potholders. Instead, just leave it in for a clean hour and a half – the pumpkin will emerge not only “tender” but mushy enough to mash with a spoon. After it cools, the shell – or skin, as it’s thinned out so much in the oven that it’s no longer hard – will peel off like a wet Band-Aid. If you absolutely can’t wait (me? impatient? never!), peel it off with a set of tongs.
Discard the skins. If yours look like mine, the pumpkin skin will resemble a deflated basketball.
Scoop the pumpkin flesh into a food processor. If yours is like mine, it will be near a puree already, but this smooths it out even more and eliminates any fibrous bits.
After a few pulses of the food processor, the puree will look something like this:
Let the puree sit in a strainer for an hour or two to release any extra liquid and get it to the consistency of Libby’s. I skipped this step when I made acorn squash puree, and the watery kept the quick bread I used it in from baking all the way through.
You can use the puree right away, or store in the refrigerator until the dough for the pie crust is sufficiently chilled.
When you’re ready to make the pie, mix the puree with the rest of the ingredients – usually things like evaporated milk, brown sugar, and eggs.
Roll the chilled dough out onto parchment paper or what I call, for lack of a better name, a plastic pie mat. Place the pie plate upside down on the crust, flip the mat over, and let the dough fall into the plate. As you can see, crusts are not my forte – this one is serviceable but decidedly unlovely. I haven’t mastered the art of fluting the edges . . . or even making smooth edges, for that matter. Fortunately, a homely crust can still be delicious.
Pour the puree mixture into the crust.
Bake for 55-65 minutes, then remove from the oven. Notice how puffed-up the pie looks; it will deflate as it cools.
And here’s the finished product!
For the Crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
2-4 Tbs. ice water
For the Filling
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cup heavy cream or 1 12-oz. can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
For the Crust
In a food processor, pulse flour, salt and sugar to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few tiny dots of butter remaining.
Add 2 Tbs. ice water, adding up to 2 more Tbs. if necessary, and pulse until dough holds loosely together.
Turn out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Press into a 1-inch-thick disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Flour a piece of parchment paper or a pie mat. Roll the dough into a 14-inch round with a floured rolling pin.
Place the pie plate upside down on the mat, then flip the mat over, allowing the crust to fall into the plate. Mold the crust gently to the plate, pinching the edges to crimp them.
Refrigerate until ready for use.
For the Filling
Preheat oven to 425.
Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl. Mix in the sugars, salt, spices, and lemon zest. Beat in the pumpkin puree and the evaporated milk until well incorporated.
Pour the filling into the uncooked pie shell. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature 350 and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving.
Crust recipe from Martha Stewart . Pie recipe from Simply Recipes .
I’d like to leave you with this Internet gem, which perfectly sums up the pumpkin pie experience.