Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Matthew's Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Ever since we picked up our first pumpkin from the farmer's market, Matthew has been itching to make a pumpkin pie. When he initially suggested it, I was a little surprised. While he ate the pumpkin desserts we prepared last year, he really wasn't all that into pumpkin pie. He enjoyed the whipped cream on top way more than the pie itself. However, he had his mind set on making a pumpkin pie. And canned pumpkin puree was not going to do it for him! He wanted to make it from scratch.

On Sunday, I let him have at it. We cheated a bit. We really wanted to get this done with fast and I was feeling lazy so we just bought a pie crust. I was quickly reminded why I never use storebought crusts. It was crumbly, tasteless, and reminded me of a saltine cracker. However, it was easy to work with and Matthew enjoyed being the one to roll it out and fit it into the pie tin. I tried to show him how to flute the crust, but he became rather impatient with it. 

You might ask why we didn't just cheat on the pumpkin puree and use the canned stuff since we were already using a store-bought crust. Well, truth be told, pumpkin puree is a breeze to make at home whereas pie dough, while easy enough, takes a bit more time and effort. But pumpkin puree - my 5-year-old can make it. For reals. First, we cut up our pumpkin, remove the "brains" as Matthew calls them, and roast the pieces until they turned a toasty orange. Once cool enough to handle, Matthew scooped the flesh out and gave it a whirl in the food processor. We then let the mixture strain for about 30 minutes after which time it was ready to go! That's it!

While our sad-little pie crust parbaked, we made the filling for our pie. Most of this pie is made in a food processor, so Matthew was thrilled. It's his favorite appliance of the moment. We always use the scale to weigh our ingredients, so I just told Matthew what number to look for on the scale when scooping and he was extremely precise. Almost to an annoying extent. If the recipe called for seven ounces of brown sugar, he was going to make sure the scale read 7.000 ounces and not a bit more or less.

After cooking the pumpkin filling for a bit on the stovetop to wake up the spices and seasonings and ensure a short baking time, cream and milk are added for richness. Then, eggs are combined in the food processor and gently tempered with the warm pumpkin filling before everything is poured into the hot, parbaked crust. A short 25 minutes later, we removed a beautiful pumpkin pie from the oven. Matthew was so pleased.

Everyone was pleased with how well this tasted! I'm usually not a fan of pumpkin pie - surprising given my love of all things pumpkin and squash - but this version was truly something special. I think it is the homemade puree - it has a sweet, toasty flavor that is unmatched by canned puree. Also, we had just picked up a higher-quality cinnamon and I think that definitely lent a brighter spice flavor to the pie. Nobody loved the pie more than my baker boy himself. He enjoyed a piece for dessert on Sunday and then for breakfast Monday mornings. Before heading into his classroom, he instructed me to save the rest of the pie for his dessert. I love seeing him take pride in something he helped create!

Fresh Pumpkin Pie
adapted from The New Best Recipe

For the Pumpkin Puree:
1 sugar or pie pumpkin

For the Pumpkin Pie:
1 parbaked pie crust, homemade or storebought
16 ounces homemade or canned pumpkin puree
1 cup (7 ounces) brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs
Glazed pecans (optional), for garnish
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the pumpkin puree, cut the pumpkin half and remove all the seeds and stringy flesh. Place, cut side down, on a greased, foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast for 45-60 minutes - this will vary depending on the size of your pumpkin - or until tender when pierced through the shell with a fork. The pumpkin will turn a deep burnt sienna color and smell nutty. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Then, remove the pulp from the shell. It should easily scoop out. 

Run the pumpkin pulp through a food processor until completely smooth. Line a strainer or colander with coffee filters or thick paper towels and let the pumpkin drain. Stir a couple times during this process to adequately remove any excess water. When the pulp is about the texture of canned pumpkin puree, you are done! Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze for up to six months!

Roll out your pie dough and parbake until just golden brown. While the crust is baking, make your filling since you will be adding it to the hot, freshly baked shell.

Process the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, spices, and salt in a food processor until combined. Transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny. This will take about five minutes.

As soon as the pie shell comes out of the oven, adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and make sure the temperature is set at 400 degrees. Whisk the heavy cream and milk into the pumpkin and bring to barely a simmer. Process the eggs in the food processor until the whites and the yolks are combined and then, with the motor running, slowly pour in half the pumpkin mixture through the feed tube. Stop the machine, add the remaining pumpkin mixture, and process for an additional 30 seconds or so.

Immediately pour the warm filling into the pie shell. Bake the pie until the filling is puffed,dry-looking, and the center wiggles a bit like Jell-O, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour. Garnish with glazed pecans, if desired and serve with plenty of whipped cream!

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